Whether you've never run a race in your life or you've never met a 5K you haven't registered for, improving your time is a great way to increase your level of fitness. From seasoned runners to beginners, an effective way to gauge your progress is to break your mile PR.
Why bother to break your PR?
It may seem useless to exert so much effort to break your own personal record. After all, no one is going to give you a medal for it. However, there are many reasons why it's more than worth it. For one, it's a personal challenge to work toward, and each bit of progress will give you the confidence and morale to do even better. Second, it gives you the incentive to push harder during your workouts, benefiting your whole body, and the sense of achievement when you break your PR benefits you in all other areas of life.
To beat your best mile time, there are certain things you need to work on before you go for time. You'll need to get better in speed, strength and endurance. If you have no idea how fast you can run a mile, get up and run one. Go as fast as you can and time yourself. Check out Five Seasons member Mark Wright's latest 5K recap where he set a new PR in the mile!
Now, here’s how to break your PR in the mile:
1. Improve your strength
When it comes to running, strength is of utmost importance, especially in the arms and legs. Weak arms will slow you down, strong arms will add to your speed.
Strength and speed exercises for the arms
To increase arm strength and also speed, one good exercise is the standing arms dive. Stand straight, open up your hands and move them as they do when you are running. Make sure your elbows are at a right angle and your palms are moving from your pocket to your chin. Move your arms as fast as you can. Complete around 3 reps each with 10 to 20 arm movements. Change positions and do the arms dive while seated with your legs stretched out in front of you.
Some weight training with dumbbells or calisthenics can also be highly effective in making your arms stronger.
Strength exercises for the legs
Strong legs help with speed and endurance. Start by sprinting uphill. Run as fast as you can uphill for 30 seconds to a minute. Cool down by walking downhill and then repeat the uphill sprint. Repeat this until you have completed 10 sprints.
Do some leaps. Select a distance of about 50 feet and cover it by leaping over objects such as cones. If you don’t have cones, you can also use your imagination to place objects in your path. Once you've completed the distance, walk back to the start and do it again. Do 50 reps.
Finally, run in place ensuring that you kick your knees as high as you can. Do several reps, each for 30 seconds.
2. Add interval training into your workout
Interval training involves alternate periods of running sprints and then cooling down by either walking or slow jogging. The sprints have to be shorter than one mile. For instance you can sprint for 800m and then slow down for 400 then sprint for another 800m. After 6-8 reps, rest and then go to 400m sprints with 200m for cooling down. Practice interval training a couple days a week.
3. Boost your endurance
Endurance is an indispensable part of running . To best your mile PR, you have to be able to stay strong throughout. The best way to build endurance is by running for distances longer than the mile. This means that you should make an effort to comfortably run a 5k (3.1 miles) in fairly good time.
So as you run shorter sprints throughout the week to increase speed, set apart one day where you run for more than one mile; ideally between 3 and 7 miles. As you run these long distances, maintain a steady speed. Further increase your endurance by running on rough terrain or on a route with hills.
And don't forget that other activities like swimming, cycling or basketball can help add to your endurance. The goal is to maintain a certain level of activity for a sustained period. If you need a break from running, hit the club for some laps or a spinning class.
4. Create a running strategy
If you want to get faster, you've got to plan. Start by getting the right running gear and also eating well. When looking for running shoes go to a sports store and ask for the advice of the experts there. Ensure that you get enough carbs to give you energy, but don't over do it. Remember to eat something with protein after you train to repair muscles. Take care not to eat heavily an hour before a run as it will weigh you down. And above all, always stay hydrated.
When it comes to the actual running, be careful not to start out too fast otherwise you will burn up your energy long before your run is complete. A good strategy is to start at a pace you can hold steadily with some left over at the end for a sprint.
Take a look at your time and set a challenging but reasonable goal dependent on your fitness level. Everyone's PR is going to be different, so don't worry if you're not running 5-minute miles right away, if ever. The important thing is that you improve whether you're training for a marathon or lacing up your first pair of running shoes.