A Guide to Running Faster
Running is the simplest way to get fit. No kit is required; you can do it anytime, anywhere – there is no need to go the gym or attend classes; just go out and begin your run. Some people say that running is just a leg exercise; however, that’s not true and running works for the whole body. Running also allows you to quickly burn calories and lose weight easily.
People think that running can be bad for them as there’s a risk of bad knees and injuries associated with them. But, those are all myths and when you work with a good trainer and use proper technique, you’ll be able to achieve the many benefits of running. That being said, never start your run without first preparing your body — this is the mistake many of my clients used to make. As their personal trainer, I always advise them to stretch and do some supporting exercise before they begin running. Those who are overweight should start with walking fast and then move to running.
In addition to physical benefits, there are mental ones too. Running clears your mind, releases endorphins and adrenaline and lowers cortisol levels.
I said that running can be easily done without going to gym or attending classes, but can the same be said about running fast? Not really.
Running is one thing, running fast is something entirely different. You can only run fast with training, exercise, proper nutrition and rest. Usain Bolt makes running look easy as if he doesn’t even have to try. Bolt is a natural runner and yes he has got god gifted pace, but he still had to work hard to reach the top form. So, how can you become like him or come anywhere close to his speed? I’ll show in this complete guide to running faster.
Two Critical Components
In order to get faster, you need to focus on two critical components: aerobic capacity and the nervous system.
The maximum amount of oxygen that can be used by the body during an exercise is called aerobic capacity. When you’ll run at a slow or medium pace, your body will use oxygen via your aerobic system to maintain and fuel your activity. As the intensity will increase, you will reach a point of maximum limit where your aerobic system will not be able to supply the oxygen to fuel your activity. In this case, the anaerobic system will be triggered leading to fatigue.
When you develop your aerobic system, you can run at a faster speed before reaching the critical point. For aerobic system development, I recommend starting with a progressive run. By progressive run, I mean that you should begin running at pace that you’re comfortable with and then work up to a pace that pushes your aerobic system to the limit and eventually triggers the anaerobic system. With this training, your body will become more efficient and the onset of fatigue will be delayed. One of my clients began with a 12-mile run. I worked alongside him to guide him and told him to speed up in intervals of 12 to 17 seconds per mile. He was able to develop his aerobic system this way and as a result his speed and endurance increased.
The central nervous system of the human body controls its movements. The more effective your nervous system is, the faster you’ll be able to run. We can move only as fast as our nervous system allows us i.e. how well it sends the message to our muscles to move our body. When you’ll train your nervous system, you’ll acquire more control over your movements, thus allowing you to move faster.
To train your nervous system, perform explosive workouts while focusing on maximum intensity and short intervals. The goal of the training is to improve the control of nervous system over faster movements.
I also recommend short springs at full intensity for training of the nervous system. Run as fast as you can for 15 to 20 seconds and then rest for 90 seconds. Repeat four times in the beginning and then gradually increase the repetitions as you get comfortable.
Get Your Technique Right
Without the right technique, you will never be able to run faster. For the right posture, stand tall with your hips held up high and slightly lean forward. You should try to minimize and avoid lateral movement at your hips and shoulders and minimize movement of your torso as well. Drop your shoulders and drive your arms backwards to minimize these movements.
Fast, short session will quicken your speed. Intervals should not last longer than 90 sec so that you are able to maintain about 85 percent intensity throughout. Be sure to rest between every interval to ensure that the quality of sprint is maintained. I recommend you start with twelve reps of around 35 seconds.
If you find that you’re slowing down while sprinting, end the session and start again because speed will only improve with quality reps. When you go through these drills, you’ll experience significant build up of lactic acid, which is the goal of this session. The better you are able to tolerate lactic acid, the quicker you will be able to run.
Hit the Hills
I believe that hill runs are the best speedwork sessions as they can be easily planned. They do hurt like hell, so you should be prepared to handle the pain. Don’t be scared, you won’t get injured if you rest between intervals and keep the famous “no pain no gain” moto in mind.
Uphill running is good for the glutes and challenges the ability of your body to produce lactic acid. Find a hill, run up it for 40 to 50 seconds fast and walk back down. Repeat this for four to six times in the beginning and then move up to ten repetitions once you’re comfortable.
You could consider running down the hill instead of sprinting up. I know some Kenyan runners who use downhill running sessions to increase their speed by improving foot turnover. Find a slightly inclined hill and get to the top, lean forward to begin your run. Try to pick up the pace quickly and employ short steps, make soft, fast and light contact with the ground. Try four to six reps of 30 seconds in the beginning and then gradually move to eight to ten reps.
Most elite runners run strides to get their muscles firing faster and improve speed. After a short run, find an uninterrupted pavement or path between 100m and 110m in length. Run smooth and fast on this track for the entire 100 or 110m. You don’t have to push yourself to the extreme- aim for 85 to 90 percent of your maximum while staying relaxed and focused. Start by running seven reps and then move to nine reps. Do a stride session every day.
Running should be your focus, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only exercise you need to run faster. Strengthening your core and legs will help you get faster and reduce risk of injuries, while cardio can help you avoid the impact of tough runs on your body.
Strengthening Core and Legs
The stronger your legs are, the faster you’ll be able to run. Therefore, keep strength workouts on your training schedule. I am not saying you should go all-out with strength training and suffer delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) afterwards, but I recommend that you hit the gym and do simple workouts three to four times a week to strengthen your core and legs.
Swimming pools are excellent for a recovery session. The resistance and buoyancy properties of water will allow you to complete your training with minimal impact on your body. I recommend completing a 15 minute pool session after a hard training session.
For runners, fat and carbohydrates are essential as it gives them the energy to train and run harder and faster. You’ll burn more carbs by running at a fast pace or running for longer intervals and lose more fat by jogging at a slow pace. It is important to get enough fat and carbohydrate from your diet that can fuel your running and training.
It is important to correctly refuel yourself after your run. Eat a meal that’s rich in carbohydrates to refuel the energy you’ve spent in training and repair your muscles.
Eat the Carbs
For any run that lasts more than ninety minutes, I recommend you eat easily digestible carbohydrates like a smoothie, an hour before you begin the session. This will improve your performance and allow you to train without exhausting too early. Furthermore, you must also ensure that you eat enough carbohydrates over the last twenty-four hours before your run so that your glycogen stores are completely filled. This is important for intense long runs as your body needs all the energy to perform consistently for the session.
For runners, the best supplements are those that can hold back the fatigue and I find that caffeine works well for that. Caffeine extends the time your body can perform at extreme intensity and it also helps to reduce exertion, which means that you’ll feel the training to be less demanding than it actually is. This will help you perform at optimal intensity.
Focus On Recovery
No matter how much you desire to become a faster runner quickly, you cannot expect to keep on training the whole week. Recovery sessions and rest days are important to ensure that you don’t injure yourself in hopes of catching up to Usain Bolt. All the intense exercises and hard work you did in training sessions will only pay off if you allow your body to recover.
Warming down after every run and resting for a few minutes might seem like a waste, but failure to do so will lead to fatigue and fatigue will lead to injury. If you get injured, you won’t be able to run and lose your valuable time training time recovering from the injury.
A warm-down will give you a time for adjustment between rest and exercise. Most people neglect warming down during a training session and suffer the consequences. With a proper warm-down, you will improve relaxation of muscles, remove waste, reduce soreness of muscles and bring the nervous system back to rest levels. Jog for 10 to 15 minutes and reduce your speed gradually to warm down properly.
Easy and slow runs will help you build your fitness while allowing you to recover from tough sessions. Keep the pace slow on the easy runs and don’t let it creep up to ensure that you’re aren’t working too hard and easy runs are easy. Put on the headphone and listen to your favorite music while you jog to maintain a slow pace.
No, this is not a joke: you can get faster from sleeping. Sleep is the easiest way to rest and allows you to adapt to the mental and physical demands of training. If you’re deprived of sleep, you’ll lose your performance and won’t be able to concentrate on training. I prefer at least eight hours of sleep at night to ensure that you don’t doze off in the middle of a training session.
Scale Up the Training Slowly
If you suddenly ramp up the intensity or amount of training, you will most likely get injured. Therefore, I recommend you follow a proper plan and gradually build up your training with one or two tough sessions like interval runs or hill sprints a week. Then as you become comfortable with these sessions, go for three to four sessions. You’ll be able to increase your distance and sessions with time, so don’t try to push yourself too hard from the beginning.
What more do you need to get faster? An ability to never give up. Remember, nothing in this life comes easy and you must keep on training and working harder to get faster. Follow my guidance and advice and train consistently: maybe someday you’ll break the record for the fastest sprint.