Summary: Have you been running at the same pace for the last weeks or perhaps even months? If you’re feeling stuck when it comes to your fitness goals and would like to increase your running speed, this article is for you.
People sometimes don’t understand why results don’t come after a long time practising a sport. One of the simplest yet most ‘ignored” rules about sports is: if you don’t ever train harder, you won’t get better. “One of the fundamental principles of training is specificity.
When it comes to speed, in order to get fast, you need to train fast and specific”, says Jordan Visser, physiotherapist at the Friendly Society Private Hospital in Australia. If you’re running at the same speed and reached a stage where there is no further change or development, aka the “plateau” stage, one important thing to do is add a bit more of intensity to your workout so that you can see better results. When it comes to running, this is no different.
Whether you want it for the sense of accomplishment or simply because you want to get those kilometres over quickly, you need to change your workout in order to increase speed. The problem with running is that simplying “trying to run faster” won’t necessarily do it. If your body is not prepared for increasing speed and you are forcing it, you will most likely end up overexercising and perhaps even get injured.
There are many attributes that impact speed. Muscles, neural pathways and coordination are a few of them. Here are a few notes about each one:
- Muscles: Building strength in your muscles will increase power, which is the force that propels us when we have to do something quickly, such as running after another player in the soccer field. This shows the importance of incorporating strength training into your routine. Generally speaking, the stronger your muscles are, the faster you will be able to run.
- Fibre types: There are three types of fibres: fast-twitch, slow-twitch, and adaptable. Slow-twitch muscles are responsible for helping long-endurance feats, like distance running for example. Fast-twitch muscles are engaged in powerful bursts of movements like doing burpees or sprinting, for example.Adaptable fibres can be trained to twitch faster and more powerfully, and with increased fast-twitch muscle recruitment, speed can increase as well.”, says Mr. Visser. If you are only engaging the slow-twitch muscles, you won’t be able to increase speed. In the following section, we will address how you can do to use bursts of movements to help increase running speed.
- Coordination and muscle memory: We run the way we do because this is how we learned to run when we were young. For this reason, it’s important to develop new neural pathways so that we are able to change sports techniques. Muscle memory and coordination are tied closely together. “Performing tasks like running and throwing can be made most efficient and effective with good technique, so practising a good technique, developing that technique into a strong neural pathway, and adding strength and power, will effectively increase speed and see you reach your new personal bests”, he explains.
Now that you know a little bit better how the body works, here are 3 ideas for shaking up your workout and help increasing running speed. Try out with one of them in your next workout and see how you feel. These tactics will take you out of your fitness plateau and will help you reach your fitness goals.
- Train explosively (interval training) –You’ve probably heard about the benefits of interval training. It’s outstanding for your cardiovascular system and helps burn more fat faster. By using this method to increase your running speed you get the best of both worlds. If you’re not familiar with it, what you need to know is that you will train really hard for a short period of time and then stop for a break. Here’s an exercise idea from the blog Healthline.
“Jog slowly for 10 minutes as a warm-up. Run as fast as you can from to 5 minutes and jog for the same amount of time to recover. Repeat it 4 to 6 times.”
You will realise that you will quickly run out of breath. Running at the same pace and running with short bursts of intensity are completely different. The latter will help you improve your cardio and prepare your body for running at a faster speed. It’s important to note that interval training can be used for other types of sports too. Try following the same training next time you go for a swim!
- Train sport-specific variations – If you’re running on the treadmill, why not go for a trail run in a park nearby? Running in the street, or at least adjusting the elevation on your treadmill are also excellent ideas for shaking things up a little bit. If you run on the street, try changing your normal path and include some uphills. This is to increase your cardio capacity, which is key for running faster.
- And talking about variety, we hope our third idea can give you some inspiration to make your workouts more challenging. Instead of only running for a long period of time, mix it with additional exercises that help build strength and increase cardio endurance.
Mr. Visser recommends including push-ups, squats and also plyometrics in your workout. You don’t need any equipment for bodyweight workouts so you can easily do them at the end of a run or during the water break.
As we mentioned before, building strength is extremely important for preparing your body to run faster.
There are excellent bodyweight workouts you can do throughout a run. Jordan Vissers suggests: “Also add movements with a reflex reaction, such as landing from a jump, reacting, and jumping again.
Plyometrics are great for building explosive power, which translates as better performance on your next run. Take a look at this video with more bodyweight exercises that can help you increase running speed.
If you prefer, you can also build muscle strength in the gym with equipment. Both bodyweight workouts and weight lifting are excellent for increasing muscle power.
Did you enjoy the tips? We suggest incorporating these ideas into your weekly workout routine, just take care not to overexercise.
Your body needs a 24h rest to recover from an intense HIIT workout. If you do a HIIT workout one day, you will feel pretty sore the next day prefer to do something lighter the next day.
We suggest a stretching session, a yoga class or also a light swim.
Make sure you consult with your doctor before any fitness program.
The tips above don’t substitute having a good chat with your physician about your goals and any injuries you might have. Give your body enough rest time and don’t forget: Adding variety to your workouts, training hard and having consistency are the key rules to improve running speed and reaching your fitness goals.
This article was written by Thalita Milan
Thalita Milan works with Content Marketing and is also a sports enthusiast. She is passionate about swimming, HIIT and yoga. Thalita is always reading about the latest fitness trends and recently decided to run her first marathon where she lives, in Lisbon, Portugal.