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Home » Five tips to improve your running pace and boost race performance! Ep68

Five tips to improve your running pace and boost race performance! Ep68

#068 – Inspire to Run Podcast host, Richard Conner, shares his experience from his first race of 2023 and five tips helping him improve his performance to reach his running goals this year.

Topics Covered:

  • Strategies for improving performance as a runner to reach your goals
  • How training will evolve over time depending on your experience and goals
  • Preparation and pre-race warm-up for better performance

Today’s Guest

Richard Conner

Richard Conner

Richard is a strategic marketing professional with experience in B2B marketing. Richard is the founder of Inspire to Run and is passionate about helping others reach their goals. He is a Connecticut native, a husband, dad, writer, Star Wars fan, and of course – runner! Richard recently discovered obstacle course racing and has fully embraced this new obsession.


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Richard Conner 0:01

Hey everyone, in today’s episode is going to be a solo episode. So you’re going to hear from me as I share my recent experience my first race of 2023. Share a little bit about my training journey over the last few months and how it’s helped me perform at that race. And I want to share with you five tips that can help you improve your performance as a runner. Hope you enjoy.

Intro/Outro 0:22

Welcome to Inspire to run podcast. Here you will find inspiration, whether you’re looking to take control of your health and fitness or you’re a seasoned runner, looking for community and some extra motivation, you will hear inspiring stories from amazing runners, along with helpful tips from fitness experts. Now, here’s your host, Richard Conner. Richard Conner 0:46 Hey, everyone, welcome to inspire to run podcast. Periodically, I like to jump in and do a solo episode to share a little bit about my own running journey in terms of my training and my races. And I’ve have a few updates to share with you just on my recent races to kick off 2023 that I’m really excited about to kind of share my story. And also what I’ve learned along the way, I’ve been running for many, many years. But if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I really started running again just a few years ago, as part of my journey to kind of get fit again and overcome fears. And I’m learning every day learning how to be a better runner, I’m learning how to run these races and improve my performance in these races. And it’s just really been an exciting journey. And of course, it’s ups and downs like everything, but I’m learning and I’m seeing the results. And I want to take this time to share that with you. So in this episode, I’ll share a little bit about how my training has been going this year and about my first race. And then I’d like to share with you five things that have really helped me over the last few months in my training that I feel like directly contributed to my improving my performance. Let’s just kind of dive in. So just starting with my training, I just want to say that it’s going super well, I’m following the plan, you know, I want to say 90 to 95% of the time, I’ve had a couple of weeks where things have been a little off with travel and other commitments. But I’m really following the plan as closely as I can. And you know, I intend to do so. And that’s really paying dividends. And I feel great. Not a lot of aches, and maybe some of the things I was going through just even a couple of years ago, as I was increasing my distance to run my first half marathon. Even now I’m running far more miles than I was running before. That’s been great. And it’s really kind of led to my first race of the year, which many of you might know that I normally don’t like to run in the winter. But through the pandemic, I’ve been running more outdoors in the winter. And that’s really kind of helped me run these races that are not like spring or fall races and not feel completely uncomfortable.

So the first race that I ran was the run for refugees 5k that’s hosted by Iris. And we had Iris on the show a couple of years ago to share a little bit about their organization and their mission and the people that they’re helping, which is truly tremendous. And I really love supporting and running races like this, to help these types of organizations. So this was my first race and it was on Superbowl Sunday. So as you can imagine, there’s probably a lot of excitement in running a race or just in Superbowl Sunday, just in general if you’re into football or if you’re into that kind of thing. But it’s also exciting to kind of kick off your day with this type of activity or this type of event. And just like last year, it was a great turnout. There are a lot of people there. And the weather was beautiful. Now when I say beautiful, it was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And I remember last year it was a little bit colder, and definitely snowing when we kicked off the race when we started the starting line. So this year, much better racing conditions and 40 degrees. But if you asked me two or three years ago, would I run in 40 degree weather? I’d say probably not. And if I would, I’d run with a jacket and a hat and gloves and probably four layers or close and then I would get out there for a run. So definitely running outdoors over the last couple of years have has helped, you know, kind of acclimate me to running outdoors for a race like this which was which is really great. So beautiful weather at 40 degrees, great turnout for the race and overall great experience during the race. I now know the course because I ran it a year prior and I felt good throughout. I felt like I started the race by did my warm up. I’ll wind the clock back a little bit I did all my pre race prep. So I did my fueling my hydration, my warm up, changed my warm up, which I’ll talk a little bit about a little later on when I give the tips. But I had a little different warm up that I’ve done in the past. And, and then I just got ready for the race, I didn’t run with a jacket I ran with, I did run with layers, but it was layers that helped me be comfortable and not get too hot or overheated in during the race. So that worked out super well. And then as I started the race, normally that first mile is really challenging for me. And I don’t know if it’s the same for you. If you’ve run races before or just running in general, that first mile, it’s, it’s a tough one, and especially if you go out too hard. So that’s a couple of things that I’ve been working towards is not shoot, you know, coming out of the gate, super, super hot, but also not burning out after that first mile and getting my heart rate super, super high, and then not performing well for the rest of the race. So for this race, I’d say that I came out that first mile I did, I felt really good. Second mile, I was starting to slow down a little bit but had good energy and still felt pretty good and really controlled my breathing. And then third mile, you know, it was it was a strong finish, it was a sprint to the end. And I really felt like I had finished the race strong. Now, those are all the positive things, here are some of the not so good things. I didn’t hit my target time, I really was looking to get down below 25 minutes for the 5k. And I didn’t do that. But I did better than I did this last year when I ran this race. And I also ran faster than the race I did back in December to support the jingle bell run by Arthritis Foundation. So take a moment to reflect and be grateful for that, that I am seeing improvements. And I know that that the results will come right. So if I keep doing what I’m doing, those results will come. So you know that’s obviously the disappointing thing. If you have a specific goal in mind or a specific time in mind, I get it if you don’t hit that, but also kind of think about well, how was your overall performance? How did you feel? How was your run? Did you execute the race in the way that you’ve been training? And do you feel good about that part, just keep in mind that the results will come. I have a long way to go this year. This told me where I am at the moment. And my overall goal is to get that mile time down to seven minutes a mile for that 5k time. So that’s just a little bit about how I started the year. And again, I feel I feel really great about that. So what are the things that I have been doing? That helped me get here, I don’t expect to out of the gate after not running for so many years out of the gate, just run my high school time I read your 5k time from high school, I don’t expect that. But I do want to improve. And I want to get close to that time through through the training and yeah, through my training.

So here are five things that I think helped me personally improve my time over the last few months and improve my performance as a runner. So first and foremost, is having the right training plan. And what do I mean by that? Well, if you’ve never run before, or let’s say you haven’t run more than a mile consistently, and you’re looking to do five Ks, 10, KS, and so on and so forth, it’s really critical to have the right training plan. So just getting to that first 5k year, you may want to consider doing a couch to 5k program, or a run some sort of run Walk Run program, that’s going to help you get to, you know, your first 5k. But beyond that, if you’ve done five K’s before and you’re looking to improve your time, or you’re looking to get to, you know those higher distances, whether it’s 10k, half marathon marathon, you’re going to need a different training plan. And that’s kind of what I’ve learned over the last couple of years, is I was following a half marathon plan that I would say basically got me to the starting line, which is great, you know, especially for my first half marathon, if I never thought I could run a half marathon before in my life, to be able to get to that starting line is a huge accomplishment. So I had the right plan for that time. But then I just mentioned that I’m looking to get my time down to eight minutes a mile for half marathon for a half marathon race, which is around an hour and 45 minutes. I need a very different plan training plan to get there. And it took me a while to realize that. So I’ll talk a little bit about what that plan is. But just to give you a little bit of perspective about what I mean about having the right a training plan. And there’s a lot of options out there, there’s a lot of free plans online. And there’s some there paid plans. And you can obviously work with running coaches, which I definitely recommend, if you’re kind of beyond that couch to five key point, having a running coach or a fitness coach is certainly going to help accelerate your improvement in your performance. So that’s really number one. Number two, is my coach had me change from running based on pace, to running based on heart rate. And this is something I never knew before, or never really understood. And it’s made a world of difference in my training program. So whereas before, if I’m running, let’s say, 20 to 25 miles a week, you know, just a few hours a week, that’s for my half marathon training program, I’m now running six to seven hours a week, which equates for me to about 30 to 40 miles. And that’s a big difference in the training. And that’s one of the big drivers, that’s going to help me improve my overall fitness and preparation for improving my half marathon time. So if I was running based on pace before, more than likely, I wasn’t running, quote, unquote, easy runs for me. So I would probably run at, let’s say, a zone four, if you’re familiar with the with the heart rate zones, 12345, I would probably run what I thought I was running an easy pace at a zone for at the end of my workouts, I am spent, I’m not thinking I could run longer distances. And I’m not running those those easy runs. And then on top of that I’m doing other hard runs with with my sprinting or intervals or strides, etc. So doing the heart rate training has really made a world of difference in in my performance, and my ability to run longer distances and had that larger volume of running throughout the week throughout my entire training program. So that’s really worked out really well, in terms of the gear that I use. I know there’s a lot of popular options out there. So I still use my Fitbit as kind of my base tracking my steps tracking my mileage. But I also recently picked a polar watch, I’m using in an Ignite too. And I’m also using an H 10. Heart Rate Monitor, which is a strap that goes around my chest. And it tracks in a very accurate way what my heart rate is throughout my run. So I could use my watch to see where I am from, from a heart rate perspective, and really adjust my pace. So if it’s supposed to be an easy run, which is a base, which is a zone two, then I know I need to run, you know around a certain pace, or I need to slow it down to get my heart rate down to that zone to and I know if it’s going to be a faster run, or different types of runs, I know I could move up to zone three, zone four, depending on what that what that training calls for. So that’s been a big, big difference over the last few months in my training is running from changing from that pace training, to the heart rate training. And I’m really excited to see how that helps me in my performance this year. But I’m already seeing the benefits of that just even in my training. And I’m really looking forward to that translating into my races, especially as I get to that half marathon race.

The third tip that I really feel helped me and this is going to sound cliche, and it’s gonna sound very rudimentary and basic, but proper hydration and fueling. And I’ll share with you what I used to do a I’m sure you’re gonna you might gasp you’re like, Wow, really, on these longer runs, especially as I started my half marathon training. I did not bring anything with me. I didn’t bring water. I didn’t bring any kind of fuel, nothing. So I would be out there for my weekly long runs nine miles, 10 miles, 11 miles with nothing. And it wasn’t until I ran I started to actually ran the races that I actually started to fuel along the way. So I would eat one time I would bring it with me or I would take what was on the course. I’ll share with you a couple of things that I do completely different than I used to do before. The first thing is if you’re relying on hydration on the course number one it could potentially slow you down. If you have to kind of de you know to kind of navigate to the water stations and get it which it’s fine, right? It’s fine to navigate to that if you’re not going To bring your own hydration, it’s better than nothing. But carrying it with you gives you a couple of advantages, which is what I now do. So the first advantage is you bring the hydration that you want, right you bring what you train with, you can ensure that it’s with you on race day, and you’re not relying on what’s on the course. Number one. Number two is, when I was taking hydration, I used to drink normally just water. And then I started drinking hydration with electrolytes, which is good, especially for your training and for your races. And I was advised as I’m running these longer races, you’re burning a lot of calories on these, during these races, or during these long runs, your training runs, you’re burning a lot of calories, and you need to fuel your body along the way for better performance. So now I have I take electrolytes during the day. But for these runs, especially the longer ones, I’m taking my hydration, not only with electrolytes, but also with calories. So I definitely feel a big difference in that, because I could feel it during my long runs, I feel better, I don’t feel like I’m ready to die at the end, even after going at a slow, you know, at an easy pace for 12 1314 miles. And I’m really excited to say that over the last couple of months, I actually hit the longest distance for a run that I’ve ever done. So super excited about that. But I believe that hydration played a big part, and given me the ability to be able to do that. So the second part of this is the fuelling part. So I mentioned that there have calories in the in my drinks, but I also will bring I’ll also bring goo with me. So if you’re familiar with the brain goo there’s a lot of different brands out there. But that also helps, you know give you those calories and in some cases, caffeine to help you help keep you fueled for your run. So that was one of the biggest changes other than doing the heart rate training versus the pace training, having a hydration and fueling has made has been a big game changer for me. And honestly, I didn’t really do it before maybe if I did it, you know, many years ago, I haven’t been doing it for you know these past few years. So that’s tip number three. Tip number four is running in different weather conditions. And I mentioned before how I used to run in the treadmill and indoors unless I was running races, but not a lot outdoors. And for sure not in the winter, I don’t want to run in the cold. I just don’t want to have anything to do with it. And I started to do it a couple of years ago, again, kind of through the pandemic. And that has helped out tremendously. And if, again, if you’ve been listening to our interviews with our guests, we brought in a few guests have talked about what it’s like to be running in the summer or running in the winter, or just not ideal conditions. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not comfortable, right? I’m not going to say you’re going to 100% Enjoy it. But it teaches you to dress properly for those conditions. And it helps your body acclimate to those conditions. So why is it important? Well, when you get to race day, you don’t really know what the day is going to be like. It could be cold, it could be hot, it could be rainy, the sun could be beating on you, you have no idea until you get there. Maybe you’ll know the day before. So but you can’t control that. So the only thing that you can control is are you training in those different environments? And are you learning how to prep for those environments, in terms of your clothing, in terms of your nutrition, all of those things are going to help you perform better on race day, hopefully, despite what the weather conditions are, and then sometimes the weather conditions are probably just too extreme, of course, and still impact your runs. But you’ll be better prepared if you do these things versus not doing those things. So that’s definitely helped me so again, for this race run for refugees. I didn’t wear a jacket, I wear a hat or gloves were a couple of layers. And I was perfectly comfortable in 40 degree weather and I loved it. I loved being able to run without the jacket. I love being able to represent iris with my cool racer. And I felt great throughout the race and didn’t feel like I was overheating or weighed down by a lot of gear but you got to do what works for you. And training for and prepping for it ahead of time is going to help teach you you know what you can or should or should not do on race day. So that’s tip number four. And the last thing I’ll leave you with is tip number five. So for my warm up for my warm ups for my races, do typical warm ups that everybody does Right to run, you stretch, you do dynamic warm ups, you know, whatever, whatever really works for you. So a lot of people do different things. And one of the things that I think has really helped me in particular on this last race was starting to incorporate strides as part of my pre race warm up. And that really helps me because I could tell it really helps me because as I mentioned, that first mile is usually challenging for me, and my heart rates up, I’m breathing heavy. And then the next couple of miles for a five K’s is usually a struggle. But for this race, I felt pretty good. I felt like it didn’t have that first mile burn. And I attribute that tribute that to a couple of things. One is my training is very different than how it used to be. So number one, my training there, but also my pre race warm up and, and doing incorporating strides as part of that. And I really owe you know, a lot of the tips that I’m sharing with you here. And these techniques to my running coach who’s helped me improve through this time. So that’s tip number five. Again, if you are I we normally have a lot of conversation and stories to help brand new runners if you’ve never run a 5k before, and you’re just getting started. And I wanted to take this time to not only share tips for you if that’s where you are in your journey, but maybe for others who are a little you know, in a different place in their journey, they’ve run five K’s before they’re really looking to run longer distances or improve their time and performance, wanted to share what I’ve done that’s helped me that hopefully can help you. So hopefully, you’ve enjoyed listening to my story. Hopefully, there’s something that you will take away from my race, as well as my five tips that I’m sharing with you. And if you’re looking for more details on these tips, more inspiration more more specific help, you can follow us on inspired to on podcast on Instagram. And I’d also would encourage you to come to our Facebook group. It’s a it’s a community of runners and fitness experts helping each other, keeping each other accountable and keeping each other motivated to reach our health and fitness goals no matter what they may be. So you can find us on Facebook at inspired to run. So I’ll put this information in the show notes to make it easy for you to find us and follow us and join us on Instagram or Facebook. I really look forward to seeing you in the community. And I really want to help you in your journey as well as our community. So please, please check us out. Join us and I’m looking forward to seeing you there. So with that, thank you so much for listening to this episode. Thank you for all of your support for the show. And have a great day.

Intro/Outro 22:55

That’s it for this episode of inspired to run podcast. We hope you are inspired to take control of your health and fitness and take it to the next level. Be sure to click the subscribe button to join our community. And also please rate and review. Thanks for listening

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