Running takes an incredible amount of dedication. If you want to race your best, you have to want it. Hard.
For the most part, that type-A personality trait most runners possess is an asset; it's what keeps them from skipping workouts, and allows them to push through the inevitable moments when motivation may start to lull. However, the same desire to get the best from yourself can lead you to try too hard. Yes, that's possible.
Relax; don't try so hard. Unclench your jaw, drop your shoulders, shake out your arms. Anywhere you're holding extra tension is using up energy that should be spent elsewhere. To run faster, you've got to be efficient. To run efficiently, you need proper form. You want to have all of your momentum carried forward, not wasted going elsewhere. When your shoulders are up to your ears, your arms aren't able to swing freely from front to back. If you're hunching forward, you're wasting energy.
Know your tension spots, and check to make sure you're not clenching when you should be relaxed. Common tension spots are the jaw, shoulders, and hands. If you clench your teeth or ball your hands into fists, open your mouth, take a deep breath, and release your shoulders, or shake out your arms. These practices act like little resets.
Take a break from the obsessive thoughts about your split times, and start concentrating on your form. Do a check that your arms are swinging from front to back and not across your chest. Make sure you're standing tall, and that you're not over-striding or shuffling. Keep tabs on the "tangibles" that you can control. You'll distract your mind, relax your body, and ensure that you're running efficiently.
Counting your stride rate is another form of mental distraction that also keeps tabs on running efficiency. You want to aim for about 90 strides per minute—a stride is one complete running revolution on a single leg. When it comes to breathing, you want to breathe deeply from your belly and not your chest. Breathe in a consistent rhythm rather than sporadically.
Workouts will not always go your way. Everyone has off days. But, stewing over your slow times is a sure way to make the workout worse. If the times aren't there that day, sometimes it's best to chuck the watch completely and run off of effort.
Trying to force it doesn't work. Ironically, as you try less—or rather, strain less—you'll be able to run faster.
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