5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Sprint Speed

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Sprint speed is probably the most measurable way to demonstrate your potential as an athlete. At college camps, the ability to crank out an impressive 40-Yard Dash can be the difference between winning a scholarship or being relegated to walk-on status. At baseball tryouts and pro days, a good 60-Yard Dash can send a guy’s draft stock through the roof. Speed is valuable at any level of competitive athletics, so if you want to improve your speed and make yourself more marketable to coaches and scouts, try these drills and exercises.

1. Start with Wall Drives

The most important part of sprinting is the start. To practice the correct starting form:

  • Stand in front of a wall in a two-point stance, as shown in the following video.
  • Drive into the wall, achieving triple extension (hip extension, knee extension, ankle plantar flexion) on your back leg, and drive your front knee forward and up to hip height. Your front knee should be bent at 90 degrees in the top position.

Once you’re comfortable getting into this position, add more steps to the drill. Mimic this movement when running sprints to ensure a powerful start.

Use this as a warm-up before sprinting to learn proper mechanics. Don’t just lean into the wall. Try to drive the wall away from you as hard as you can.

2. Perform Heavy Sled Drags

Another way to practice efficient acceleration at the start is to perform Heavy Sled Drags for 10 to 15 yards. To be considered “heavy,” the weight on the sled should be close to your max Squat. The key here, as with Wall Drives, is to achieve triple extension on the back leg while powerfully driving your front knee forward. Then drive your front foot down and back into the ground to propel yourself forward instead of reaching out and “pulling” yourself forward.

Perform 3-5 sets of 10 to 15 yards with 3 minutes of rest between sets.

3. Develop Isometric and Eccentric Hamstring Strength

The best way to train your hamstrings to improve running speed is to perform eccentric and isometric exercises. When running, the hamstrings don’t act primarily as knee flexors. Instead, they work to keep the knee joint stable as force transfers from the hips. They also assist the glutes in hip extension and slow down knee extension during the swing phase.

For isometric strength, do Bent-Knee Hip Thrusts on a ball or bench for three sets of 10 to 15 reps. Start with your knees at a 10- to 20-degree bend and maintain that angle throughout the entire exercise by contracting your hamstrings. Don’t rest your butt on the ground. Just tap and go. Add weight in the form of a barbell or dumbbell placed across your waist if necessary.

For eccentric strength, do Glute/Ham Raises for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Use your arms as little as possible and lower yourself to the ground as slowly as possible.

4. Use Good Arm Swing Mechanics

An easy way to speed up your sprint is to make sure your arms are moving efficiently. As you run, keep your elbows at 90 degrees and bring each hand up in front of your face. Lower your hand as if you’re about to put it in your pocket. Don’t let yourself hunch forward with slouched shoulders; it will slow you down.

The Rev-Up Start is a good drill to ingrain good arm swing mechanics. Get into a two-point stance and move your arms as if you were running. Keep your shoulders back and your arms at 90 degrees. After a few practice arm swings, take off into a sprint and maintain focus on your arm swing.

5. Improve Stride Length

Many runners make the mistake of taking lots of short, choppy steps when they try to run fast. A better option is to take longer strides, and make them as powerful as possible. To lengthen your stride, focus on getting full triple extension on your back leg, rather than attempting to reach forward with your front leg. If your foot lands in front of your center of gravity during acceleration, it will slow you down; so focus on driving your feet back at ground strike instead of just letting your feet smack the ground.

To develop a feel for powerful hip extension, perform three to five sets of Standing Triple Jumps at the beginning of your workout.

  • Sprint Faster With a Stronger Core
  • Sprinter Workout for Explosive Acceleration
  • Track and Field Sprint Workout
  • How to Run a Faster 100-Meter Sprint

If you just started running, you’re probably concerned with two things: running farther and running faster. And you’re not alone: Those are the fundamental goals of runners at all levels, ages, and speeds, which means—sorry—you might not ever feel like you “made it” as a runner. Your pace and distance ambitions will simply adjust according to your experience. (FWIW, you can totally run simply for the joy of it, but you wouldn’t have clicked on this story if that was your only goal, right?)

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The good news is, the same training principals will hold true for the rest of your running career—so learning them early is a solid first step. “You need to do a mix of speed work and slower endurance training to develop both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems,” says Greg Grosicki, Ph.D., an assistant professor and director of the exercise physiology laboratory at Georgia Southern University. That goes for your first 5K and 50th marathon, but you’ll notice the biggest changes during your first two to three months of training, Grosicki says. “Gradual and consistent training will continue to enhance your performance potential from there.”

But what should that training look like, exactly? Keep these training tips in mind as you embark on your speed-endurance mission.

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1. Increase your mileage each week.

Take a quick look at the structure of a few training plans (even if you’re not training for a race just yet). They’re designed to gradually increase your distance and push your speed—without overdoing it—which usually translates to a few short weekday runs, then one weekend long run that gets progressively longer each week.

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“To see progress, you need to keep subjecting your body to a stimulus it isn’t used to, in this case longer distances and faster speeds,” says Matt Lee, Ph.D., certified exercise physiologist and a professor of kinesiology at San Francisco State University. “You gradually overload the body, let it adapt, then overload it a little more, let it adapt, and so on.” Before you know it, you’ll be up to a mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and so on.

2. Listen to your body.

So, how many miles should you add to your DIY training plan each week? Common running wisdom says not to increase your total mileage by any more than 10 percent a week, but Grosicki says there’s no reason to limit yourself that much if you’re feeling good. In fact, an American Journal of Sports Medicine study found that runners had the same injury rates regardless of whether or not they followed the “10 percent” rule.

That doesn’t mean you should double your mileage over the course of seven days (that’s a one-way ticket to shin splints)—it just means you should pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust your mileage accordingly. “The best rule of thumb is to use common sense and listen to your body,” Grosicki says. “Most hard training sessions should be followed by at least one—and probably two—easier recovery days.”

Some signs you need a rest day? “Besides any obvious aches and pains, feeling like you’re getting sick, irritability, loss of appetite, and poor sleep all signal that you’re overdoing it,” Grosicki says.

3. Add speed to your long-runs.

Weekly speed work is helpful (see next), but it doesn’t exactly replicate a real-life race. “I’m a big proponent of throwing speed work into long runs to prepare your body to push through the inevitable fatigue you’ll experience in a race,” Grosicki says. Try picking up the pace for the last minute of every mile.

4. Do separate speed workouts—but don’t stress over them.

Grosicki suggests an easy-to-remember speed workout that builds on itself every week, like 4 half-mile repeats with 2 minutes of easy jogging or walking in between. “Do the same workout the following week and try to beat your time.” If you beat your record without a problem, add another half-mile interval or extend the distance.

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On the flip side, if speed work feels totally miserable right now, only focus on your endurance for a bit. “Running for 20 consecutive minutes can be daunting when you’re a beginner,” Grosicki says. And that’s okay—you’re still progressing every time you hit the pavement. “Build an ‘endurance base,’ then slowly add in some simple speed intervals from there.”

Because really, the best way to boost your speed and endurance as a beginner is to make running fun—not miserable—so you keep at it, one step at a time.

Kiera Carter Kiera Carter has a decade’s worth of experience covering fitness, health, and lifestyle topics for national magazines and websites.

Online Soccer Academy

Exercise Player Can Do:

Set up a start cone and end cone about 10 — 15 yards apart. We will now do 5 speed exercises to work on our proper running technique.
1st Exercise — Heel Over Knee Walking — 2 Sets

Hands on your hips, drive your knee up and down, walk down to end cone and light jog back. Point your toe up when driving your knee up, come down on ball of your foot, do not let your heel touch the ground.
When jogging back make sure you are jogging on your toes, not flat footed. A coach needs to look at you and think, that player’s got good technique.
2nd Exercise — Heel Over Knee Skipping — 2 Sets

Hands on your hips, drive your knee up and down with a little skip in between. The faster our knee goes up and down the faster we will go. Make sure your knee is past your waistline.
3rd Exercise — Heel Over Knee Fast Knees — 2 Sets

Hands on your hips, drive your knee up and down as fast as you can.
4th Exercise — Heel Over Knee Walking with Arm Technique — 3 Sets

Does it matter what are arms are doing when we are running? Yes, it does matter! You shouldn’t be swimming on the field and you shouldn’t be looking like you are carrying luggage!
You want your arms cocked at a 90 degree angle. Drive your elbows back and forward, do not straighten your arm on the way back. Do not have your arm motion going sideways, you want it going forward and back. Last point your hand should be going through your hip. So not up high by your chest, but through your hip.
The faster your arms go, the faster your legs will go!
To practice, sit down with your legs out in front, sit up tall, arms cocked to the side and start practicing your arm technique slowly. Then go fast. Rest and repeat a few times. You are sitting down because if you straighten your arm out, which you are not supposed to do, you will hit the ground.
Now lets bring it all together for the exercise. Heel over knee walking using arm technique. Right arm, left leg. Left arm, right leg. This sometimes gets confusing for players so don’t get discouraged if you mess up a few times.
5th Exercise — Running Strides — 3-5 Sets

Now that we have our running technique down lets bring it all together. Do a few running strides, not sprints, at 80 percent across your field working on running technique. (do key points, then do strides for camera)

We all want instant results, but most of us have accepted that change takes time. While you can’t get a six-pack or gain muscle in 5 minutes, you can become a faster runner. So what’s slowing you down? Matthew Uohara, MS, C.S.C.S., from Hale Inu Strength and Conditioning, breaks down three ways you can get faster now:

1. Sprint with your toes up.

“Most people stay in plantar-flexion (toes pointed) too long,” says Uohara. Keeping your toes pointed makes your footstrike cycle longer and makes your feet feel heavier, and both limit your stride. You also lose extension in your trailing leg, so you can’t use your glutes to their full potential (no matter how buff they are).

2. Throw your arms back hard.

Your arms can really give you a speed boost. “The most important phase of the arm drive is how hard you swing them backwards,” says Uohara.

Two things happen when you do this: “First, you gain an elastic assistance from the pecs and anterior aspect of the shoulder, meaning you have to do less work. And two, you tend to shorten the swing on the front side, making your transition quicker.” Remember that your feet follow your arms, so pump them hard!

3. Perform pre-run planks

“Doing a proper plank teaches good positioning of the pelvis,” Uohara explains. “When done prior to sprinting, you will have a carryover effect and the result will be better times.” For optimum effect, try 6 sets of planks for 30 seconds each before your next run.

For homework this week, clock your sprint time at 50 meters. When you’ve had a chance to catch your breath and recover, use all of Uohara’s tips and clock it again. Tell us how you did.

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There’s no doubt about it: Running can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be!

“The goal of running faster,” says professional marathoner Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, “is to run more economically and use the least amount of energy that you can.”

This becomes particularly important in long-distance running. After you’ve run 20 miles, the last thing you want to do is expend any extra energy — you don’t have much of it left! With a few smart tweaks to your routine, you can run much more efficiently with the energy you have — without having to pop an extra gel.

5 Tips to Run Faster, Starting Now

1. Roll Out.

You may foam roll after your workouts, but if you’re not foam rolling before, your body may not be ready for the workload you’re about to subject it to, says Daniel Viera, USA Triathlon Full Throttle Endurance coach. “Most of the time, the muscles can handle it,” he says, “but you want to make sure the tendons, ligaments and joints are ready.” Be sure to hit the glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips, calves and IT bands, spending 30 to 60 seconds on each muscle group before launching into your dynamic warm-up.

RELATED: 5 Foam Rolling Moves You Aren’t Doing (But Should!)

2. Drill, baby, drill!

Running fast isn’t about just running forward in a straight line. Drills such as butt kicks, high knees and Russian kicks (resting on one leg and kicking the other) increase proprioception (one’s perception of his or her body and the strength of effort being used in movement) and coordination, says Viera. He recommends beginning the drills slowly and increasing speed and velocity as you get comfortable with them. The payoff: Your body will learn to fire the correct muscles at the proper time.

RELATED: 6 Core Exercises to Make You a Stronger, Faster Runner

3. Mix up the pace.

Running your fastest speed at every workout isn’t the key to getting faster, says Viera. As counterintuitive as it sounds, running slower can actually help you get faster! He suggests mixing things up with a slow endurance run, a tempo run and some speed work at a track at least once a week. “Working on your heart, lungs and muscles is the key to becoming a more efficient runner.”

RELATED: A Runner’s Guide to Speedwork

4. Make your form work for you.

Guilty of swinging your arms across your body when you run? “The side to side motion is wasted energy for your arms as it forces your hips to counter the motion instead of powering you in a forward motion,” says Rothstein-Bruce (who runs a 2:29 marathon, so she knows a thing or two about running efficiently). She recommends practicing seated arm drills by sitting with the legs at 90 degrees and swinging your arms back like you’re beating a drum. And when it comes to “running tall,” imagine someone is pulling you up by your hair while maintaining a slight forward lean.

RELATED: 5 Expert Tips for Proper Running Form

5. Get new sneakers!

Often, pounding the pavement in old sneakers can lead to injury, says Viera, and injured muscles are certainly not as efficient. Make sure to get fitted for new sneakers every 300 to 500 miles. And be sure to properly break them in by walking for a few miles before lacing up for a long run. Check out how to find the perfect running shoe here.

What steps do you take to run more efficiently? Tell us below!

Originally posted December 2013. Updated November 2015.

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Getting fit is rarely the problem. It does not take a genius to get an athlete in good physical shape. The problem arises when we need someone to be ready to race at a specific time. We’ve all experienced a race where we completely fell apart from the start of the race and felt completely off, despite going into the race with training going well. How does it happen?
If I knew exactly, I’d be a genius, but one thing that could play a role is muscle tension. It partly explains why we feel good one day and flat the next. Have you ever wondered why most coaches have you do strides the day before a race? Through experience, most have figured out that if you do just a little faster stuff the day before a race, you feel really good the next day. One of the reasons is muscle tension.

So, what is this mysterious muscle tension? This might anger some of the scientists types, but its best to keep things simple. We can get incredibly complex on explaining what resting muscle tension is and how it can be altered, but when we do that it loses it’s practicality in application to the real world. With that in mind, here’s the useful simplified way to look at muscle tension.

Within your muscle fibers, theirs an optimal length for force production. This is known as the length-tension relationship and it varies considerably based on a lot of factors. So, in simplistic terms if it’s 10% too low, you might only be able to generate 90% force, while if it’s 10% too high, you will generate less force.

Here’s a graph that kind of demonstrates the concept:

Your body controls the resting tension through a variety of mechanisms, mainly through muscle spindles. If you want an example of this, go sit on your bed with legs extended for a while. When you get up and jog around, your quads are tight. Why? Because they’ve been shortened for a long time because of the way you were sitting. Similarly, what happens after u sit in a car or airplane for a while? Your hamstrings are tight because they’ve been in a shortened position for a while. Because these muscles have been in shortened state for a while the body adjusts the resting tension. These are examples in a passive state, but it works very similarly in a dynamic state like running.

For running think of it like this, if we do a lot of long slow running or even a lot of threshold like running, the body is not worried about high force development, it is worried about efficiency. The length/tension needed for maximal force development is going to be different than that needed for a lot of medium force contractions. Your body is amazing at adapting so if you do a lot of work where only moderate contractions of mainly Slow Twitch and a little Fast Twitch-a fibers, then its going to adjust and optimize efficiency for this type of contraction. If you do this type of training continuously, then one day decide to perform a race that is much faster (let’s say 1500m pace) then your muscles are pre-conditioned to be most efficient at a lot of moderate contractions. Thus, you feel flat for that 1500m. Your tension wasn’t right going into it.

Applying this to running and peaking:
You know how you feel super bouncy or have a pop in your stride or you feel flat? That’s muscle tension. If you feel supper bouncy, you’re tension is probably pretty dang high. If you feel really flat and non-responsive, your tension is probably pretty dang low.

The last week or so before the big race, you’re not going to gain any fitness, so why workout and not just rest? Wouldn’t it make sense to just store up all that energy and be ready to race? Well, if you’ve ever backed off too much for a race, you know what happens. You feel horribly flat. The reason: you screwed this whole tension relationship up. The last week is about altering tension, not gaining fitness. It’s about getting a runner to the line with his muscles in the optimal place.

What’s optimal? It depends completely on the race and the person. In general, the shorter the event, the higher the tension needed. Contrasting this, the longer the race, lower the tension needed. This only makes sense if we think it about it logically. Having tension that is for high force might be great, but is it most efficient for an activity that takes a lot of small contractions? No. Similarly, with sprint events, having tension that is optimal for max force may seem like a great idea, but if it’s too high, then it might take longer to contract, thus a decrease in power. Not something we want.

And it is going to vary for each individual. Each individual will have a different fiber type make up that will alter his optimal tension. If we have an individual with a lot of Fast Twitch fibers, he’s probably going to need to be at a higher tension than someone with a lot of ST fibers, even if they are running the same race.

So how do you alter tension in running?

Decreases it-
-longer duration work
-Very taxing workouts (i.e. “anaerobic 400’s)
-threshold work
-moderate paced aerobic running
-soft surface running (sand, heavy grass, wood chip trails)

Now the above workouts will alter tension to a varying degree. Generally, the things listed first will impact a bigger alteration in tension than the things listed later.

Now modifying it and getting it right on the exact day is a work of art. It’s hard to do. As a coach, you’ve got to be acutely aware of how the runner looks and feels. Look at their stride to see how responsive it is and ask the runners how it feels.
To what degree you alter tension depends on how far out you are from the competition. What I’ve found works best is if big changes are needed in altering tension, go for them further out from the race, then as the days get closer, go for small/tweaking changes. This generally works much better than waiting till the day before to try and make big changes in tension.

In looking at training there are a few options:
1. Increase tension dramatically- Sprints or hill sprints for example.
2. Increase tension slightly- ex: 8×200 at 2mi down to 1mi pace
3. Tension is good-maintain- either do race pace work, or blend work that has athletes do some moderate running and some fast running (ex: fartlek with 5min moderate segments to start and end with 10sec segments fast)
4. Decrease tension slightly- short threshold run
5. Decrease tension dramatically.- long run or long threshold run

What you do depends on what the athlete needs and how far out you are from a race. As I said, go for big changes far out (3-7days) and small changes closer. If big changes are needed closer to a race, know how an athlete reacts to certain types of training. I.e. he might get sore from flat sprints so while that may raise tension, it makes him sore so its useless. Generally with distance runners, you’ll almost never use option 5, unless it’s for a marathon. Below I’ll give you some examples of how this works:

If it’s monday and an athlete is crazy bouncy, well, you might do something that slightly lowers tension, i.e. a short threshold run, then come back wed or thurs. with some short pace work, i.e. 200s at 3200 down to mile pace. The threshold run lowers tension, then later in the week, the pace work maintains tension or prevents the continued lowering from the threshold work combined with easy distance running.

If it’s tuesday or wed. and they look pretty good, you might just do something to maintain. A combo of sorts. My favorite is 5min medium, 5 easy, 5 medium, 5 easy, 5min of 10sec sprint 50sec easy. Then strides the day before to raise tension a little and your good.

If it’s early in the week and they look flat. faster work or sprint time. You have to be careful with sprints because if they haven’t done it in a while they’ll get sore, so that would take away from the purpose.

Generally with true distance runners it’s about raising tension b/c the mileage we do keeps it pretty low. Middle distance guys are a little more dicey.

Tension should also play a role in the pace of the strides done the day before a race.

I’ll give you guys an example of when I nailed it with Ryan. Going into NXN south, Ryan was flat. Granted I’m not present so it’s even harder to adjust tension. But anyways, he was flat on that sunday, monday. So, the only workout we did was tuesday. A mile in 4:33 on trails, then 5x 8-10sec hill sprints. The mile was just there to get some confidence and keep the body reminded of what it feels like to work pretty good and get out fast and relaxed. The real key was the hill sprints. Just 40-50seconds of total work. But they alter tension a lot. Come saturday, his legs felt great and he had his best race of the year. Now if only it was always that easy.

I’d like to acknowledge the work of Marius Bakken who first got me interested in this topic several years ago. Since then it’s been a lot of practical fine tuning to come up with a system that has worked with my runners.

The key to running fast on race day: Muscle Tension Tagged on: muscle tension

How to Run Faster: Boost Your Speed and Reach New Personal Bests

Interested in Learning How To Run Faster?

We’ve all been there before: your legs turn to lead, your lungs are burning, your heart is pounding and it feels like there is no physical way that your body can run any faster. When you cross the line and check your watch, you are disappointed with your time.

So how could you possibly run any faster? With the proper warm up, form drills, speed-specific workouts, strength and mobility work, recovery, and mental tactics you can increase your speed and reach new personal bests.

Why is it so difficult to run fast?

When you push your body to its limit, it reacts physiologically in defense response to the discomfort of running fast. These reactions can come in the form of oxygen deficit, inefficient muscle-fiber recruitment, a build-up of lactic acid, a feeling that your legs are on fire (!!!) and effort overload for your brain.

Though these are natural reactions for your body, there are ways to train the body and mind to handle the discomfort of reaching new speeds and adapting to harder efforts.

So, what can you do to run faster?

Improving your speed is not as simple as just running faster. There are many small changes that can be implemented into your training to run faster.

Warm Up to Run Faster

As with any run or hard effort, your body needs to warm up before asking it to run faster. There is a reason that the first rep of interval workouts sometimes feels the most difficult, and that is that your body needs to adapt to the increased effort by delivering more oxygen to your muscles.

With the proper warm-up, all of your muscles will be firing and ready to work on some faster running. If it takes you 10-15 minutes to feel loose and ready to go at the beginning of your workout, you most likely need to put in a little more prep work before your big effort. But if you do take the time to warm up before your run you’ll be that much more prepared for your workout.

Here’s How to Warm Up Before a Run

  • Jog easy for 5-10 minutes
  • Warm up hips and hamstrings:
    • Air Squats
    • Leg Swings
  • Lower Legs:
    • Toe Walks
    • Ankle Walk
    • Inside of the foot walk
    • Feet turned out walk
    • Pigeon toe walk
    • Hop on each foot
  • Speed Work:
    • 4x 60-meter stride-outs

Nail Your Form with Pre-Run Drills and Strides

Running at top speed requires a full-body effort. When your body gets tired, your form begins to fall apart, making your stride less efficient and slowing you down. Focusing on running with proper form will help you run faster and also prevent injury.

Proper running form goes all the way from your head to your toes. Your body should be aligned and your posture should be tall for an efficient stride. Your hips and shoulders should be working in conjunction to help you relax and allow all other parts to fall into place.

An engaged core, forward hips, and tall shoulders increase the ability of your legs to produce power from the glutes and hamstrings and allow for a driving arm swing.

Once your body is aligned and activated, running faster will be easier and less likely to cause injury. Incorporate these running form drills into a warm up or during a stride-out session.

Strength Equals Speed

Let’s say your mileage is increasing and you are running every day, but you aren’t getting any faster. To be a faster runner, you need to do more than just run. Strength training is an often overlooked, yet critical component of any runner’s regiment. Having a strong core, strong glutes, mobile joints and overall body strength will improve your overall athleticism and lead to faster running.

So, How Can You Get Stronger to Run Faster?

Strength training goes well beyond heavy lifting or squatting a loaded barbell. By focusing your strength work on mobility and total body strength you can get stronger to run faster without putting on unnecessary body weight.

Jumping: Speed requires power. Jump Science research has shown that practicing jumping’ can positively affect overall athleticism and speed. Two great jumping exercises for gaining power are squat jumping and broad jumping. Squat jumps increase power in the hips, while broad jumps stabilize the feet, knees, and hips for forward motion.

Core: Strengthing your core will improve your form and posture, in turn opening up your lungs for more efficient breathing and faster running. The core is the center of gravity for your body. Runners often let their core slouch or twist when tired, which is why a strong core is essential when learning how to running faster.

Glute Strength: The glutes drive your stride and hold the power needed for speed. By targeting the glutes and working on making them stronger, you will prevent injuries and feel more efficient and powerful when running. Squats, step-ups, box jumps, burpees, and banded clamshells all work your glutes and will get them firing for your next speed session.

Workouts to Get You Running Faster

Incorporate these 5 speed-specific tune-ups into your training to improve speed.

  1. Find Your Speed: include stride outs 1-2 times per week. Start out easy and gradually speed up to reach your maximum sprinting speed. These should take about 10-20 seconds each.
  2. Get Comfortable Running Faster with Fartleks: try a fartlek style workout with 10 x 30-60 second efforts at 80-90% effort with a 1-2 min recovery at a 40% effort. Keep your heart rate going throughout the whole workout by continuing to move during your recovery.
  3. Tempo to maintain a faster pace: tempo run at a sustained 60-80% effort that you could hold for 6-8 miles-minutes for 20-30 minutes. This run should be comfortably hard, but not a sprint. Tempo runs are great prep for mentally being able to handle a pace that is not quite comfortable for a long period of time.
  4. Mix it up with intervals: vary time and speed with interval workouts to get comfortable shifting pace and maintaining a faster speed. Ladder format interval workouts are a fun way to play with speed. These can be done using distance on a track or time on a road. Keep a consistent rest of 1-minute slow jog or walk in between incrementally increasing speed intervals. Build up the ladder and then come back down.
  5. Power through Hill Sprints: run easy 20-30 minutes to warm up. Find a hill with about a 5% grade to run 4 rounds of 15-second hill sprints. Hill sprints are a great way to work on speed with a lower impact. Stay tall as you go up the hill, keep your cadence up, and use your arms to drive.

Recovery and Maintenance are Key

To run at top speed, your body needs to be loose. Rolling out on a foam roller and stretching each muscle daily will prevent soreness and injury.

Focus on opening up your hips to allow for increased stride length. Speed is a combination of stride length x stride rate, so by opening up the hips, you are more capable of reaching top speed.

As always, sleep, hydration, and nutrition all play a role in keeping your body happy, healthy and primed to improve running speed.

Sharpen Your Mental Game to Sharpen Your Speed

Mental toughness plays a big role in running at speeds that are uncomfortable. When your legs feel heavy and the pace is uncomfortable it is easy to let negative thoughts creep in. Doubting your ability and wanting to back off the pace is tempting, but you often have more in the tank than you think and can run faster than you think possible.

Just as you need to build your physical strength to run faster, you also need to build mental strength. Mental toughness can be developed through the workouts and long runs in your training. Use these higher intensity runs as an opportunity to train your mind to learn how to run faster.

10 Tips to Run a Faster Marathon

One of the great things about running is that no matter how fast you go, there’s always room for improvement. Whether you’re looking to sign up for your next marathon or just want to set a new personal best, these tips can help you run a smarter, faster marathon.

1

SET A REALISTIC TIME GOAL

Whether you’re looking to qualify for Boston, set a new PR or finish, setting a realistic goal is your first step. If you’ve already run a marathon before, start by assessing how you performed in your previous race. Analyzing where you can improve will help you alter your training plan and strengthen your weaknesses.

Hitting the wall at Mile 20, uneven pacing or not doing enough long runs before your race are all things that can be corrected. Figure out where you can realistically shave time from your previous effort, set a new goal and determine the pace per mile you’ll need to train for moving forward.

2

SLOW DOWN AT THE START

While this might sound counterintuitive, running the first few miles of your race slower than your goal pace can save you from hitting the wall later. Run the first 3–4 miles 10 seconds slower than your goal pace per mile and speed up to race pace by the half-marathon point. Your goal the second half of the race is to run faster than the first half and focus on finishing strong.

3

TRAIN MORE AT RACE PACE

Long, slow miles are part of training for a marathon. But that shouldn’t be all you do, especially if the goal is to get faster and not just finish. Include mile repeats at, or faster than, goal pace, Yasso 800s and tempo training should all be part of your marathon training plan.

On long runs, think about doing at least a portion of it at your goal pace so you’ll know what it feels like on race day when you’re fatigued. Try alternating every other mile or doing the last half of your long run at goal pace to get used to that kind of effort.

4

WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR

Blisters on your feet from ill-fitting footwear and chafing from your clothing are two things that will slow you down on race day. If you plan to wear a different running shoe and outfit than you normally train in, make sure you try them out prior to your event.

Using all of your race day gear on at least a 10-mile training run ensures they’re comfortable, fit properly while you’re moving and won’t cause any sore spots after the first few miles of your race.

5

HYDRATE

It’s easy to forget to drink early in the race and hard to catch up if you’ve neglected hydration up until the midway point. Staying on top of your hydration needs and consuming some carbohydrates from the first aid station keeps you from having problems later that can kill your pace.

If hydration or other digestive issues have been a problem during previous races, it’s also a good idea to train with the same gels and fluids you plan to consume during the event. This can help prevent the dreaded runner’s trots and other issues that can wreak havoc on race day.

6

CHOOSE THE RIGHT EVENT

Trying to set a PR at a race that features a hilly second half or is run at high altitude probably won’t be your best choice. Instead, do some research to find a race that’s fast, flat and known for producing good times. Events promoted as Boston Qualifiers are usually good, too and often have pace setters running even splits to help you reach your goals. Also try to avoid races known for occasionally having bad weather or that are overly crowded, as this can negatively impact your pace.

7

RACE BEFORE YOUR RACE

Having a rehearsal before the real thing is always a good idea. Signing up for a few 10Ks during your training plan or even a half-marathon a month or so before your go at a full helps you work out the kinks with your gear, get used to pre-race jitters and try out a pacing strategy.

Since the event is shorter, use a pacing calculator to determine a how fast you should be able to run. If you plan to try out a half, run the first six miles at marathon pace and the last seven slightly under. This will get your body used to being uncomfortable and give you an idea of what the longer version is going to be like.

READ MORE > 5 TOP RUNNING GOALS AND HOW TO ACHIEVE THEM

8

RUN MORE OFTEN

Most first-time marathoners run three times per week and supplement their weekly training routine with other forms of cardio and strength training. While this can be an excellent strategy to avoid injury and allow yourself to recover between long runs, upping your mileage and the number of days you run per week is one way to get faster for your second go at 26.2. Running more often may also be necessary if hitting the wall was a problem in your previous races.

As long as your body can tolerate it and you’ve built up your mileage correctly (no more than a 10% increase each week), running 4–5 days per week with a mix of distance runs, tempo training and intervals can provide huge performance gains when it’s time to race again. Be sure to keep in mind it’s still a good idea to include one or two days per week of rest following your long or hard runs to keep from overtraining.

9

TAPER AND REST

While it goes without saying that you’ll want to get as much sleep as possible the night before your race, getting plenty of sleep the week before is even better. It’s also a good idea to minimize outside activities leading up to the race and choose to hang out at home with family and friends in a relaxing environment. Reducing stress and allowing your body plenty of time to recover mentally and physically leading up to the event can have a positive impact on your performance.

10

LISTEN TO MUSIC

Even though the USATF has relaxed the rules on whether or not athletes are allowed to listen to music during a race, check with the organizer of your event beforehand to make sure it’s allowed. If so, having a race-day playlist can be a good way to stay stress-free and let the miles tick away. Music can also have a positive effect on your pain tolerance and keep you upbeat and pushing forward in the latter part of the race when it’s common for your pace to slow.

Tips for running fast

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