Fit or Fast

Most runners harbor some goal of running faster. Some want to go longer but even then most want to do something faster than what they’ve run in the past. One problem is that you can be fit and not fast but you really cannot be fast without being fit.

Being fast is context specific. Fast is relative to a person. One runner’s fast may not be another’s. Fast is also relative to a specific race. Fast for a mile is not the same fast for a marathon. Of course within that continuum of fastness is the genetic component. Sprinters are different than distance runners. Fast is about propelling your body over a given distance in a specific time – it’s not about merely covering or completing the distance. So if you have a time goal (versus finishing goal) then you are talking about getting faster.

Goal #1: In order to be fast (or faster) first get fit.

To be fast, one first must be fit. Fitness from a running stand point includes but is not limited to:

  • consistency in training (no extensive time off)
  • adequate miles (after all it is running – it is aerobic)
  • variety in training to balance running (trails, hills, track, long, short, recovery/rest days)
  • positive health status (no injuries, not in midst of rehabbing, no nagging conditions)

There are many fit people out there. There are many runners who are fit out there. But there are also many runners who are not fit. Just ask around and you’ll see: wide variations in training consistency due to work/life/travel/obligations; minimal miles, lingering aches and pains, running with various overuse symptoms, etc. Any of those sound familiar?

Goal #2: Specialize! Focus on a single race distance to get fast.

To get fast you have to specialize. A novice runner may indeed improve at all distances simultaneously. From couch potato to any running at all will yield improvements at all distances. It’s low hanging fruit!

It is unlikely you will improve your 5K PR by training for a marathon (though you will be fit and fast for that marathon). It is unlikely to set PRs in a half-marathon if you are training for 5Ks. You must do some workouts at your goal race paces and faster. And this is the very problem that most age group runners face. They race many distances during the year with equal emphasis on all of them. The training yields a decent “generalist” – good at many distances. These runners are very fit and reasonably fast. But this runner will seldom achieve their full potential at any single distance. And given two equally talented runners, the specialist is the one who will run faster times in that focused distance.

Goal#3: Start running fast!

Finally, if you want to run fast then you have to run fast. Slow running has its place in a well-rounded training program. However, if you want to go faster than what you are now, then you have to run fast. It’s neuromuscular specific. Running your same 4 mile loop five times a week at the same pace and running your easy weekend 10 miler will not make you fast! It’s time to turbo charge your training and infuse it with up-tempo runs. [Caveat: too much too soon will get you injured; it’s best to get a coach to design a progressive program for you.]

How fast you might ask? Over time you should explore a wide variety of paces and your speed work should eventually infuse even near all-out efforts over very short distances.

Need help putting a plan together? Drop me a line.



About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
This entry was posted in Challenge, High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, Motivation, Pacing & Running, Running, Training Effectiveness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Fit or Fast

  1. DON WILLIAMS says:

    Like your Fit or Fast article and believe in your support for water running.

    Would be interested in pool running workouts and possibly a training plan for a 10 mile in July

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