How to Run Fast - Building Speed to Run Faster for Longer
December 12, 2018
Running is one of the most popular and common sports practiced worldwide. In the United States, nearly 60 million people ran or jogged in 2017. This article examines ways to improve your run performance by improving speed, from the 100m dash to the marathon.
This article will be as beneficial to one hoping to improve running to a competitive level or for advanced runners looking to get faster at running.
Good Run Form & Injury
Many runners are successful with training at specific intensities or paces and improving race results. However this doesn’t work as easily for others, and proponents argue that focusing on run form is the way to unlock the next level of fast.
Proper form includes, though is not limited to, posture, coordination, structure, core strength. When all these components are working correctly together, you are less likely to get injured. It’s a fact that you cannot properly train when injured, so form work is crucial to training.
In a study at the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan researchers studied linkages between biomechanics (form) and injury. They conclude that improving form can help decrease chances of injury.
They note that 79% of all runners will sustain a running-related injury from year to year and that runners “should be aware that poor running mechanics may contribute to these injuries.”
So what can I do to prevent injury in running?
There are plenty of ways of analyzing your run form. Run stores, performance programs, specialized coaches, exercise physiologists, and physical therapists may all have specialized equipment for evaluating your gait and form and providing specific recommendations for form fixes.
Run stores and physical therapists may use gait analysis for suggesting specific women’s and men’s running shoes that best suit your run form. And physical therapists may help you to strengthen crucial running muscles that are often ignored.
Read on for tips on improving your run form.
If you’re wondering how to increase your speed in running, interval training may become your new “frenemy”. Train hard, you race easy!
Building speed for 5K distance races and marathon running alike requires high-intensity interval training, or sessions with sets shorter in duration but higher in effort. Famed Ironman Triathlete Dave Scott includes interval training because short interval segments help prime fast twitch muscle fibers.
Going easy all the time allows fast twitch muscle fibers to lay inactive, thus not primed and strengthened for performance. Fast twitch muscle fibers help build strength for powerful bursts like sprinting.
Short interval segments activate your fast twitch muscle fibers instead of having them lay dormant during the winter, which is what happens if you go easy all of the time.
Finally, there are benefits to raising your heart rate during training, though these will not be covered in this specific post. If you have any concerns on normal heart rates, or resting heart rates, click here to read about the Mayo Clinic’s view on resting heart rate. If you’re looking for interval training workouts for runners, look into the guide to the right —>.
How to Run Fast - Exercise
The Yasso 800 is a staple in training plans for marathons everywhere. This exercise is 800 meter repeats, with a twist on pacing: Take your target marathon pace, convert the number of hours to minutes and the number of minutes to seconds, and try to finish each of the 800 meter repeats in this amount of time.
An example of this: If you hope to finish the marathon in 3 hours and 23 minutes, then your converted 800 meter target time is 3 minutes and 23 seconds. Do this six times to begin with, increasing it to eight times and 10 times as you progress.
So why include the Yasso 800 in marathon training?
Running World’s Chief Running Officer and “the mayor of running” Bart Yasso has long touted the effectiveness of running the Yasso 800. These 800s are repeated and tailored directly to your goal time.
The Yasso 800 can be done on the treadmill, but keep in mind that running on the treadmill is easier since the belt is rotating and coming towards you, making it an easier run. To combat this and simulate an outdoor running session, Yasso recommends setting the treadmill to 1 or 1.5% incline.
To do the Yasso 800, you need to set the treadmill at a pace that would be equal to the desired pace of your race result.
If you are not doing this on a treadmill, try to get a device that calculates distance, pace, time, and if you’re lucky, has a calorie counter.
A surprising number of athletes focus solely on on speed, power, and endurance and stop short of dedicating sufficient time to mobility.
Senior Editor at Triathlete and Competitor and endurance sports writer Matt Fittzgerald explains mobility by contrasting it with flexibility: flexibility refers to your ability to pass through a wide range of motion while mobility refers to moving through a normal range of motion with strength and efficiency.
Mobility movements help to train form by imprinting those movements in your muscle memory. You can find a collection of mobility workouts in the Small Guide to Big Workouts.
Practices like Pilates and yoga also involve movements and postures that equate to mobility motions or exercises. Including a session of either Pilates or yoga into your weekly regimen can help with mobility. Click here to hear a podcast about practical yoga practices, running, and more.
Paying closer attention to your pre-session or pre-race warm-up and including accelerations is an effective way to prepare your body for a workout. These short sprints are thought to wake your body up and increase your heart rate as you ramp up to the session.
Research from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL) at Victoria University Melbourne (Australia), and published in scientific journal Sports Medicine, concluded that short sprints serve as a good warm-up as they can reduce stiffness (due to “temperature related mechanisms”).
An example of striders in practice would be to include three to five striders during a warm-up before a race or tempo run in training. During each strider, accelerate for 10 seconds from your easy warm-up pace to an easy sprint, and then return to easy warm-up pace. Space these out by about a minute.
Another example of using a strider in training is to finish a long run or shorter easy run with a series of striders. In the case of the long run, finish with striders to simulate finishing a race fast on tired legs. It helps to keep fast twitch fibers activated too without stressing your body with too many tempo runs.
Increase Speed With Progression Runs
Progression runs are a common in marathon and half marathon training plans. Ben Greenfield, celebrity fitness trainer and top ranked personal trainer, notes that running hard at the end of a workout helps you train to keep pace even on tired legs.
Progression runs won’t require you to hit top speeds, but rather require you to practice going negative, or faster with each mile.
Following a warm-up, a sample progression run may be a 4 mile run. Mile 1 would be target race pace minus 30 seconds, then subtracting 20 and 10 seconds for miles 2 and 3, and finishing running at your target pace.
Racing with this method - by starting slower and dropping time with each mile that passes - helps conserve energy for running fast later in the race.
Strength And Resistance
Strength training can come by lifting weights, performing body weight exercises, but also by doing swim, bike, or run workouts that require recruiting muscles in new or different ways than you may be accustomed to.
Resistance training is also another description for strength training. However, in the case of running, resistance training can also involve simulating wind resistance or using hills to create resistance when running.
First, let’s break down these two forms of resistance training to understand the benefits of each. Coached runners may have some experience with simulating resistance in the past, with coaches pulling a runner backwards with an elastic band around their waist.
Other runners use a running parachute, which is an expandable parachute attached to the runner via a torso harness. As the runner speeds up, the parachute unfurls and creates added resistance to the run, which helps with form. Read on to learn how.
Curious about how to get faster in four weeks?
Consider the results of a 2011 study from the Department of Physical Education and Sport Science at the University of Athens (Greece), which compared the effects of resisted and un-resisted sprint training on acceleration and top speed.
Their conclusion, published in the academic journal Biology of Exercise, was that running with a parachute improved running velocity in the acceleration phase by increasing stride length.
Unsurprisingly, researchers also found that resisted speed training also improved velocity, or top-end speed, more than non-resisted training. When following the same speed/interval training plan, researchers concluded that the resisted-training participants saw a 3.7% increase in speed as compared to 0.7% speed increase in the control group, which did the same training without a resistance parachute.
This training regimen lasted just four weeks. You can pick up a training parachute for $8.99 by through my Amazon picks here.
Don’t Overdo It
Finally, a general word on running and getting faster. Runners are known to push the limits in training, often going too fast in hopes of speeding up. The advice here, as counterintuitive as it may seem:
Slow down to speed up.
In her review of Run for Your Life (Cucuzzella MD), Holistic Health Coach Laura Peifer notes that conventional advice has always been to run 80% of your runs to build your “aerobic engine”. Using the MAF heart rate training technique (Dr. Phil Moffetone) can help moderate your runs.
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