You’ve probably heard the old adage, “If you want to run fast, train to run fast.” It’s a simple sentiment for sure, but it’s true. While some people are blessed with the magic gift of speed, most of us aren’t.
Whether training for a 5k, an ultra-marathon, or even running down the basketball court, speed will improve your running which directly correlates to increased power and strength.
How to get there? Here are 7 tips to bring out the speed demon in you:
In other words: cadence. Maybe you have no idea how many times a minute your feet hit the ground or why it even matters. A faster foot turnover means you’re not overstriding and are probably less prone to injury. A faster turnover creates faster running.
To do a test, count how many times your right foot hits the ground in 30 seconds. Double that number to get 60 seconds. Then double that amount for the total on both feet. Let’s say yours was 35 steps on the right foot for 30 seconds. Double it for 70 and double it again for 140 total steps per minute. That’s your cadence.
A cadence of less than 160 strides per minute is commonly seen in runners who overstride. The average recreational runner has a cadence between 150-170 spm while an Olympic marathoner’s is well over 180. Some websites can help track how many steps you take in a mile.
A track session once a week will yield results over time, just be careful not to overdo it right out of the gate by trying to relive the glory days of high school track.
A favorite work out of mine is 400-meter (one lap) intervals at 5k race pace with a two- or three-minute rest between each. Try to keep each lap consistent in speed or within 5-7 seconds. Consistency is king.
Start with 4- to 6- 400s, and increase the number of intervals until you get up to three miles worth of speedwork in one session. Don’t increase the distance or time by more than 10-20 percent per week.
By alternating between high intensity intervals and rest, runners will increase their VO2 max, or the body’s ability to use oxygen. With improved VO2 max, the body will access more oxygen for muscles and you’ll keep burning calories long after the workout is done.
For many, cross-training is the key to running faster and staying healthy overall. You don’t need to run more than 3 times a week to be fast. But I do believe in doing other physical activities to truly maximize your running efforts.
Some of the more common activities that use various muscles in the body include yoga, swimming and cycling. But mix it up! Cycling is a favorite because of all the different types of bikes out there that make it fun to be on two wheels, such as off-pavement steeds like “fat” bikes and gravel bikes.
A lot of athletes keep their top end by participating in high-intensity team sports throughout the winter. Ice hockey and basketball come to mind. If solo sports are more your thing, have you thought about surfing? Yes, surfing in the winter. If you’re in shape enough for the gym and running, you’ll be prepared for the powerful waves and strength required to get on a board.
This may sound off the wall, but dragging a tire behind you while jogging works the glutes, core, hamstrings, calves and quads like no other activity. Legendary ultramarathoner Lisa Smith- Batchen incorporated this technique into her training in 1983 and started introducing it to her students not long after.
She lives and trains in Driggs, Idaho where she saw race horses train by pulling a tire. Her brother’s ice hockey coach also had his team practice by tire pulling. For runners, the technique helps with running posture and when removed, runners feel lighter and move faster.
If you can run up a hill at a good clip, you will reap the benefits of improved speed, muscle strength and more confidence. After a good warm-up, pick a hill you’ve always wanted to run up and see how far you can go in three minutes. Jog back down. Try it six times and see if you can run to the same spot or farther every time. Stamina and power are important factors in faster running.
Hit the gym
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to go to them gym once or twice a week to use the kettlebells and yoga mats. In fact, you might not have to go to the gym at all if you have the equipment at home. Ahmed Jabai is the real expert when it comes to strength training, so I defer to him on best practices here. Runner’s World is a great resource for essential strength exercises, as well.
Enter a Race
After you’ve put in a few months of training, you’re really ready to test your speed. There’s nothing like a running race to push your limits and see how far you’ve come. Use the first race as a starting point and enjoy the progress you’ve made along the way.
With dedicated training, proper planning and programming, you will get faster, regardless of body type and genetics.