Amongst the parkrun family there are numerous international athletes, Olympians and experienced coaches.
Each week we invite one of them to share their top tips and advice on training and improving your running, whether you’re looking to complete the course without stopping, break 45 minutes, go sub-20 for the first time, or just bag that new PB.
This week it’s the turn of Martin Yelling!
Martin Yelling (PhD) is the host of the running podcast Marathon Talk, an endurance sport coach and physical activity advocate who believes that moving more is a great way to smiling more.
Martin is the London Marathon’s official coach, a regular parkrunner and married to two time Olympic marathoner Liz Yelling.
Hi Martin! First up, what’s your home parkrun?
My home parkrun is the amazing Poole parkrun. I remember when we did the inaugural event in April 2011. 65 of us finished and my wife Liz ran 16:33! Now almost 1,000 parkrunners turn out at Poole on a Saturday morning.
It can be hard to fit in running and training around a work, family and social life – what’s your best tip for finding a work-life balance?
In the best way that’s possible for them and their circumstances and situation. I think we get it wrong when we try and force ‘training’ into our weeks. If you’re attempting to wrestle something into a routine, then I think something is wrong.
Ideally your running is an important and habitual part of the way in which you choose to live your life and with that in mind ‘training’ becomes more about living healthily and happily and less about “I must fit a run in”.
I think one thing I’ve learned to go with the ebb and flow of life a little and allow pressure points to happen (because they always do!), and adjust running accordingly. Being flexible in planning and not over ambitious or over-zealous really helps here. You should feel better with what you are able to do not bad or guilty about what you don’t do or miss.
Running actually doesn’t take that long and you’d be amazed at what a 20 minute run in the week can achieve!
What is your top tip to new parkrunners on how to improve their running?
I guess that depends on how you’d like to define ‘improve’! If it means ‘go faster’ – and I’m not sure that for everyone it does or should mean that, then frequency and consistency are important.
For many new parkrunners turning out on a Saturday morning may be their only run that week. It becomes tricky to improve on one run a week! Do a little more running, regularly. It doesn’t have to be long or fast and should be done progressively and appropriately.
Faster running in training builds faster running at parkrun so I’d encourage parkrunners who want to go quicker to explore breathlessness a little more. This can be achieved by running at a higher intensity (say 80-90% of your maximum) for a short period of time (say 2 - 4mins) with a walking or jogging break in between. Without sounding all uber-pro this is interval running and it really helps boost both running speed and efficiency.
Most of all I’d say to parkrunners who want to improve to engage with the whole process of parkrun and to focus less on the time outcome and more on the importance of the ‘how’ of being a ‘better’ runner!
What would be your advice to parkrunners who are thinking about going beyond parkrun and training for 10ks and half marathons?
If distance is your thing and you want to step up from 5k, then stamina and staying power is your greatest challenge.
Stamina comes from regular distance training up to and beyond target race distance (marathon not included!). Longer distance running should be done at a more controlled pace to build running economy. Going longer also helps you understand pace control over longer distances.
Trust me, get it wrong over 5k and you can keep going, get it wrong over a half marathon in the early stages then those latter miles are a sufferfest! Being pace specific in training helps master the demands of longer race distances.
Many parkrunners find that after weeks and months of PBs and improvements, their running can start plateau. What would you suggest to mix things up?
Change something. A plateau in performance typically comes about for a reason. It could be you’re tired or de-motivated. It actually gets increasingly difficult to keep improvement going (we’re back here to the definition of what it means to be an ‘improving parkrunnner’). Arguably this shouldn’t be solely defined by time!
A break or change of focus in training can really help revitalise and refresh running. I’d day get stuck into some volunteering for a while, stop putting pressure on time improvement and look for other ways in which you’d be pleased with your success in running, change your training routine and inject something different.
And finally, for those people who want an insight into the training of an elite athlete, what’s your favourite training session and why?
This is easy! It’s 6 x 3 minutes at threshold pace with 1 minute recovery. Perfect for a great workout with a parkrun PB focus.
Aim for consistency across all six and see if you can get them at or inside your target parkrun pace! 10 min easy running afterwards!
You can follow Martin on Twitter.
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