I have always been a natural sprinter but how do Olympic sprinters run so fast? There are a few strategy's runners use to improve their speed.
You can increase your running speed by setting a clear goal, improving your running form, building your aerobic base, strengthening your muscles and joints, and fuelling your body with the right nutrients. Remember to listen to your body, adjust your training plan as needed, and to enjoy the process of becoming a faster and fitter runner.
Let’s take a look at some science-based tips and techniques that can help you improve your running speed, endurance, and efficiency.
Set a Clear Goal and a Realistic Plan
Before you start running, you should create a plan on how you are going to achieve your goal.
Setting a clear goal, such as running a 5K race in under 25 minutes can motivate you and guide you training. When creating a goal and setting out your plan you need to be realistic about your current fitness level and your time and energy constraints. If you haven't ran in a while, or if you have a busy schedule, it can be challenging so it is better to start with small, achievable goals such as running for 10 minutes a day. This will allow you to slowly build up your intensity and duration. You could consider hiring a running coach or a personal trainer who can help you design a personalised plan that fits your needs and abilities.
Improve Your Running Form
Your running form can affect your speed, endurance, and risk of injury. I have found form to be an important factor in my running speed. By adopting a proper running posture, you can reduce your air resistance and use your muscles more efficiently. Here are some tips for improving your running form:
Keep your head up and your gaze forward, not down or to the side.
Relax your shoulders and your arms, and swing them back and forth, not across your body.
Engage your core muscles, and lean slightly forward from your ankles, not your waist.
Land on your midfoot or forefoot, not your heel, and roll smoothly from heel to toe.
Increase your cadence, or steps per minute, to around 170-180, by taking shorter, quicker strides.
By practicing these form cues, you may be able to run faster and longer without getting tired or injured.
Build Your Aerobic Base
Your aerobic fitness, or your ability to use oxygen efficiently to produce energy, is a key factor in running faster. By improving your aerobic capacity and breathing properly can help you run at a faster pace for a longer period of time before fatigue sets in. Here are some ways to build your aerobic base:
Start with easy, low-intensity runs, such as jogging or walking, for 20-30 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week.
Gradually increase your duration, by adding 5-10 minutes every week, until you can run for 30-60 minutes comfortably.
Include some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, such as 30-second sprints followed by 30-second recoveries, to improve your speed and lactate threshold.
Cross-train with other aerobic activities, such as cycling, swimming, or rowing, to prevent overuse injuries and increase your variety of movement patterns.
Strengthen Your Muscles and Joints
By strengthening your muscles and joints, you can improve your power, stability, and resilience, and reduce your risk of injury. Here are some exercises that can help you strengthen your running muscles and joints:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and lower your hips as if sitting on a chair, keeping your knees behind your toes. Do 10-20 repetitions, for 2-3 sets.
Step forward with one leg and bend your knees until your rear knee is almost touching the ground and your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Push back to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Do 10-20 repetitions, for 2-3 sets.
Hold a barbell or a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs, with your palms facing down. Keep your back straight, and bend forward from your hips, until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Lift the weight by extending your hips and standing up and then lower it back to the starting position. Do 8-12 repetitions, for 2-3 sets.
Stand on a step or a block, with your heels hanging off the edge. Rise up on your toes, and then lower your heels below the step, until you feel a stretch in your calves. Rise up again, and repeat for 10-20 repetitions, for 2-3 sets.
Lie on your stomach and prop yourself up on your forearms and toes. Keep your body straight, engage your abs and hold the position for 30-60 seconds or until you feel your abs and lower back working. Rest for 10-20 seconds and repeat for 2-3 sets.
By adding these exercises into your training routine, you may be able to run faster and with more confidence and stability.
Fuel Your Body with the Right Nutrients
Your running performance also depends on your nutrition, hydration, and recovery habits. By eating the right balance of macronutrients and micronutrients, you can provide your body with the energy, the building blocks, and the repair mechanisms it needs to run faster and recover better. Here are some general guidelines for fuelling your body for running:
Eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, before and after your runs, to provide your muscles with glycogen, their main fuel source.
Eat enough protein, such as lean meat, fish, eggs, or plant-based sources, to repair and build your muscles, especially after hard workouts.
Eat healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado, to provide your body with essential fatty acids and to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates.
Drink enough water to replace the fluids lost through sweating and to maintain your body temperature and electrolyte balance.
Eat a balanced meal or snack, containing carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, within 30-60 minutes after your runs, to replenish your glycogen stores and to kickstart your muscle recovery process.
By following these nutrition tips, you may be able to run faster and longer with more energy and fewer cramps.
Running faster is a challenging but rewarding goal that requires a combination of physical and mental strategies. By following these tips and listening to your body to adjust your training plan as needed you will enjoy the process of becoming a faster and fitter runner.