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 Mhairi Maclennan!
Edinburgh-based Mhairi is currently ranked in the top 25 for 5000 metres in the UK, and was recently crowned Scottish Champion at the Scottish Athletics National Championships.
In June of this year Mhairi ran her 5k PB of 16:11 and is now eying up the Ladywell 10,000m and the European Cross Country trials in Liverpool.
Hi Mhairi! 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?
I get out for morning runs before I start work at 9:00am, which means getting up at about 6:30-6:45. I fortunately finish work at 1:00pm so am able to get my second session in after work, in the evening with the rest of the group.
My fiancé is also a runner so this helps hugely as he is also training as much as I am, and understands the importance of rest, fuelling and sleep!
What is your top tip to new parkrunners on how to improve their running?
Running should always be something that you enjoy, something that distracts you from your day job, that motivates you and gives you a reason to get up in the morning. parkrun is great because it means you can socialise whilst running, but if you are bored on your runs during the week, meet friends or listen to music whilst running.
Try to pick routes that you enjoy, running is always, and should always be, about enjoyment. I often choose trail runs, or forest runs because I enjoy getting away from the roads. Try doing every second or third day running as a “session day”.
If you include repetitions of 3 minutes at your target race pace with 90 seconds recovery in between, with the main aim of this session being to try and maintain an even pace throughout the effort.
What would be your advice to parkrunners who are thinking about going beyond parkrun and training for 10ks and half marathons?
Increasing mileage is really important if you want to step up your race distance. You can’t do this all at once because you will risk injury, but if you slowly increase, adding perhaps two miles each week onto your training, and then after four weeks of doing that, try to stay at that mileage for two weeks before gradually increasing again.
parkruns are also a great way of training for longer races – you could try and do some 2-3 minute faster efforts before or after your parkrun to increase the mileage without it getting too boring.
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?
Stay motivated by mixing up your run routes, or running with buddies. Plateauing is very natural, improvement is not an upward trajectory, so if you are plateauing, you are probably about to start improving again very soon!
Be patient and make sure that you are still running because you enjoy it and not because you “have to”.
For those people who want an insight into the training of an elite athlete, what’s your favourite training session and why?
My favorite 10k session is:
This is a staple Tuesday evening session in the winter when training for cross country. We normally train on grass and we use school playing fields because they are undulating and therefore simulate what cross country is like, but also help you build strength for road 10ks.
This session is really testing both mentally and physically because of the terrain and the short recovery. It adds up to 8k in volume, and so you can easily switch it up to 10 x 800m with 75 seconds recovery, or four sets of 1200m, 800m with 90 seconds recovery.
The days before and after this session should be easy recovery days.
You can follow Mhairi’s progress on Twitter
This article first appeared in the Journal of Holistic Healthcare and the British Holistic Medical Association (BHMA) has kindly allowed it to be reproduced here. My name is Dr Simon Tobin and I’ve been an NHS GP and trainer in Southport for 25 years. I am also one of parkrun’s volunteer Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors. My…
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