How do I manage to run faster and for longer? Every runner considers this question at some point – especially if you want to compete in the Wings for Life World Run and stay out of the Catcher Car's reach for as long as possible. We have compiled the six most important tips for more tempo intensity aimed at any runner already training around three times a week and able to withstand a 45-minute session. In addition, you will get inspiring insights into everyday training from ultrarunner Flo Neuschwander, who will share his thoughts on training plans, recovery, nutrition and mental training.
The right running training
What should I consider in terms of my training plan if I want to run faster and for longer?
- You learn to run by running. Nothing has changed in this respect! Even in this age of sophisticated training science and technological advances in terms of equipment, it's that simple.
- In this context, the right alternation of exertion and recovery brings progress. A good training plan is very beneficial. However, the most important thing is to listen to your own body and avoid overexertion.
- Overtraining poses a greater risk of not improving performance than subliminal incentives.
- Your bones, ligaments and tendons need weeks and months to adapt. Figuratively speaking, they will not be able to keep pace with your cardiovascular system and musculature development. Recover is equally important: there is no training benefit from not having rest days!
- Depending on the level of training, efforts and training volume can be increased gradually or abruptly. If you are a running newbie, follow the rule: volume before intensity.
Embrace the six most important rules of training science to be soon able to run faster for longer:
- Set effective training incentives
- Customize efforts
- Increase efforts in a measured manner
- Follow the correct effort sequence
- Change effort types
- Principle of the optimum ratio of effort and recovery
Enough of the theory. In reality, a training plan for advanced runners (marathon target time 3:30) looks like this:
How Flo does it:
Don't "just" run but do undertake alternative endurance training. In my case, this can be cycling outdoors – or Zwifting on the rollers in winter – and long hikes of more than 8 hours. If you live in the mountains, ski touring with many altitude meters, provides an excellent base and boosts stamina. In fact, anything that keeps you moving for a long time and isn't arduous is beneficial. It's all about the mix!
I like doing Fartlek (Swedish for "speed play") sessions when I don't fancy doing proper intervals. You play in and with the terrain and accumulate altitude meters. This really boosts your stamina. I usually choose a slightly hilly route and run by feel: sometimes fast, sometimes easy.
A training week for very ambitious runners might look like this:
- Monday: 15 km steady off-road running
- Tuesday: 5 x 2000 m at marathon race pace
- Wednesday: steady 100 km bike ride
- Thursday: rest day
- Friday: 30 km endurance run at Wings for Life World Run target tempo
- Saturday: longish hike or ski tour
- Sunday: longer run 42.2–50 km
The optimum recovery phase for runners
Do I have to consider anything specific during recovery if I'm putting more strain on my body?
- What you need to remember is this: you will only run faster through recovery and breaks. It is not beneficial to run every day, but it is advisable to schedule rest days. This forms the basis of the supercompensation model.
- Supercompensation is the body's ability not only to return to its pre-exercise performance level after a training load through recovery but to exceed it.
- Making recovery phases too short can lead to performance stagnation and injury.
- So, train according to a training plan that builds on optimal load and recovery, or simply listen to your body. It will signal you exactly if it is not ready for the next session.
- Basically, the be-all and end-all for good recovery is sufficient sleep and a healthy diet that is as varied as possible.
- Carbohydrates, protein and sodium are important after a training session. Food intake an hour after running is perfect.
- In the evening, before going to bed, it is advisable to take a magnesium supplement. Your body needs more minerals thanks to the extra load as you expel them while running.
- A second or third pair of running shoes is not a luxury but makes good sense. Your shoes also need to recover from running, and after a day of rest, they have regained their full potential in terms of cushioning, stability, etc.
- Try rubbing ice on your muscles after a hard or long workout. This has proven to have a strong recovery effect.
- A steam bath or trip to the sauna will also help your body's recovery.
How Flo does it:
If you train a lot, you must always make sure that you recover well. I believe that the most important thing is to always listen to your body. If you're tired, there's no point in exercising. If you are exhausted, just take a break for two or three days. Don't always follow through with the training plan; come hell or high water! I like to relax in a warm bath after hard workouts, especially when it's cold outside. Bathing in arnica helps and warms your tired muscles. Eating healthily helps as well. I eat a vegan diet and feel great from it. Everyone has to listen to themselves and find out what is good for them and what is not. Rest! If you have the time, an afternoon nap is worth its weight in gold. Getting a good night's sleep is generally the best thing you can do!
Alternative training for runners (strength, stability, running technique)
You can read everywhere that strength training and hill reps are beneficial to train the muscle groups that make you run faster. What is the story behind it? And what other tips are there?
- Strength training helps you strengthen your core, which ensures an upright posture while running – even if you get tired during long runs, you won't buckle but will reduce your injury risk.
- Workouts with a varied profile, e.g., with hill reps, increase strength endurance. Fartlek (endurance runs with tempo changes depending on the terrain requirements and your general feeling) promote flexibility and playfully train tempo intensification in races.
- The longer you run means your body is stressed for longer. That's obvious, isn't it?! Therefore, try to incorporate an alternative endurance training session once a week. This could be cycling (on the rollers in winter) or swimming.
- Run on different surface too: a soft, cushioning terrain is ideal. By changing surfaces (road, gravel paths, forest floor), you facilitate the adaptation process for your bones, ligaments and tendons.
- A running style that is not energy-sapping but easy on your joints will help make your running faster and healthier in the long term. Try incorporating a few ABC running drill exercises into your training. These are exercises such as high knees, heel flicks, hopping and high skips.
How Flo does it:
Of course, good core stability is important, but I don't do any targeted strength training myself. I get that from my training runs in the outdoors. You automatically train many muscle groups. I also alternate between fast hiking, walking and running when it gets really steep. Uphill runs are very effective. For all runners, in fact – from sprinters to ultrarunners! Sometimes I also select steep Strava segments that I run up flat out, like Watzmannhaus in the Bavarian Alps. This is a 6.4 kilometer run with almost 1,300 altitude meters. There are fantastic running shoes for any terrain. My supplier, On Running, has provided me with a pair for every possible training scenario, which is very important to me.
The right nutrition for runners
What should I be paying attention to with my nutrition? Firstly, what should I eat and when should I eat? Both during training and events. Is there anything special to keep in mind regarding fluid intake?
- Your food plan will have an impact on your performance. It's no single magic trick to eat optimally.
- Eating a diet rich in vitamins and carbohydrates is key. Your diet should consist of 55 to 65 percent high-quality carbohydrates, so you don't run out of energy at the end of your runs.
- Vegetarians and vegans need to consider alternatives to meat to ensure an adequate supply of protein and iron. However, this is no longer a problem these days!
- It is equally important to drink plenty of fluids, preferably with little or no alcohol. By drinking enough fluids, you help your cardiovascular system transport oxygen and minerals to your muscles. If you drink too little, your blood will become thicker, and you will increase the stress on your heart.
- The biggest mistake is to experiment before heavy training sessions or events, so avoid changing your nutritional habits just before an important run.
How Flo does it:
There is really nothing major to consider when it comes to nutrition. You should just maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet. Then, everything slots into place. Training and event nutrition is a very individual matter. You just have to find out for yourself what you tolerate well.
It's important to fill up on carbs, especially on long runs and ultras. In the latter stages end of any ultra I can't face gels. I just can't get any more gels inside me! In order to really hit the gas again and to blast my way to the finish, I have a Red Bull or a Red Bull/water mix on the final kilometers.
When it's warm or really hot, it's even more important to drink enough and pay attention to electrolytes and salt. Try all the drinks and event nutrition, such as gels, in training beforehand to ensure that your body can digest these. Ultrarunners on very long runs sometimes opt for very different nutrition choices. Some eat chips, pizza, gels, bars and other things.
As I said, everyone just has to try out what works and what doesn't work in training. If I have a certain competition (ultra) in mind, I look beforehand at exactly what nutrition is provided on the course. For example, if a certain manufacturer offers their gels, bars, drinks, etc., then I buy exactly these things beforehand and try them out in training. If I get along well with it, then it is perfect. Then you don't need to carry much with you, because there is almost everything you need on the course. For me, however, that only works if there are vegan options, as I've been following a completely vegan diet for 2.5 years.
Mental training for runners
The longer you run, the more important your head becomes. What can I do to train my mental resilience?
- Which runner doesn't know this: at some point, your inner voice gets increasingly louder and asks why you are doing this to yourself. Your inner sloth will urge you to stop and whisper incessantly how nice it would be on the couch...
- For longer-lasting efforts, staying power is crucial. In sports science, this is referred to as perseverance (as opposed to stamina during sprinting or other high-intensity exertion).
- No one has the same level of motivation for training each day; not every event is completed "in a good mood". Accepting this is the first step.
- The longer you run, the more important your head becomes. "Positive thinking" is crucial: you feel empowered, often even inspired, if you love what you are doing. Peak performance is not possible otherwise.
- Imagine possible hurdles and think in terms of solutions. Focus on your individual strengths, positive qualities and resources. This will also give you strength in difficult phases of your training or event.
- Listen to music; it can distract you or motivate you even more: Add your favorite tracks to a playlist or listen to running playlists such as Run & Fun, the Wings for Life World Run playlist, on Spotify etc.!
- Loose muscles create an optimistic perspective of things – treat yourself to an occasional massage and let yourself be pampered. It will give you strength for tough times during a run.
- Our imaginations, our minds are the source of this power – thus deep within ourselves. If you feel like it, try meditating and transforming your thoughts into positive ones or coping with negative thoughts better.
How Flo does it:
You just have to train your mental strength over and over again. In Inzell, for example, I sometimes run a marathon or even 60 km on a flat 2 km lap. Sounds crazy, but if you can keep it up, 60 km in one direction at the Wings for Life World Run is really exciting in contrast! In winter, I also often run long sessions on the treadmill. Sounds utterly boring to many people, but I always say that if you can't run 50 km on the treadmill, you don't need to think about a 100 km ultra outdoors. For me, treadmill training is also mental training. Or you pick a smaller loop that keeps going past your front door and then use it for a long endurance run. There is always the temptation of walking in your front door, but you still have to keep going. This can also be good mental training. Knocking out long sessions on the bike (rollers) in the winter on Zwift is helpful too. Riding up to 200 kilometers at a time using a wall as your prop. Very tedious for many. But, if you pull it off, then you become mentally stronger.
How runners stick to their training plan
How do I manage to stick to my ever-increasing training schedule?
- First of all: it's no drama if you can't always follow your training plan 100%. Your plan should give you an important orientation, but it's no use reeling off workouts at the drop of a hat if your body signals that it simply can't do the workload that day.
- Keep a training diary – the easiest way to do this today is with a fitness tracker or training computer – and check whether you are sticking to the majority of the plan.
- Train in a group or arrange to meet for specific training sessions. It's often easier to run with two or three people.
- Can you bike to work or squeeze in a run during your lunch break? This way, you can offset the time in the morning or evening when you have more than one session scheduled.
- Very important: If you suffer a setback caused by illness or injury, you can't catch up on everything in a reduced amount of time. That becomes a boomerang. In such cases, be patient and slowly work your way back up to the same amount of exercise and speed work.
- You can't make up for missed workouts in a compressed amount of time; be kind to yourself and take it easy. You will get back to the old level – just give yourself time!
How Flo does it:
I don't train according to a fixed training schedule. When an important competition is coming up for me, such as the Wings for Life World Run, the main training phase begins for me, like with a marathon, about 12 weeks beforehand. I then roughly have in mind what I want to incorporate in my training. So, my tempo programs and, especially, the long runs in training. But most of it is rather spontaneous for me. I usually only have an idea of the kilometers I want to cover in a week or the number of hours. Then I tend to use that as a benchmark. But I listen to my body a lot. If it tells me I'm fatigued, then I just take it easy and, because I don't have a fixed training plan, it's no problem for me to take a break for 2-3 days or just take it easy for a week.
To run faster for longer, you should simply run longer and faster. A training plan can help you find the perfect balance between training and recovery and avoid overloading. Listen to your body and enjoy what you are doing. If you also make sure you get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet, you will soon be able to celebrate your first successes.
Want to set a goal and see how long you can run? Register for the Wings for Life World Run on May 8 and let the Catcher Car chase you! Here you can find everything you need to know about the run and its unique format, and here will take you to registration. You have the possibility to start at one of the eight Flagship Runs or use the app wherever you want – depending on the current situation in your country. We hope we've been able to motivate you for your next training session, but also ask you to follow the Covid-19 restrictions in force in your country.
If you want more motivation and running tips from Flo Neuschwander, the best way is to follow him on Instagram at @runwiththeflow.