Susannah Taylor: How to run further – faster

I wouldn’t call myself ‘a runner’, I’m more of a plodder. I do 3km to 4km a few times a week, which may sound a lot to some, but in the running world, it’s not very impressive. Keen to improve, I asked Susie Chan, who is not only a record-breaking endurance runner (she’s done the Marathon des Sables more times than any other female) but a Peloton Tread instructor, too, for her tips…

‘To up your game, create a weekly running schedule and stick to it,’ says Susie. Image: Getty Images

PUSH YOUR SPEED I always thought I had an average pace until I ran with my sister-in-law who left me for dust. So how do I speed up? ‘The only way to get faster is to run faster,’ says Susie. It’s about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and staying there, a little bit at a time. This uncomfortable speed is your ‘threshold pace’ and she advises starting off by adding short bursts of it into your run, and then making them longer. ‘Keep returning to that “push pace” and you’ll get faster.’

BUILD YOUR STRENGTH It’s not just running that makes you faster – becoming stronger
does, and helps keep you injury free too. ‘To get stronger, you need to cross-train,’ says Susie, ‘with squats, lunges – anything that strengthens your hips, glutes, quads and legs. And it doesn’t have to be for hours a day – sometimes I’ll just do five to ten minutes every few days. It all helps.’ Work on your core strength, too, with exercises such as planks.

BE CONSISTENT The problem I feel with my running is that I don’t do it enough. Susie agrees and says that to improve my performance I need to be more consistent: ‘Have a weekly training schedule and stick to it.’ She also suggests setting weekly goals such as, ‘This week I’m going to run twice and do five minutes of squats.’ Then tick them off!

LEARN HOW TO HIT HILLS When I run up hills, it often feels like I’m dragging a sack of
potatoes up them – and they’re not getting easier. ‘It doesn’t matter how fit you are, hills are always an effort,’ says Susie, ‘you just get up them quicker the fitter you are.’ To help, she has this tip: on a hill, hold yourself tall to create lightness in the upper body, then shorten your stride to quicken your cadence. I’ve tried this and it definitely makes hills more bearable. Another tip is to pump your arms hard while going up a hill, which will make you pick up your legs.

MANAGE YOUR MINDSET Some days I feel like I have springs in my feet, other days I just want to hide under the duvet. On the bad days, Susie suggests focusing on the goals you set yourself at the beginning. If you haven’t had a great day, don’t dwell on it, she says: ‘Focus on the positives, which will keep your mindset strong.’

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SHOES ‘Unfortunately, picking the wrong footwear, can lead to injury,’ says Susie, ‘so my best advice when choosing trainers is to go to a dedicated running shop, where they will assess your running style and the way your feet roll before selecting the right footwear to suit you.’ Check out runnersneed.com and upandrunning.co.uk, which both have stores nationwide.

Lastly… I tell Susie that I don’t consider myself to be a runner. She disagrees: ‘If you run a few steps, a few miles or even 20 miles, you are a runner. Stay positive, and don’t forget to
pat yourself on the back for all those little achievements.’

My new Greek classics

Crabtree & Evelyn’s Greece collection is a unique range of wellbeing and lifestyle products created by artisans from all parts of the country. My picks include a Kefalonian olive wood pestle and mortar (£31.50), a tasselled stripy towel (£53.50) and this linen robe (£80.50) – for him or her. crabtree-evelyn.co.uk

Smile naturally

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