How to Run Faster (and do other hard things)

Since I started training for The Speed Project I’ve noticed that I’ve gradually become a faster runner. It was a bit of a surprise, because for the last year or so I’d been gradually becoming a slower runner. In part this was because I’d been focused on really nailing my form, but a lot of the problem in my head. I knew I was capable of running faster, but for some reason there was something stopping me. That something was fear.

I can’t remember when it dawned on me that I was afraid, but when I did it was a light bulb moment. You see fear is the biggest thing that holds us back when it comes to running faster. Yes, fitness plays a role, but however fit you are your’e not going to reach your potential if you’re afraid. You have to push yourself if you want to run fast. You have to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself. It hurts. It is hard. It requires work. Lots of work. If you are scared you are in no place to handle those mental and physical challenges, so speed just isn’t going to happen. And that’s the hole I got stuck in.

How to Run Faster - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Getting out of the hole

Realising that being afraid was holding me back was the motivation I needed to change my mindset around training. This was not quick or easy, but there were a few strategies that I found worked really well for me.

Positive Self-Talk

I don’t know about you, but I can be extremely hard on myself. I like to talk myself down and doubt my abilities a lot, especially when it comes to doing really hard things like pushing myself as a runner. All this negative chat was really holding me back as each time fear crept into my mind I’d big it up and turn it into a massive deal in a spiral that only amplified my fear.

Once you’re in this spiral it can be tough to find your way out (negativity is pervasive like that), but it is possible. The trick is to change how you talk to yourself. It’s funny, we’re much harder on ourselves than we’d ever be on anyone else and this translates in how we talk to ourselves. I know I tell myself some pretty awful things and that this nearly always has a negative effect, but if you can create a negative effect you also have the power to create a positive one. One of the earliest things I did to tackle my fear was to change how I talk to myself. Simply reminding myself not to be afraid was all it took - each time an unhelpful thought crept in in relation to running I just told myself ‘i can’ and ‘I am not afraid’.

I make it sound easy. It’s not. It’s hard to fight your instinct to undermine yourself, it’s hard to really believe what you’re telling yourself. It takes practice and you need to be stubborn, but it will work.

The Big Picture

Being part of a team is a beautiful thing. Before The Speed Project I’d never really been in a team, but now I get it. Having teammates holds you accountable. When things feel hard I think of my girls. These days my biggest fear is letting them down, and that drives me to push harder.

When you’re training it’s easy to get into the grind of each workout and forget why the hell you’re heading out to run up hills in the rain in the first place. When things get tough try to remember your ‘why’. Why are you doing this? It’s actually a good test, if ask yourself this question and you can’t answer it then maybe you’re not training for the right event? There’s no shame in revising your goals if it turns out you’re really not into something.

Get it Over With

I swear every workout is hardest before I do it. The build up to getting your ass outside and getting those sprints done is agony. But you know what, once I’m out there I generally feel pretty good, and afterwards I feel bloody awesome! Yes, not every training session is going to be the best. I definitely have sessions that hurt, that leave me exhausted or that are just plain boring, but I’m still happy when they’re done. The trick is not to dwell too much on what needs to be done and to focus on getting it done. Having coaches is really handy for this one, they tell me what to do and I have no choice but to do it!

How to Run Faster - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

I’m sure you were expecting me to tell you to do more sprints or run up more hills. These sessions all play a part in running faster, and I love my vomit inducing speed sessions, but it’s never really going to be your legs holding you back, your mind needs to get with the programme and give you the freedom to really achieve your potential.

What are your tricks for running faster (or doing anything that’s hard)? Let me know in the comments.

*images: Alex Dixon Photography