December 14, 2016
On Monday night I headed to a track night led by East London Runners, who are my local club.
I started attending track in 2013 while training for the Brighton Marathon. I had not long had a baby and was starting from scratch again when it came to my fitness, so track was perfect because once you have been overtaken once, nobody keeps count, and you can just work at your own pace in a safe environment.
I haven’t been to track for months though, in fact I couldn’t even remember the last time I went, so the coach said in jest “who are you again?” which made me laugh. This was the last session of the year, and he had a tough session planned for us…
The Cooper Test
The Cooper test is a test of physical fitness. It was designed by Kenneth H. Cooper in 1968 for US military use. In the original form, the point of the test is to run as far as possible within 12 minutes.
Sounds pretty simple right, 12 minutes just run as far as you can.
Now seeing as I hadn’t been to track for months I had no idea how many 400 meter laps I could do in that time? When I was training for Brighton I can remember doing Yasso 800s and aiming for 5 minutes for two laps…so I figured I should be able to do 3 minute laps, so maybe I could do 4 laps at a push?
Anyway, turns out I almost did 5 whole laps.
I had to work really hard to maintain the pace, but it didn’t kill me and actually I felt great afterwards, and glad I had made the effort to get back to track.
So…I have been focussing on improving my speed recently as I have been researching and writing a book on the subject, Scream if you want to run faster, a book which is available for pre order from Amazon, with sales doing really well.
But anyhow, the idea of me writing a book on speed might sound really strange for anyone who knows how fast I actually run.
What could she possibly know about speed?
But bare with me.
The point is there are literally tens of thousands of recreational runners, female runners that regularly run 5Ks with times around the 40 minute mark. This is not their speed because they are beginners, or lazy, or dare I say it fat, they have these times because they don’t have the tools at their disposal to make improvements, they don’t know where to start when it comes to getting faster.
This is who my book is aimed at.
In 2013 I went from a 50 minute 5K to a 30.07 5K over a 3 month period, using some specific techniques I believed would help me improve.
Then this year I took 100 women from my community and put them through an online programme using the same techniques, and the women that took part all improved their 5K times, even if they didn’t complete the 8 weeks or follow all of the techniques.
The average improvement was 3 minutes, but some ladies knocked as much as 6 minutes off, in just 8 short weeks. Incredible hey?
But guess what?
I knocked 9 minutes off my 5K, going from 43.27 to 33.39 in the 8 week period. You can read about my epic “fast as hell” parkrun here
So how did I do it?
How come my improvement was so much greater than everyone else?
Well…that would be my secret weapon…CrossFit
I joined CrossFit1971 in August this year, around the same time I was launching the pilot phase of the Scream if you want to run faster programme.
Initially I was thinking I wouldn’t take part in the running challenge, I was doing 2 sessions of CrossFit a week, so there was no way I could fit 3 sessions of running in too…my body felt broken most of the time as it was.
But 8 weeks or no running?
That didn’t feel right either, so I compromised and decided I would at least commit to running a 5K once a week, using the techniques laid out each week….and measuring any improvement in speed.
My 5K times over the 8 weeks looked like this
Baseline – 43.27
Week 1 – 39.33
Week 2 – 38.15
Week 3 – 36.48
Week 4 – No 5K as my legs were too bloody sore
Week 5 – 36.27
Week 6 – 36.21
Week 7 – 33.39 (Race Week)
A total of 9 minutes and 12 seconds.
But how and why? Trust me it was as much a shock for me as it might be to you.
Well, while finishing off the final few chapters of my book I realised I couldn’t ignore the fact I had been doing all this strength training during my 2nd test of these techniques, and perhaps this was a secret weapon which other women could put into use to.
So here are my 5 reasons why CrossFit makes you run faster
- Improved Cardio – Sessions are never the same, but most include cardio of some sort, wether that be running, rowing, cycling, or more explosive exercises such as box jumps or burpees. My cardio fitness leaves a lot to be desired and I usually avoid these like the plague…but doing these on a regular basis helped me improve my over all fitness.
- Improved Strength – A lot of the activities at CrossFit involve weight. Sometimes its a whole heap of weight, and sometimes its a small amount of weight, just shit loads of reps like with WallBalls for example, where you are squatting and then throwing a weighted ball above your head over and over again. This can only be doing your muscles good. I loose count of how many squats I get through in an average session, so I know my quads and glutes are benefitting tremendously
- Improved Mobility – I am quite tight in my hips and hamstrings, so lots of the exercises we do at CrossFit challenge this and I have seen my flexibility and range of movement change incredibly over the last few months. I think my running gait has changed as a direct result of this.
- Improved Commitment – CrossFit is not cheap. The fact it is more expensive than any other gym membership I have had means I go to it without fail. I started off with 2 sessions a week, and I now do 3, this kind of increased activity has to make you stronger.
- Improved Confidence – There is something about the psychology of CrossFit which teaches you new things about yourself every time you go. Being able to lift heavier, jump higher, last longer, it all amounts to realising you can do more than you think. It also pushes you to test your limits…this has definitely transferred into my running.
The question lots of people want to know though is
Have you lost weight
Well, the scales say no, but I can feel a change in my shape and feel stronger than I ever have.
I struggle some weeks with getting my nutrition right, and sometimes feel so incredibly fatigued, so from January I will be working with one of the CrossFit1971 coaches to focus more carefully on nutrition and fat loss.
The other thing to mention is that I have found it impossible to do anything more than 5K or so a week while doing CrossFit, so when I start upping my mileage in January in preparation for my ultra marathon then I will probably drop back down to 2 sessions a week.
So in conclusion, the 7 techniques in my new book Scream if you want to run faster most definitely help women to run faster, but boy oh boy has CrossFit rocket fuelled that, giving me a huge advantage over women who are not doing strength training alongside their running.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of the coaches and other members at CrossFit1971, they have welcomed me with open arms and they inspire me to try harder every time I step into the box…well OK maybe not my 6.30am sessions…then they should just be grateful I am up and there!!!
CrossFit 1971 is based in Stratford, East London for more info click here and don’t worry, we don’t all look like this lot ha ha