Top 3 Reasons: You’re Just not Getting Faster

Often I’ll have discussions with runners who state that they just can’t run “fast”. Or, better yet, that the runners who are faster than him or her are “natural” runners. The problem is not that they are not fast or not “naturals”. The problem is in their training.

Though there is an upper limit to how fast someone can run (even for the world record holders) it is also true that we will never really know what that limit is. Therefore, if we do the right things we optimize the chances of getting faster. And, faster is a relative term. So it is not fair to compare your fast to others’ fast (even though we are all prone to do so). The key focus should be on your fast.

Reason #1: Your training is stagnant.

This is by far the leading reason for runners not improving. They run the same routes at the same paces day after day, week after week, month after month and even year after year. A key to improvement is adaptation. Once your body adapts to the training load (distance, surface, pace, effort, etc.) you are not going to improve. This is true for runners of all abilities, but especially true of the middle of the pack age group runner. The #1 problem is also the easiest to fix.

Solution: Get variety in your training. Stop running the same 3 or 4 mile route around your neighborhood at the same pace.

  • Change your route. Up your distance one day (i.e. 5, 6 miles) and drop it another day (i.e. 2 miles).
  • Change your paces. If your daily run is 8:45-9:00/mile then on that short day push it faster by 30 seconds per mile and that longer day back off by 30 seconds per mile.
  • Change environments. Get on trails to build strength and a little foot agility. Become adept at changing paces with terrain changes. If you always run on trails then get off them and on roads and smooth out your stride and pace.
  • Run some hills if you are always on the flats and if you are always running hills then get on some flat ground and stretch it out a bit.
  • See Reason #2 for not getting faster.

Reason #2: You don’t do speed work.

There are simple well-known laws of training. The law of specificity of training is simple: you will race how you train. If you train slow you will race slow.


  • To run faster you must run faster.
  • Infuse your daily runs with harder paces for shorter distances. Even if it means you fatigue and have to stop and rest a bit before continuing on.
  • Do varied pace workouts (Fartlek/Speedplay) instead of a steady single paced run.
  • Do intervals at varying faster paces with breaks. These do not have to be all out sprints. They need to be faster than that daily hum-drum pace you run.
  • *Don’t just start sprinting or doing 2-3 interval workouts each week. Ease into them. And expect some muscles to “talk” to you afterwards. You are exercising muscles and connective tissue in new ways. Allow for some adaptation to take place.

Reason #3: You don’t make running your priority.

This is not bad in itself. If you want general fitness then it is OK to do your spin class, aerobics class, Pilates, yoga, P90x and weight workouts. If you spend more time cross training than running then you’ll be good at your cross training and not your running. If your goal is to be a faster runner, it will not happen by doing everything but running. This does not mean you need to abandon what keeps you healthy or injury free but if you want to be a better runner cross training won’t do it.


Replace a couple of those cross training workouts with a running workout. However, see solutions above. Don’t just add more of the same. And make changes gradually.

Posted in Goal Setting, High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, Motivation, Pacing & Running, Running, Training Effectiveness | Tagged , | Leave a comment

RunTime Episode 2

Episode 2 — Running and Travel with RunWestin Concierge Chris Heuisler

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Run Time — Four Mental Barriers Runners Face & Overcoming #running #marathon

Dean Hebert:

Do any of these ring true to you?

Originally posted on Running Advice and News:

running-advice-bugWe are so excited to announce our new video series: Run Time, The Discussion Place for Runners. That’s right, we’re producing a new talk show just for you runners. We plan to have all kinds of cool people on the show: coaches, doctors, industry insiders, authors and lots of runners!

We’re kicking off the series today with a conversation with my friend, Mental Games Specialist Coach Dean Hebert. On this episode, I talk with Coach Dean about the four mental barriers that runners face in their training and how to overcome them. This includes dealing with discomfort, pushing ourselves, and why it is important to do these things in training rather than on race day.

Run Time — Four Mental Barriers Runners Face and How to Overcome Them (Episode 1) from Joe English on Vimeo.

Future episodes will dive into running topics, including mental strategies, picking the best…

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Stop the Presses – This will kill you!

As many of you know I have a  hard time joining the bandwagon for fads, poor science and bad research studies/interpretations. Alex Hutchinson writes some pretty good stuff for Runners World. Most recently he wrote about a controversial study that has been bandied about in the press over the past couple years. The study used flawed statistics that lead them to the conclusion that basically stated very little running is bad for you and that running can shorten your life. Study conclusions have to be closely scrutinized. Just a few considerations…

  • What population is studied? (i.e. results of sedentary adults may have no relationship to active adults)
  • Was it a study of non-runners (other sports)? (i.e. basketball or soccer as related to distance runners)
  • Is there a built-in bias from the researchers? (i.e. almost all studies end up finding what they are looking for; sponsored research by-product manufacturers find their product “works”)
  • Has the study been replicated? (i.e. sometimes anomalies happen even with controls – replicating minimizes that chance)
  • Are there controls or control groups? (i.e. the Placebo Effect is alive and well)

Sometimes studies are well designed, use proper statistical and control techniques to show valid results which can indeed guide us to better training. Even then it is the over-reaching application of results that can be in err. Here is a good example of that big research revelation about sitting too much that has a balanced view (see his summary paragraph if you don’t want to read his entire evaluation of the data and corroborating studies). And here is another balanced take on the static stretching pre-workout research. Note in the end he owns his interpretation while substantiating his reason.

I know that media sources and the advent of electronic media and media sharing get a lot of the blame. But media – no let me rephrase that – reporters and writers love cool things to report on. It’s like a popularity contest. So before you take the next exercise research revelation to heart – consider not only the media source but the author as well. I will tend to buy into someone’s point who has knowledge and balance. I think Hutchinson has it right when he states, “The cooler and less probable the result, the more we should suspend our judgment until others can verify it.”


Posted in aqua running, Blogroll, College Running, Confidence, Cramps, Excuses not to run, Exercise Research, focus, Goal Setting, Heat Training, High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, Illness and Running, Lyme Disease, Marathon, Mental Game, Mental Game Boot Camp, Mental Toughness, Mobile App, Motivation, Muscle Cramps, Pacing & Running, Plantar Wart, Racing Flats, Range of Motion, Running, Running & Diet, Running Camps, Running Humor, Running Records, Running Shoes, Running Streaks, Sports Psychology, Stretching, The Running Life - Philosophy, Track and Field, Track Terminology, Training Effectiveness, Ultra-Marathon, Youth Athletes, Youth Running | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Running Camp – Can Adults go Too?

Every summer the popular thing to do if you have children is to find camps to send them to. Camps exist for every taste – from cheer, to leadership, to knitting, to soccer to running.

But, what about a break for adults? Don’t adults deserve a little time away? My answer is an emphatic yes! My solution for the adult runners out there (parents or not) is to send yourself to running camp! Arizona Running Camp is the perfect long weekend (Thursday through Sunday) getaway. There is still time to register. But do it now! Registrations for this camp are capped to assure a personalized experience.

For those in the desert southwest it’s an escape from the heat. For those from the low-lands it’s time to train at 7000 feet!

For more novice runners it’s a time to focus on you and YOUR running: how to stay healthy, go longer, go faster or just get more variety and enjoyment from your running.

For more advanced runners it’s a time to regroup either from the past season of racing or for the upcoming Fall racing season. It’s time to assess what you are doing and if your approach needs updating, reinforcement or just an intense focus.

Arizona Running Camps differ from all other camps in that integrated into the entire camp are the mental game aspects (AKA sports psychology, mental toughness, mindset, motivation). You get a comprehensive assessment on your personal mental game and then you have the opportunity not only for in-depth discussions on the topics but 1:1 meetings with a nationally certified mental game coach (BTW that’s me). No other camp offers this. There is still time to register. But do it now!

Sometimes someone else summarizes points better than I ever could. I’m providing a link to one camper’s review of the recent running camp held in Flagstaff, AZ at Northern Arizona University. Here’s Rob’s take on camp lessons and applications. Enjoy reading about what you may have missed in past years but can look forward to this July!

Have a specific question about camp? Drop me a line here.

Posted in aqua running, College Running, Confidence, Cramps, Excuses not to run, focus, Goal Setting, Heat Training, High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, Illness and Running, Lyme Disease, Marathon, Mental Game, Mental Game Boot Camp, Mental Toughness, Mobile App, Motivation, Muscle Cramps, Pacing & Running, Plantar Wart, Racing Flats, Range of Motion, Running, Running & Diet, Running Camps, Running Humor, Running Records, Running Shoes, Running Streaks, Sports Psychology, Stretching, The Running Life - Philosophy, Track and Field, Training Effectiveness, Ultra-Marathon | Leave a comment

The Secret to Running Faster

Almost every runner who has come to me has as a goal to run faster. If a 50-year-old can break 5:00 in the mile; if a 60-year-old can break 6:00 in the mile; if the person who has only run a 10:00 mile and swears they are just a slow runner can a sub-8:00 mile; then so can you.

The real bonus for many of you is that when you can get these “middle distance” times (mile to 5k) faster; your distance (10k, half-marathon and beyond) times will drop as well.

As a coach – and as most coaches – I recommend various drills to improve form and power as they relate to running faster. Skipping drills, lower leg drills, upper leg drills, push-off drills, arm drills, dynamic stretching and full range of motion drills – you name it you can find all of them on some youtube video. Each one is designed to strengthen and reinforce proper neuromuscular reactions in muscle groups to propel runners forward in the most effective and efficient manner possible. And none of them directly get you faster.

Even those individuals who can replicate all these drills in text book fashion aren’t going to be running faster without something else. That something else is fast running. Fast running begets fast running… not drills. Let me be clear that these drills have a purpose. They can support your efforts to run faster. They may reduce incidence of injury (but even that is not well documented). They may lead to improved running form – which may or may not help you run faster. But there is no proof that there is a single optimal running form to run fast. (If there was, every fast runner would look the same. And they don’t.)

You can run mile after mile but if all those miles are slow, you will be a slow runner (albeit – quite fit, with great endurance). Do not confuse fitness with the ability to run fast. There is an overlap but they are not the same. There are many fit and quite slow runners out there. If you do not have time to do all the drills, all the range of motion exercises and running form drills – then don’t do them. Instead make the most of your time by infusing fast running into your running. Become fast and fit.

The message is clear from the research end to the practical application end – if you want to run fast then get out and run fast.

Posted in High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, Marathon, Pacing & Running, Running | 2 Comments

And for the Weather Report

It really doesn’t matter where you are from. We all have to deal with weather. Unless you go into hibernation all winter up north or all summer in the south you’ll have to deal with the weather. Of course a treadmill is one option for your training if it is available to you… but what if it’s race day?

Next to insufficient time, weather is arguably the most common excuse not to get a workout in. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too windy. It’s too humid. It’s too dry. It’s too sunny. It’s too dark. You get the idea. It really doesn’t matter what the weather is – someone will use it as an excuse not to perform or not to get that workout done.

Did the weather single you out? Are you the only one being treated to heat, cold or wind today?

Here’s the reality of weather. It does not discriminate. Everyone in your vicinity is being treated equally. So if you don’t have a treadmill to retreat to for your workout or if it is race day you have a choice. You can face it or give in to it.

Weather is an equal opportunity adversity. Or is it?

Objectively we know that in very cold, very hot or very windy conditions performances suffer. That’s just a fact. The effects of cold, heat and wind are well documented. You will not be able to run as fast in extreme conditions as in moderate ones. [And if by some happenstance you run a PR on an extreme weather day – you can be guaranteed that you would have run even faster in moderate conditions. So you’ll still have something to look forward to.]

Though the weather conditions are the same for everyone how each person handles that weather is not. And there lies the difference that is the difference: your mental game and how you handle adverse weather conditions. The more negative your self-talk, the more you dwell on external uncontrollable elements – the less confident you will be; the more doubts about your ability will dominate your mind; the less race focused you will be. It commonly results in a reduced physical effort/intensity, anxiousness about results or how things will go during the race, and increased stress – all of which increase muscle tension and decrease optimal physical performance.

Think about two competitors of equal ability about to race on a cold blustery day.

Runner 1 tells herself: I hate the cold. I never run good in the cold. I can’t wait for this to be over. Maybe I’ll just do this race as a training run. My hands are freezing. Will this wind ever stop.

Runner 2 tells herself: I’m strong and confident that I can handle anything thrown my way. Head down and all ahead full. Think “strong”. I’ll take each mile as it comes and execute my race plan. I’ll pace right behind the pack and let them break the wind until I launch my kick.

I put my money on Runner 2. She may not set a PR today but she is figuratively and literally heads above the other runner on this day.

If you want to wait for a perfect day to run – you may be waiting awhile. If you use weather as an excuse for your performance you’ll always be a step behind those who don’t. The time to get mentally strong is in training. If you avoid workouts every bad weather day – you are avoiding an opportunity to hone your mental toughness. And that will serve you on race day… regardless of the weather.

Posted in Excuses not to run, focus, Heat Training, Mental Game, Mental Toughness, Motivation, Running, Sports Psychology, Training Effectiveness | Tagged | 1 Comment