Whether you want faster race time or just want to show off to your friends, there are a number of steps you can take in becoming a faster runner, these include; improving your form, cross training, proper recovery and speed training exercises. These techniques will be discussed in the following instructable.
Step 1: Running Form and Posture
Most runners have there own unique running style that is comfortable for them, but it is important to have proper form. Poor form wastes energy and detracts from your performance, it can also lead to injury. Running with proper form insures that the energy you put in translates to faster running and greater endurance.
You should have a relaxed, upright stance. Your back should be straight, head up and your shoulders should be relaxed and not up around your ears. Don't lean forward this puts too much weight on your legs leading to injury.
Arm swing helps keep rhythm and propels for forward. Your shoulders should be loose, arms close to your body, and up between your waist and chest. (They should not swing across your body -left to right). Hands should be cupped loosely, don't make a fist, this creates tension and wastes energy. Also don't carry things, like water bottles, MP3 players etc. this detracts from proper arm swinging.
Your arms should swing up and down bending at the elbow, less movement forward and back from your shoulders. Your arm swing should be synchronized with the opposite leg (left arm up right knee up).
Beginner and intermediate runners have a hell-ball( of foot) foot strike. Meaning you land on your heel roll forward and push off from the ball of your foot. Since there is a lot of extra padding on the heel of running shoes this makes sense. However some elite runners land on the midfoot or forefoot then heel then pushing off again from the forefoot. This creates a faster foot strike, hence faster stride frequency.
To maintain proper form with regards to your stride; the lead foot should stretch forward, swing down and make contact with the ground under your hip(your centre of gravity). If it is too far forward (overstriding) it could lead to injury.
Stride length and frequency
These are two major factors you can change to increase your running speed. Stride length can be increased by lifting your leg higher and pushing off harder with your rear foot. There are a number of training exercises you can do to increases stride frequency, these will be detailed in the next step.
Step 2: Speed Training
The best place to do interval training is on a track and field track if you don't have access to one measure off the distance on your training route (use sites like http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ to measure route distances). Start by doing a 5-10 minute warm-up run then do one lap (400m or 1/4 mile) at race pace and do one slow easy lap to recover. Increase to 2 laps fast then one recovery lap, then 3 fast, and gradually over training sessions working up to 5 to 6 laps at race pace and one recovery lap.
Fartlek (it's Swedish for "speed play)
This exercise is similar to interval training but it is more spontaneous and can be a lot of fun when done with a group. Run a 5-10 minute warm up, then pick a landmark, such as a telephone pole and run fast to the landmark, then slow down to recovery pace, then pick another landmark, choose landmarks about 50 yards to 1/4 mile away. You can also use time intervals instead of landmarks too, for example run fast for 2 minutes, the two minutes slow to recover, then repeat.
Long hills- try to find a hill that is not too steep and about 400m (1/4mile ) in length. Do a 5-10 minute warm up first then run up the hill at close to race pace the jog down slowly. Repeat this 3-4 times.
Short hills-try to find a hill that is steeper and about 100-200 yards, again run up at near race pace (or as best you can) and jog down slowly. Repeat 4-5 times.
Hills are a great way of increasing leg strength.
Do a 5-10 minute warm up run then run for 20 minutes at near race pace then 5-10 minutes at a slower recovery pace. This exercise helps you run hard for long periods.
A note about pace, if your not sure what your race pace is, think of it as running "comfortably hard."
Training with a heart rate monitor can help you gauge your pace. First find out your maximum heart rate(mhr) which is roughly 220 -your age (so if you are 30 your mhr 190).
- Your race pace is `95-100% of your mhr ( this is the pace to use for interval and fartleks)
- Tempo runs and hill training - 85-90%mhr
- Slow, recovery pace is about 65-75% mhr
Step 3: Cross Training
Cross training is good for total body fitness, it can prevents muscle imbalance, increases aerobic fitness and increase flexibility which can make you a better runner.
Try cycling, swimming, cross country skying, stair climbing, soccer, basketball and walking. Do this 1-2 days a week.
Also include strength training. Strength training is important in helping you become a faster runner. Work on arms, legs and core muscles. Do this at least once a week. Here are a few example exercises to try.
the plank (yoga pose)
try some pilates exercises
Step 4: Recovery
I've noticed that some days I'm running like a gazelle, and other days I feel like I'm slogging through mud. What's the difference?
Post-workout nutrition is important in recovery and can improve your performance the next time you run. The more glycogen stored in your muscles the more fuel it has to get you moving. After running refuel your muscles with carbohydrates, there is a 15-60 minute window in which to do this. At this time the enzymes that convert carbohydrates (glucose) to glycogen(stored muscle fuel) are most active. Also include proteins, try for a 4:1 carbs. to protein ratio, since together they increases the insulin response. Protein is also good after a workout since it helps repair muscles.
Within 15 minutes of your workout/run try to take in about 50 grams of carbohydrates, fruit drinks or sport drinks (even cola) are easiest to consume after a workout. Within the next hour try for another 50-100 grams of carbohydrates. Try smoothies with protein powder, cereal, breads, etc.
Cool down and stretching
After you are done with your run or workout allow your heart rate and your breathing to return to normal, don't stop abruptly and lie down on the couch (as tempting as that may be.) Once you have cooled down a bit you will need to stretch. This increases flexibility and prevents stiffness and soreness after exercise.
Stay hydrated before during and after a run. Here is a suggested intake amount:
- before -8-16oz, 5-15 minutes prior
- during -4-8oz every 20 minutes
- after -6-16oz
Also practice drinking from paper cups during a race while still moving, try to get as much in your mouth as possible and not down the front of your shirt. It is not as easy as it sounds.
Give your body a chance to rest. If you are training 3 days a week, cross training 2 or more days, have one day to rest of just do a light activity like stretching or some gentle yoga. Also spread out your running days so you don't do them back to back.
Step 5: Other Tips
Setting a goal is the first step in achieving it. Just saying you want to run faster isn't enough, set a race finish time that you want to achieve so that you give yourself something to aim for.
Pace bands are great tool during a race to make sure you are on track to achieve your desired finish time. These band show split times for every other mile or kilometer. There are a number of websites that have these. RW's Pace Band or Pace bands
Just enter the race distance and desired finish time and it will list the split times. Print it, cut it out, apply clear tape on both sides, then wear it around your wrist beside you watch.
Run with a friend or with a running group that runs a bit faster than you. This can keep you motivated and make you push yourself to run faster. Look at the gym, community centres, or even running shoe stores (like the Running Room) for postings for running clubs/groups that you can join.
Having a good pair of shoes goes a long way in preventing injury. Go to a specialty running store, bring your old pair, and the staff should be able to get you a pair that suits you, especially if you overpronate(foot rolls inward) or oversupinate(foot rolls outward). Remember too, that you will need to replace our shoes after about 500 miles.
Using a running journal is a great way of tracking your mileage, times and progress as you improve your speed. It also lets you add comments about how your runs went, how you felt etc.
Music is a great motivator, pick something with a great beat and a fast tempo to get you going.
Most importantly have fun
- Glover,B.(1996). The Runners Handbook. New York: the Penguin Group
Participated in the
Burning Questions: Round 6