I have set a goal to complete a 1/2 marathon but would also like to improve my pace. What is the best approach?
A good way to improve pace is to do cross training, for example doing sets of short sprints at a very fast pace, in conjunction with steady state distance training at a consistent pace. One way I improved my pace was to do sprinting intervals called 60/120’s and 30/60’s which the ARMY uses to improve running pace and endurance. To do this, run as fast as you can around the running track for 2 minutes (120 seconds) and then walk 60 seconds. Start with 3 or 4 sets of 60/120’s and work up to 10. To do the 30/60’s run hard for 1 minute (60 seconds) then walk for 30 seconds. Once again start with 3 or 4 sets and work up to 10 sets. It is important not to exceed the rest/walking period beyond the 30 or 60 seconds for the interval pattern you are doing. Make sure when you sprint, you really pour it on – go hard and fast. I would recommend doing this type of interval training once or twice a week and the steady state or endurance training three or four times a week.
Another effective way to improve your running is to do plyometrics. These are explosive movements that help you push your running stride off the ground. These exercises mimic parts of the running stride and will give you more push-off power on the road. Some movements to try are lateral bounding, single leg and double leg box jumps, jump squats and jump lunges. For lateral bounding, use a step and jump sideways back and forth across the step. To perform box jumps use a box (platform) that is 12 to 16 inches high. Box jumps are done by jumping up onto the surface of the box, returning to the ground and repeating. Jump squats and lunges can be done on the floor. Try to do these plyometrics for a period of one minute. A good resource for plyometrics is youtube. You will find a lot of good plyometrics and demonstrations of plyometrics on youtube. Do these exercises on the days that you aren’t running for distance.
It’s important to realize that you don’t have to run all the time to improve your running. Plyometrics, weightlifting and especially Core strengthening can do a lot for your run.
Good luck with your half marathon!