How To Improve Your Personal Best

When you first start exercising, improving your personal best is an absolute breeze. The bathroom scales tick down nicely, every run feels easier and you beat the clock with joyful certainty every single time. Faster, fitter, stronger every time – until you’re not.

 

As your fitness improves, naturally, improving your personal best gets more difficult, despite keeping to all the good habits you’ve established. There is no substitute for hard work, a good diet and an intelligent understanding of how your body performs, but if your training has become a bit jaded then have a look at a few of our favourite tips to give you some inspiration and get you moving up once more.

Long term goal, short term targets

We’re all only human, and this means that over the course of the year, performance naturally fluctuates. Getting to know your fluctuation patterns can be helpful to understanding how best to train and prevent plateauing.

 

Working towards short-term goals towards periods of poor performance is a good way to maintain your fitness and motivation. What you achieve during this time isn’t necessarily important: it’s more about having fun and maintaining a good relationship with training until you hit your peak again.

Take the stairs

You may go running a few times a week, or head out to the hills for a walk at the weekend, but the chances are that like most people, your time at work is spent being relatively inactive. There are many simple things like using the stairs rather than the lift, or going out for a walk at lunch that can contribute to a more active lifestyle. It may feel minimal, but the more active you are, the better. There is even a school of thought that focuses on this intriguing form of exercise and has coined it Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (N.E.A.T).

 

N.E.A.T treats every physical movement throughout the day as a valuable source of exercise. If you can consciously increase your N.E.A.T movements then the accumulation of these actions can increase the amount of burnt calories and is considered exercise. Although walking to your car or the train station is unlikely to raise your personal best, it does highlight the value of a consistently active lifestyle, as opposed to a stop-start approach.

Comfort is everything

When we feel comfortable we are free to concentrate on really pushing ourselves. Rather than feeling trapped inside sweaty clothes or wincing in pain as bad footwear rubs and chafes, we can focus on our performance and enjoy the moment. Good kit can keep you out for longer, help you have a more enjoyable time and reduce the risk of injury, all of which can accumulate to ultimately get that time down. 

Diversify your training

Obviously, the best way to improve your personal best is to put in the hours in training. However, there comes a point where repeating the same activity can over-train certain muscles, which not only leaves you vulnerable to injury, but makes improvement very difficult. Therefore, treat your training as a varied process by which key elements of your performance can be refined without actually doing that specific activity. If you are a runner or cyclist, swimming will complement your training brilliantly by improving your overall fitness while being low-impact. If climbing is more your thing, stamina focused weight training will keeps the bulk off whilst improving strength. The key here is diversification.

Work your weaknesses

If you really want to improve, you need to ruthlessly work your weaknesses. Your performance will only ever be as good as your weakest element, so unfortunately, it’s time to stop practicing the stuff you are good at. This means that hill you avoid on your runs, is now the main focus of your route. The terrifying overhangs at the local climbing wall are what you head for as soon as your warm up is done. The point here is that if you really want to get better at something; you must focus what you’re bad at. It may be demoralising, but it is a sure-fire way to improve.

Train with people better, and worse, than you

The inevitability of a busy modern life is that for most of your training you will be by yourself, and many people are just fine with this. However, every now and again you should try to train with somebody who is considerably better than you. It may be painful to keep up with them, but each failed attempt to match them will represent a huge improvement in the long run. Returning the favour by helping a new starter in this way can also be massively useful; it gives you chance to constructively criticize their technique, and evaluate your own at the same time.

Do your research

Rest days are a massively important part of your training routine, so during those afternoons when you can legitimately absorb into the sofa, why not do a bit of additional research? Topical websites and magazines are a great way to get inspired about your sport, and reading about the achievements of the world’s elite is guaranteed to get you motivated for your next training session.

 

No matter how hard you train, many of us are never going to reach the lofty heights of the professionals, and that’s absolutely fine. The important thing is to be passionate about your sport and to have fun. It’s the only way to make training enjoyable, and your elusive personal best no longer a time, but simply the great feeling of doing the best you can personally do.