3 ways to increase running speed
Running is a combination of mechanics (movement) and physiology (fitness). The mechanical side also known as biomechanics looks at footwear, ground reaction forces (up to 3 ½ times body weight going through your joints as you run), running on different surfaces and how your body responds to repeated stresses, and running posture to name but a few.
The physiology side looks at how you can improve your bodies (heart and lungs) ability to provide oxygen to the working muscles to be able to run at higher intensities for less effort. Most people focus on the physiology and not enough on the biomechanics.
In order to improve as a runner you must look at the biomechanics and physiology of running to keep making improvements and to avoid injury.
Improve running technique (biomechanics)
Running technique is made up of a number of different factors, such as stride length, cadence, running posture, arm propulsion, foot placement, muscle recruitment and there may be a number of these components that can improve your running. I would like to focus on how just improving stride length can make you run faster.
There is an optimal length for your length but once this is exceeded (red diagram above), it will slow you down. Over striding causes the heel to strike with the toe pointing upwards.
Due to the fact that the leg is so far out in front of the body it places a breaking force on the body, so each stride you take to move forward will be broken momentarily by the heel strike, and then the swinging leg which is coming through to move you forward will again be broken by the heel strike before you move forward.
This will make your run a stop, start, stop, and start action
In the green diagram the body’s centre of gravity is able to easily pass over the striking leg and because there is no breaking force you maintain the momentum gained from the back swing causing continuous forward movement producing a more efficient stride.
Strength training (biomechanics)
Not only does this help you to prevent injury, but it also helps you to run faster by improving the force production of your legs. Once you increase your maximum strength than your average force production will increase as well.
On average it takes 1400 steps to complete a mile (this can vary according to stride length and leg turn over speed), so a 5% increase in force production with every stride you take over 5 miles will knock minutes off your time. This can be achieved without increasing bulk. (see next week’s blog about how to increase strength without size).
Perform anaerobic work (Physiology)
Aerobic work is when you exercise using oxygen as your predominant energy source like in jogging. Anaerobic work is when your body works without oxygen, like in sprinting. For best results use both energy systems.
For example, if you only run at slow pace for a long duration your body will get very good at running for a long duration at a slow speed, but it won’t get faster. If your goal is to get faster than you need to do speed work once a week and a maximum of twice a week.
Sprint training is a great way to improve long distance running and I mean flat out sprints lasting between 10-30 seconds followed by a rest period. This type of training is known as interval work, which combines both anaerobic and aerobic work.
Physiologists have researched the effects of all out sprinting followed by short rest periods, and what they found is that your aerobic capacity improves. This is because the energy used by the anaerobic systems is being refuelled by oxygen from the aerobic system, which places an equal demand on the aerobic and anaerobic system.
Try this interval work out once a week to increase running speed
60 meter run (flat out) x4 with a 1:4 work rest ratio. As you get fitter increase your repetitions and use for 6 weeks. By the end of 6 weeks you should be doing 8 reps. If it is to easy, decrease the work rest ratio to 1:3 or if you’re an experienced runner start with a minimum of 8 reps.
A rest ratio of 1:4 is a more accurate way to determine rest periods. It means that if it takes you 10 seconds to improve your first sprint than your rest period is 40 seconds, if it takes 15 seconds to complete 60 meters than you rest for 1 minute.
Topic: Increase running speed