5 Reasons Your Race Times Are Not Improving

Mail! I get lots of email and questions from runners about why they’re not seeing the improvement they’d expected from their training. Here are the most common issues I see (besides nutrition and course conditions) that lead to a disappointing race:

5 reasons your race times are not improving

1. You do all of your training runs too fast. The first order of business in distance running is establishing a solid aerobic base. When you run at a conversational pace, you’re training your slow-twitch muscle fibers and building blood volume, which carries oxygen to your muscles. A well-conditioned aerobic system will keep you consistently strong and powerful for an extended period of time. When you run too fast all the time, you’re running anaerobically and putting excess stress on your body, which leads to bonking, burnout and injury. Here’s some great info. about aerobic base training. 

2. You routinely cut runs short or miss them entirely. Doing all or as many of the workouts on your plan as possible not only builds running volume and physical ability, but mental confidence as well.

3. You skip rest days. A regular day off restocks glycogen stores, allows muscles to repair and rebuild leaving you stronger, and reduces fatigue. Don’t think of rest days as “off” days as they an important part of training.

4. Your workouts are flat. You’re always running the same pace. Whether you’re looking to PR a 5k or finish a marathon feeling strong, upping the pace on some (or parts) of your workout helps. A well-designed plan or coach can help you with progressive, quality workouts that take your performance to the next level.

5. You suffer from race anxiety. Being nervous at the starting line leads to poor pacing, with going out too fast a popular mistake. Anxiety causes muscles to tense up, especially in the upper body, which creates premature fatigue. Follow your pre-race warmup with deep breathing. Calm down and visualize the way you want the race to go. How will a strong finish, look? Feel? Make a conscious effort throughout the race to relax your shoulders away from your ears, breathe and let tension ease down your back. Trust your training

 I’ve been personally guilty of some of these. How about you? Any others?


  1. Carla says

    I am just working on building the endurance to complete 13.1. I am keeping my pace at a conversational level by using HR training. These are really great tips but I’m thinking I need to worry about speed after 2 or 3 half’s. When do you recommend people start thinking about speed?

  2. says

    Very good information. I am guilty of taking those long runs too quickly because I have been trying to beat the heat.I have been working at slowing them down lately so that my body gets used to being out there running for a longer period of time.

  3. Marcia says

    Sandy I am guilty of rushing the long runs as well for heat avoidance purposes.

    Carla I think it’s wise to build a good base and concentrate on a strong finish for your first half. After that it depends on what your goals are.

  4. says

    I used to be horrible about doing all of my training runs way too fast – I wanted each one to be faster than the previous one. Over the years I’ve gotten much better at slowing down and just enjoying the run.

  5. says

    #5 is very relevant to skating, too, I’m sure you tell your skaters all the time before they take the ice for an event: breathe, shoulders down. It works. And it’s nice to have a coach there to tell you that.

  6. says

    These are very helpful tips. Sometimes life gets too busy during a training cycle and I start missing workouts which definitely has a negative impact on goal time.

  7. says

    these are all great…i’ve been struggling with #1. wondering if this is why i’m tired? or is it heat? or work? or all of the above? grrr. they just haven’t been great runs lately and hoping it all evens out soon and i DO have a great race at NYCM.

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