It can be disheartening when you’re training as hard as you possibly can, but you’re still not seeing results. Maybe you’re in peak physical shape and you just can’t shave off one more second. Maybe you’re on the other end of things and questioning if you’re even meant to be a runner. Either way, you’re probably a lot faster than you think you are. Here’s why.
When you look at average times for a mile or whatever distance you’re looking to hit, typically these trackers don’t take into account how much inclines change or how many terrible hills you’re pushing yourself to run up. They don’t take into account your weight, level of fitness, or natural ability. In general, they’re just misleading. It might be corny, but the fact is that you can only measure yourself against yourself. That’s the only running time that really matters. And if you can’t get any faster, that’s probably your body saying, “Hey, this is how fast you’re supposed to be running. Quit pushing yourself so hard – you’re going to get injured if you do.”
Running calculators are just as inaccurate as apparent “average times.” Consider the Riegel calculator, a running calculator which attempts to figure out how fast you’ll run based on one race time when you add or subtract miles. It sounds straightforward enough. But imagine comparing your pace in a short sprint to a marathon. A calculator can’t possibly predict how your body will move from a sprint to a long distance run. It’s been proven that some people are natural sprinters and others are more inclined for long distance running. If this is you, you could either be running much faster or slower than that calculator predicts you will. This is yet another reason you’re faster than you think you are: if you’re not a natural long distance runner, you’re going to struggle a bit harder than the natural. It’s in your genes, man.
Another issue with running calculators is that almost all of them are based on the times of elite athletes. The way an elite runner runs is much different than the way the average runner runs when it comes to pacing, gait, and all sorts of other factors that determine how fast you’ll finish a race.
All of the above have been technical ways that measuring your speed just doesn’t work when it comes to determining how fast you are. Because of this, you’re probably faster than you think you are. There is of course more to it, though.
One way that you can run faster than you think is by mixing things up. Long distance runners focus so much on long distance running that they don’t realize how important speed training is. Tempo style workouts just aren’t enough. What you need to become faster is faster running exercises. Think sprints and interval training. If you’re not trying out different strategies to speed up, you’re letting yourself down. You can run faster than you think – you just have to train smart.
Perfect your form and gait. If you’re working hard but have bad form, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. You need the foundation of a strong technique to become the fastest you can.
Beyond training adjustments, another way of looking at things is taking a key word from the phrase “you’re faster than you think.” That key word is “think.” There are numerous studies that back up the power of positive thinking, no matter how corny you may think it is. Visualise yourself running faster, running as if you could run forever. Listen to motivational speeches, encouraging high-tempo music, and even happy pop songs while you’re running. They’ll propel you forward, as will mantras that encourage you like, “I’ve got this,” “I’m a fast runner,” and “Just keep going.” You’re faster than you think you are because right now you’re too hung up on thinking you’re slow. And what you think becomes your reality.
Start believing in yourself now.
Once again, the focus should be on yourself. Running isn’t about competing. It’s about the enjoyment you get from pushing yourself hard, reaching goals, and living a healthy life. If you’re the type to look around you, challenge others to races, or talk yourself down, you’ve got to stop. All runners enjoy running: that’s what you have in common. What you don’t have in common is body type, various strengths and weaknesses, body weight and body fat percentage, muscle mass, and all sorts of other factors. Because of this, you can only race yourself. And you’re the only person you should be concerned with beating in a race, as you’re the only true measuring stick you have to go by. When you stop beating yourself in races, congratulate yourself: you’ve reached peak physical shape. That’s something worth celebrating.
This has been a guest post by Dan Chabert
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, and nicershoes.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.