Next Level Run Performance
By Dr. Rick Kattouf II
Running continues to be a very popular sport. In the United States alone, 17,114,800 individuals finished a running race in 2015 (5K & up). And runners are always looking to get faster. They set great goals for themselves and they want to beat their previous times. Running a PR (Personal Record), placing higher overall on the leaderboard and placing higher in their respective AG (age group), often times, dominates runners' thoughts during workouts and races. All too often, when a runner wants to get faster, they will gravitate towards running more/harder. While a nice blend and balance of more/harder may be necessary at times, all too often, this will lead an athlete down an injury-ridden road. And no athlete likes to sit on the sidelines.
So how can a runner continue to get faster and the same time reduce risk of injury? Building a good amount of strength, endurance and efficiency is going to help assist a runner in achieving his/her goals of getting faster. This is where strength training workouts become a key component for a runner’s success (for great strength training workouts, visit http://www.leandownfitness.com). It can be all too common for runners to avoid strength training. Many runners think that putting on muscle will inhibit their run performance. This could not be further from the truth. When runners weight train regularly, they will increase their strength and power. This will lead to improved endurance, improved run times, improved overall fitness, improved body composition, improved recovery and this will help to reduce the risk of injury. I would recommend a minimum of 3 days of weight training (upper and lower body) per week.
On the surface, it makes sense that if a runner wants to get faster, they just need to go out and train harder and faster. But this is not the exact recipe for getting faster. Sure, there is a time to implement speed work. But, most runners implement speed work far too prematurely in their training. Rather, building efficiency is going to be one of the key components for a runner to get faster. Building greater efficiency means that we are going to teach the body to be able to run longer, harder, faster at the same or lower heart rate. The key to the statement above is, "at the same or lower heart rate." Simply going out and running faster and just jacking up that heart rate is not going to be the key to success. This is simply the mindset of, train harder. When we do this, we are just bumping up to our ‘current fitness ceiling.’ But we are not increasing our fitness ceiling. And this is the goal and this is where building efficiency will help assist a runner in increasing his/her fitness ceiling. Working out harder is not the key to success; rather, working out smarter is the key to success.
In order to work out smarter, this means we want to tap into our own physiology and work out in the correct heart rate zones during all of our workouts. And by doing so, the runner will continue to build a greater amount of efficiency and in time, this will lead to the runner being able to run longer, harder, faster at the same or lower heart rate. In summary, by working out smart and following the proper heart rate zones, we are teaching the heart to beat as slow as possible but at the same time, move the body as fast as possible. Whoa! Just wait until you experience greater efficiency. This is whole new level of speed and endurance.
Let's put this into pace per mile running terms. For reference, let's use 4 heart rate zones: Zone, 1, 2, 3, and 4. And let's say we are assessing a runner’s efficiency and the assessment Rxd is for the runner to run 5 miles and stay within heart rate zone 1. Let's say the runner performs this assessment, spot-on, and the average pace per mile is 10:00. As this runner continues to build strength (as mentioned above) and as this runner continues to work out smart by working out in the proper heart rate zones, efficiency will start to increase. And in time, as this runner continues to repeat this running assessment, they will find that their average pace per mile becomes 9:30, 9:00, 8:30, 8:00, etc.
Do you see what just happened here? This is absolutely incredible. This runner is now running two minutes per mile faster… At the same or lower heart rate. That's the key to the statement, "at the same or lower heart rate." Now that is building amazing efficiency and just imagine how much faster this runner just became. This is Speed Work 101. I can promise you this, when you start to see your efficiency improve, you will be at a completely new fitness level that you have never seen before. Building efficiency takes time, effort, energy, discipline and patience. But the payoff is amazing and if you can remain patient and delay gratification, you’ll start to produce faster running times than you have ever seen before.
As you continue to build great strength and efficiency, there is another huge piece to the puzzle that we want to implement as well. As important as building strength is and as important as working out smart is, we must be sure that the body is being properly fueled. When we fuel the body properly, we are setting the body up for great success in terms of human performance and recovery. The quicker we can recover, the better we can perform. Fueling (and refueling) the body right can be the missing link for a runner. If a runner is not properly fueled and/or hydrated, this will negatively impact performance and recovery. In addition, eating right is also the key to achieving the optimal body composition (improved body composition = improved performance).
Let's say a runner is building great strength, working out smart and building great efficiency. But, the runner is not eating right and is carrying 20 pounds of additional body fat. Well, no matter how much strength and/or efficiency a runner builds, he/she is not going to be able to overcome the additional 20 pounds of body fat and therefore, performance and recovery is going to suffer.
What is a common thought a runner has when they are overweight and they want to reduce their weight? If you guessed, run more/harder, you are correct. But what we have to understand is that we cannot outwork improper nutrition. Despite the high mileage a runner may be putting in, often times, they are still overweight (Weight Gain During High Volume Training?). And this is where eating right comes into play. And this is what TeamKattouf® helps individuals focus on; fueling their body properly. Fuel the body right, optimize body composition, maximize recovery, maximize performance and in turn…get faster.
In summary, if you are looking to take your running performance to an entirely new level, let's start to do it one successful step at a time. When you start to incorporate strength training (3-6 times per week), you can start to make the necessary strength and power gains necessary to improve performance and recovery. And then following the proper HR zones in order to build big-time efficiency and raise that fitness ceiling will prove to be amazingly valuable in improving endurance and speed. In addition, when you start to eat right (not just eat healthy; eating healthy is not the key to success, rather, eating right is the key to success), you will now be setting the body up for great success and the body will be properly fueled for optimal performance, recovery and body composition. When you start to implement this triad of success, lookout; you are going to find an entirely new level of strength, efficiency, fitness and speed. Enjoy the journey!
WORKOUT SMART, EAT RIGHT, GET RESULTS®!
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Rick Kattouf II, O.D. is a 2x Best-Selling Author and Fitness & Nutrition expert and has been named one of America’s PremierExperts® and one of the World Fitness Elite® Trainers of the Year. Rick is a Sports Nutrition Specialist, Heart Rate Performance Specialist, Master Personal Trainer & Triathlon Coach. He has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country as well as in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Ironman.com, Livestrong.com, FIGHT! Magazine, Florida Cycling Magazine and The Independent in the UK. Rick is the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Inc, CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC, CEO/Founder of Virtual Gym LLC, Creator of TeamKattouf® Nutrition Supplements, Host of Rx Nutrition, author of Forever Fit, Creator of 5-Round Fury® Nutrition Supplement, 5-Round Fury Fitness® workout app, Creator of Coach2CEO, Creator of Fuel Keeper®, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. Dr. Rick has personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries.