Earlier this month, V and I ran a 10k race just for the fun of it. (Protip: If you’re into obstacle races and have a big break in between them, committing to “normal”, road races is a good way to switch up your training.)
Unexpectedly, the race course was more challenging than I expected, being on a hilly BMX/cycling track. Even so, I managed to beat my personal best by at least 4mins, coming down to 58minutes for 6.3mi from 1h1mins I achieved in a race a few months before (on a completely flat race track!).
Having dealt with a fair few running plateaus, I wanted to share with you what worked for me this time around. So let’s dig right into it:
#1 I upgraded my running style
Around Christmas time last year I put on my minimal running shoes for the first time and immediately ran my fastest 5k in a long while (from 30mins to under 27mins). Since then, my running times have kept improving and I enjoy running a lot more as well.
One thing I feel has helped a lot to transition to this style successfully was training with slanted boards and being more conscious of my form (especially making sure to keep my arms swinging back at hip level instead of incorrectly crossing them in front of my torso).
When running starts to feel uncomfortable I now know that’s because some part of my form is off. It’s not how running is meant to feel.
Don’t believe us that your running style can completely transform your running experience? Check out our review of Eric Orton’s book The Cool Impossible for more information.
#2 I got back to running with burpees
My best OCR so far was a Spartan Super that felt almost effortless. I didn’t cash out once and I remember enjoying the long bits of running. When I thought back to how I trained for this race, the one thing that stuck out of my current routine was that I was regularly adding burpees to my runs. I’d run a loop of 0.4mi then drop down and do 10/15/20 burpees before doing another loop. In total, I’d do 5-9 loops each time.
This meant that when it came to race-time, I could do my burpee penalty then promptly dust off and get on with the race. I could continue running right away without feeling like I need to get my breath back.
So for the last month, at least one of my weekly running sessions is a run with burpees (on the treadmill). I’ll do one of these sessions:
5×0.4mi with 20 burpees in between
7×0.4mi with 15 burpees in between
10×0.4mi with 10 burpees in between
No breaks except if I need a quick sip of water.
After just 2-3 weeks of this, I could already notice big improvements in my speed which I can now keep for longer. Plus there’s something about adding burpees to your workout and making it fun, when most people around you are mindlessly pounding (or walking) the treadmill.
#3 I added more mobility sessions
Some weeks I’m super keen on stretching with my foam roller and some weeks I’m just not. More recently, I’ve gotten more consistent with it and I’ve even been using a trigger point ball regularly. Much more painful than the foam roller, but oh so worth it.
I usually start by rolling my quads, making sure to get into the bit above the knee as well as the side of my IT band. Next up, I’ll roll both IT bands and inner thighs. Then I might grab the trigger point ball to dig into the IT band/above the knee area which can get super tight and painful – this makes a huge difference to how effortless my run is! Full credit for this one goes to V.
Then I’ll move to the back of my legs, rolling out glutes, hamstrings and calves. Again, using the trigger point ball on any extra tight or painful spots.
Replacing my rather static stretching routine with dynamic stretches (think lunges, animal moves, and the like) has also helped. It took V some time to convince me of the benefits, but I now always take some time to warm up with a jog (gradually increasing speed) before I tear off on my full run.