Six Ways to Increase Running Speed

Posted: June 15, 2010 in Running

1)  Be consistent and don’t allow your running routine to be constantly interrupted.  Things come up and get in the way – sickness, vacation/holidays, injuries, family and work, but if you can manage to get a run in every 48-72 hours then your muscle memory will retain the work that you’ve put into your running.

  • On mornings when you’d be tempted to sleep in, sleep in your running shorts and with your shoes next to your bed.
  • Always toss your running shoes in your bag or backpack before leaving for work.
  • Include running gear when you pack for a holiday, no matter how short it might be. And when you’re really busy,  remind yourself that a short 15-20 minute jaunt is better than nothing at all.

2)  Lose weight: Lifting 1, 5, or 10 extra pounds with every step over a 26.2 mile marathon, or even a 3 mile fun run is massive. Your body must lift the extra weight with each step, and if you take 10,000 steps and weigh 3 extra pounds, that’s 30,000 extra foot pounds you need to lift – a huge metabolic requirement. So if you’re going out and hammering your run sessions, but not focusing on proper timing and content of nutrition to achieve weight loss, you’re basically getting about half the benefit of your training. You can feel as light as a feather by just losing a handful of pounds – there is a huge difference, in both speed and joint impact.

3)  Until a running cadence of 86-90bpm becomes second nature, you need to focus the entire time; count your steps; play “hot potato” with your feet and the ground and minimize ground contact time. Take 20 second time spans and ensure that you’re getting close to 30 footstrikes with either the right or the left leg within those 20 seconds.

It’s far harder to increase your stride cadence than it is to increase your stride length. Once you dialed in a cadence close to 90, it will become much easier for you to increase pace by striding out just a little longer when you need that extra burst of speed.  You might initially feel like you’re just bouncing up and down as you try to achieve the high cadence, but eventually, it will feel smooth, steady and relaxed.

4) Treadmills are a great help to increasing run cadence because the belt keeps moving underneath you no matter what, so your feet have to keep going. Like an indoor trainer, there are fewer interruptions like stoplights and street crossings on a treadmill, so it can really help you focus on the cadence.

At least every once in a while, run on a treadmill, setting the treadmill at a slightly faster speed than you are comfortable with, and allowing your legs to experience and memorize the rapid leg turnover.

5)  Hills: The beauty of hills is that you can reach higher physiological intensities without the pounding of running. This is because your feet are much closer to the ground running up a hill, so there’s less body momentum on impact. Using hills regularly in your training, will reduce your risk of injury and increase your achievable intensity. For long runs, attempt to regularly include courses that contain hills, and at least once every two weeks, attempt to include a hill repeat or rolling hill course workout, at a pace close to your ventilatory threshold.

6)  Plyometrics is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system.  In the book “Top 12 Resistance Training Routines for Triathletes” ( http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com ) there are several plyometric, explosive type exercises. The benefit of these is that they teach the elastic muscles of the lower leg to quickly absorb your body weight and re-contract after your foot touches the ground while running. As a result, you minimize your ground contact time and maximize your recoil with each step. Over thousands of steps, such as during a race, this can be a huge speed boost.

Plyometrics don’t need to be a daily routine – just once a week can provide enormous benefits. Good plyometric exercises include hopping with one foot or both feet onto a raised surface like a step bench, performing explosive jumps from a lunge or squat position, or standing under a basketball hoop and repetitively tossing a ball against the backboard while jumping to retrieve it. Your body can actually learn how to “rebound” far more efficiently. Typical plyometric workouts include 2-3 sets of 10-20 jumps for 2-3 different exercises.

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