6 Secrets to Increase Your Speed
Running as a sport encourages many fitness enthusiasts to strive for their personal best. Whether you want to run faster and improve your record or simply increase your speed and fitness level, strength training and speed workouts are a given. Check out these 6 secrets anyone can use to increase speed and further the quest for fitness.
Focus on Form
Improving your running form can help increase your speed and help you avoid injury. Apply good running form, forget the technicalities, and keep it simple. Focus on keeping your spine straight with your head up, which can help you avoid neck injury. Shorten your stride to reduce impact stress that can slow you down and lead to injuries. At the same time, a shorter stride can help you improve running efficiency, which means less wasted movement with increased speed. Lastly, ensure your arms swing forward and back, not side to side as this can slow you down and hamper your balance.
If you are a runner, pay attention to where your feet land. Avoid landing hard on your heel or ball of the foot as the shock impact can lead to overuse injury. Whichever part of your foot touches the ground first is most likely what is best for you, but do try to make contact with the ground directly under you, instead of too far ahead of you. This creates a more efficient stride that will allow you to naturally increase your speed with practice.
Speed workouts, also known as fartleks, are an easy way for anyone to incorporate training to increase speed. Speed workouts are a form of interval training, where you include fast running intervals into your workout routine.
Speed intervals can activate slow-twitch and intermediate muscle fibers, which increases your aerobic capacity, or the ability to breathe in more air. Also, you will increase hemoglobin production; a muscle protein that helps your body produce ATP, so your cells get more energy. When your cells and muscles get more energy and oxygen, you can run faster with greater ease.
Try to incorporate a speed workout into one of your routine runs each week. An easy beginner fartlek protocol is to warm up, then alternate fast runs with easier paced runs. For example, after you warm-up for 10 minutes, break into a hard run for four minutes, then pull back into an easy run for two minutes. Go back into your hard run for three minutes, then easy again for two, and repeat with fewer minutes for the hard run as you progress into your workout. Don’t forget to cool down and keep track of your speed training so you can keep track of your progress.
Strength training increases muscle size, and as muscle size increases so does the capacity for blood, oxygen, and ATP cell energy. At the same time, stronger leg muscles help you generate more force with each stride, so you can move forward at a quicker rate. In other words, you will be faster. Strength training is controlled exercises that help improve muscle quality, balance, and overall fitness. Some examples include the squat, lunge, and dead-lift.
Explosive exercises are part of strength training and are beneficial for power production when needed, such as during sprint racing. They are also excellent for improving your speed, strength, and overall fitness. These exercises include the jump squat, standing long jump, and medicine ball toss. Strength training should be used two times a week for maximum benefits.
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training and is one of the quickest ways to get fit. Similar to interval training, HIIT incorporates periods of intense exercise intervals with resting periods. The intense part should be at nearly 95% of your maximum heart rate and last anywhere from three to five minutes, followed by 30 – 60 seconds (or more) of active recovery.
Using HIIT in sprint training improves the ability of your cells to convert fuel (food) into energy, quickly. In fact, according to a study from the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, performing 30-second sprints at a maximum effort followed by 4.5 minutes at recovery or slow pace for 20 minutes provided the same benefit as a steady run of 30 minutes. And for those who want to lose weight, HIIT exercise increased the body’s ability to burn fat by 36%!
Along with including explosive exercises in strength training, explosive workouts, like hill running, are a great way to improve anyone’s performance when it comes to speed sports. Explosive exercise forces muscles to rely on “fast-twitch fibers,” which are necessary for increased speed. But what is explosive exercise?
This type of exercise incorporates movements that require near-maximum power in a short amount of time. They include hill sprinting, single-leg bounds, and plyometric exercises like box jumping or squat thrusts. Explosive training helps convert more muscle fibers to fast-twitch muscle fibers, thus increasing your power output and speed. Add a few sets of explosive exercises into your strength training routine, or incorporate hill running once or twice a week.
Rest and Recover
When doing any type of speed training it is important to remember to rest when needed. Resting between sets allows you to increase power for short periods, so your body can adapt to a faster pace. But resting between workouts is imperative for muscles to recover while increasing function and performance.
Take at least one day a week to rest your entire body by abstaining from exercise. If you must exercise, keep it light with an outdoor hike, slow-paced yoga class, or a stretching class. Some other practices that help muscles actively recover are Epsom salt baths and massage therapy.
Also, rest each muscle group by rotating your workouts. For example, do strength training on Tuesdays and Fridays and incorporate explosive speed training on Saturday. Mondays and Wednesdays can be used for endurance running at an easier pace and Sunday is for rest.
Rotating workouts allow each muscle group and muscle type to recover for at least a day before you use it again, which will soon lead to increased strength and speed.
Increasing your speed can be as easy as slightly altering your current workouts. Keeping your routines mixed makes them interesting and helps you avoid burnout. And most importantly, try to have fun, and your quest for fitness will soon become an enjoyable part of your life.