How to improve your personal best

Secrets to improve your personal best

Sunday 19th of February it was race time again. On exactly the 5th of January I started preparing for the half marathon of Barcelona so I had 6 weeks to improve my time of 1:36. And I did it! 


Want to know how? Then this blog post is worth a read. 



A 6-week preparation is a rather short time frame to improve a lot in terms of speed, but the one that doesn’t try will never know. So I took on the challenge to see how much I could improve ☺️ and this is how I did it: 


Knowing my own limits 


One very important factor that helped me improve so much is that I listened to my body and that I knew my limits and also accepted them. So I worked together with my body instead of against. 


For example, on Tuesday I always did a 2 training sessions: one in the morning and one in the evening. The first 3 weeks my second training included a lot of short, very intensive interval sessions (200m, 400m, 40s all out, …). Although they went very well, I often had high sensitiveness in my calves afterwards (which ISN’T a good sign). Instead of ignoring these signs, I decided to switch to longer intervals (1K’s) and hill repeats. That way I still got in my qualitative speed session, but just differently. 




Another factor that played a big role in my success is the fact that I started working with a nutritionist. After the disaster with regards to nutrition in Madeira I decided that something had so change. I searched and contacted quite some people (always consult a few coaches before you pick one!) until I found ‘the one’. Roger Sans helped me a lot to improve in terms of recovery but also fuelling correctly for example my double training sessions. 


Strength training 


The last key part of my progress that shouldn’t be forgotten is the fact that I also included 2 strength training sessions into my weekly schedule. I didn’t feel really motivated a lot of the time (because I did them on tough days), but I am more than happy that I did them anyway. 

These trainings really helped me with getting stronger muscles, avoid injuries and thus made it possible to run faster. If you want to run faster too without getting injured, here you can find more information about the strength program that I used. 

You don't need a gym to improve your strength as a runner!



And then it was finally D-Day… However, my taper week (if you don’t know what a ‘taper’ week is, I advise you to read this article) didn’t go really well due to illness, I made the best out of it. It’s not because one factor might not go as planned that you should cancel the plan. You just need to try to make the best of it, which is what I did ☺️


Race plan


My first plan was to try to just go under 1h35. However, my trainings went so well that I wanted to push myself harder. So my goal became to get as close to 1:30 as I possibly could. 


My idea was to start at a pace of 4:20 until I had passed 10K and then gradually increase my speed… But you see, that’s the thing with a planning and reality: they often differ. 

During the race


The first kilometer I didn’t start too fast luckily (4:17) but I was very frustrated because I had to pass a lot of people and my watch wasn’t giving me the right pace. So I was running a little bit ‘blind’. 


I knew that in between K 3 and 4 we had a little climb to do so my idea was to slow down a little bit to not waste too much energy there. So yeah, that didn’t happen. But I felt great so no problem. 


Until 12K everything went super smooth, but then we encountered some wind and although it didn’t feel like I had to put in a lot of extra effort, I saw my pace creeping up from 4:15 to 4:20-4:24… and then all of a sudden I ran one kilometer with a split of 4:35 and this gave me a little mental setback…


I gave myself some peptalk and I could increase my speed again to 4:20 more or less. At 18K there was a very small bridge and the funny thing is that right behind there were a lot of nurses, ambulances etc (I heard from some friends that people really crash there). Luckily, as a trail runner, I am more or less used to these things inclinations so I could run uphill without too many problems nor losing too much energy. 


The last kilometers I gave it my all, but I made a little miscalculation with how far the finish line was. So I kind of started crashing before it,  not that I stopped, but normally my finishes are a little bit ‘more impressive’. 


Anyway, nothing to complain about because I finished in a time of 1:32*!!!!! 


*according to my watch 1:31:50 🙃 

The day after 

One very big mistake that I made is that I didn’t drink enough after the race. I even drank less than usual, so when I woke up in the morning, I felt slightly dizzy and with a headache. But my legs felt as usual. So I decided to go for a little shake out run and I was taken by surprise: the felt amazing. 


Not that I could have pushed more during the race itself, but it shows that my trainings really have paid off and not only in terms of speed. 


What really made the difference to make such an improvement in such a short period of time is 1) the strength training and 2) the personalised (& optimased) nutrition


And that, ladies & gentlemen, are my top tips on how YOU can improve your personal times. 


If you don’t know yet where to start and feel like you could use some help, feel free to contact me and we can always schedule an online meeting to discuss the possibilities of a coaching traject.

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