When I started running consistently it was during my Christmas break of 2012. I had put on weight in first year (the ‘fresher’s fifteen’) and was really uncomfortable with how my clothes felt and how unfit I was generally. I started running with my dad who had been at it for a while. When I ran my first 10k it was brutal. My time was around 1 hour 15 minutes. It was a struggle the whole way and my evening was spent with me on the couch. It was here I realised just how unfit I had been.
I started running regularly and more and more I started to enjoy my Dad’s and I’s Sunday 10k sessions. By Christmas 2013 we were running 12k’s and made the mistake of doing a 16k too (no one won that one). Our 10k always hovered around the 1 hour mark. My dad is over 50, so we never pushed it.
Fast forward to Summer 2014. I went on a family holiday to Nerja (below you see the view from our villa, which indicates the length of the hill I had to run up). It was here my sister introduced me to hill sprints. Brutal, heart-pounding hill sprints. We only had to do roughly 20-30 minutes to be as worn out as a solid 45 minute run! I fell in love with the new high intensity element, something that I had generally lacked in my running. I continued to do hill sprints when I got home over the summer and I noticed my 10k runs with my Dad were becoming easier and easier (but not faster, because my Dad is over 50, I was warned).
I joined a gym within my first couple of weeks of moving to Madrid for a year abroad for University. I started off with just using the bike, doing some intervals and things. Then I went onto the treadmill and slowly started incorporating more and more intervals and HIIT into my cardio. I now combine HIIT on the treadmill and the bike for 2 cardio sessions a week, I do about 45 minutes each session.
Important; my first stint in Madrid was September-December, and I lost far too much weight. A key part of this was doing too much HIIT and not fuelling my body properly. Even with weight training I ended up being scrawny and unhealthy. If you do HIIT, ensure you’re fuelling your body correctly too. This means good carbs, protein and fats.
Now, onto Christmas 2014. I was limited to my exercise routine because I was putting on weight (because it was absolutely necessary). However, I did go out with my Dad for a 10k during my tme at home. The second we were out the car he said ‘Just you go on and run at your own pace’. I initially resisted, because I enjoyed the time we spent together running, but he refuses to accept it wasn’t my fault we ran a 16k!
It ended up being a mistake anyway, I ran so far ahead he tried to reduce the distance between us and pushed himself to far. However, I ran 11k in 57 minutes! I couldn’t believe it. I thought back to what caused my sudden incrase in speed and realised it was the HIIT. Whilst I did not fuel myself, my fitness and times improved dramatically (the lack of fuel is really bad and embarassing, I’m not endorsing my stupidity, if you do HIIT or speed work, fuel it right)!
My most recent 10k which I did on a treadmill clocked in at 47 mins 35 seconds. I altered my incline and speed throughout to achieve this and I wasn’t wiped out by the end! (I was tired, don’t get me wrong).
So, after this long (hopefully not boring) story, what’s my point? My point is if you want to cut your time and improve your fitness, logging kilometers and kilometers of steady running will not do it quite the same as using HIIT, hill sprints and lots of intervals. You need to speed train to improve your times!
Here’s an example of what you could do on a treadmill;
Warm-Up; 5 minutes at 9km/h
Sprint; 1 minute at 13-15km/h (wherever you feel you won’t come flying off the treadmill)
Rest; 1 minute at 9km/h
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Cool-Down; 5 minutes starting at 9km/h then reducing by 0.5km/h every minute.
I do this often, I also mix it up with inclines in place of a sprint. The point is to challenge your body and your speed. You also don’t need to workout for as ong when doing HIIT because your sending your heartrate into a higher zone (if done correctly. Check out my HIIT post for more information on HIIT and routines!