The Speed Workout Tips for Running FasterJuly 30, 2019
When I was a newbie, I was mostly focused on working at my running endurance and getting in shape. Two months later I realized running farther wasn’t good enough. I had to modify my training for better results. And that meant running faster.
Running faster is a skill that takes time to develop, and lots of hard work. But it doesn’t have to be a daunting task at all. Personally I have observed tremendous changes that running faster has done to my life. From improving my PR in races to enjoying speed workouts (I used to dread them), and to more muscles, less injuries, a stronger stride, the list is endless.
You too, have the capacity to supercharge your running and reap the maximum health benefits it offers. Here are some speed workout tips for running faster.
The first thing I did was to check my race paces for different running distances at the time. A good mastery of a personal race pace acts as a perfect guidance through speed workouts. Because it determines other manageable paces you can run at comfortably. My initial race pace for 5K was 14m9s per mile.
With that in mind I would then go ahead and vary my speed workouts around the figure. Sometimes 2 minutes per mile slower, sometimes 2 minutes per mile faster, until my body adjusted well enough to be ready to settle for a higher race pace.
Do you have trouble determining your current race pace? It’s simple.
Let’s say you completed a 10km race in one hour. You race pace would be computed as follows;
Alternatively there are many race pace calculators available online to help you with the math.
Elite runners like Usain Bolt perform exceptionally well because their bodies and muscles are built with good running mechanics. But that doesn’t mean if you are not equally blessed your runs should be any harder or less efficient. It all boils down to observing the strength and flexibility of your body muscles, and more importantly adopting the proper running form.
Almost every part of your body moves when you run. From head to toes. To make the best out of my runs, I have learned to keep my head up, with shoulders wide open, arms at a right angle to my body, and hands relaxed to avoid wasting energy away.
I always hit the ground with the ball of my foot. Because landing with either my heel or toes hurts my legs. Also, striking with the heel means the strides are longer, which is a quick recipe for running slower rather than faster. Some people, however, are naturally blessed with flat feet and that’s okay. The running market offers a variety of running shoes for flat feet, just to ensure every runner stands a chance to experience their A game.
Part of the hard work required to improve race pace speed involves running hills. One of my running mantras in my beginner years was, “I kill hills”. It takes more effort to run up a hill. That means your muscles strain harder, they become stronger, and that’s a smart way to boost personal running mechanics.
Every time I hit the hills, running on flat ground became easier, and faster. The simple explanation for this is that when running hills, the body is automatically in proper running form, head high in proper alignment with the spine. The more efficient your running is, the less effort you apply.
For the starters, it’s good to begin with a less sloppy hill. Gradually add the steepness once your current hill becomes less challenging. But always ensure your running form is intact, give your best effort when racing up, and increase the number of repeats with every new training session.
Spicing up regular runs with sprint training is one of the surest ways to improve your running pace. To run faster you have to train to run faster. Simple.
One easier way to incorporate sprints for the road runners is by using electricity poles or any other consistent landmarks along. For instance, I sometimes speed up 4 poles and cool down the next 4 poles to recover, and that’s consistent for the entire journey. This type of sprints is referred to as Fartlek training, which is a Swedish word for ‘speed play’.
Track runners can do 400-meter repeats, with recovery times in between.
I set my intervals straight and specific for particular running races. If I was doing 400-meter speed works, I start with a quick 5-minute warm-up, get on my 5K race pace for the first lap, and cool down the second lap to recover, repeat. This goes on and on until I’m ready to go home.
Ladder Speed Works
These are similar to the interval sprint workouts discussed above but more advanced in the sense that they are fairly difficult. It involves varying the parameters of time or distance for every new repeat.
Let me explain.
Because you may be a casual runner, adjusting your speed based on time may be a bit complicated. So you may want to ladder up and down based on distance, all while maintaining your best pace for each distance, and taking adequate rests in between.
For example, my typical ladder workouts includes ascending and descending from 100 meters, to 200 meters, 300 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters, 300 meters, 200 meters, and back to 100 meters. I give my best running pace for each lap, and take a three minutes rest after each.
The stride turnover rate is directly proportional to speed. That’s to say raising your stride turnover naturally increases your running pace.
Here’s how to calculate your stride turnover rate.
For one minute, run at a natural pace you can maintain for a mile, counting the number of times your left foot strikes the ground. Now multiply the number by two.
The standard stride rate for most elite long distance runners falls at 180 strides per minute. To increase the stride rate and stay close to this figure, it takes time and commitment.
My approach for this has always been to run the first one minute at my current stride rate, jog for one minute, and then start to run again for another one minute, repeat. The second run is more focused on shorter, faster steps with arms pumping quicker too. And with consistent repetition a faster stride turnover starts to become a reality for my runs.
Failure to stretch after runs is like committing an athletic suicide. Stretching does two things; it relaxes the muscles of the body that tighten up from the runs, and also flexes the joints.
It’s impossible to run at your fastest pace when joints have limited flexibility. Similarly, muscles that are too tight sets you up for injury. There are many types of stretches that helps the body lighten up after runs. Like groin, hip flexor, quadriceps, and gluteal stretches.
Food and Hydration
Running faster demands a lot of fuel. The glycogen stores need to be full all the time, or rather sufficient for the training or race. Water too to help with proper digestion and cushioning the joints. Not observing any of these leads to muscle cramps and fatigue, and makes fast runs a nightmare.
To observe the proper diet for runners, there firstly has to be enough carbs in my food, for the fuel. Adequate proteins for muscle building. And low-cholesterol fats for healthy joints. Oh, and water too, lots of it. This is how I beat my PR in races and training.
As a runner it’s important to get rid of the food that just fills up the stomach without providing any nutritional value. Always be at par with the clinically recommended calorie intakes for runners. Or you will never be up to your best speed.
Rest and Recovery
Training hard and faster in runs subjects muscle fibers to damage. The more you run, and faster, the more the number of muscle fibers that get damaged. This needs sufficient rest for the body to fully recover. The goodness with rest is that once you have fully recovered these muscle fibers come back stronger, and healthier.
So as much as it’s important to be consistent with training, it’s equally important to take some days off for significant progress. Overtraining poses bad injuries that may discourage you from getting on the top of your game. Plus running faster drains mental energy so the mind too has to take a rest once in a while.
To run faster is the ultimate goal of every dedicated runner, and a goal that is easily achievable even for the most casual runners. It’s just a matter of varying your training to incorporate newer challenges that you don’t face in your everyday runs. Our bodies are naturally created with different running mechanics, but it’s easy to break through the physical limitations.