Whether you’re a track star, cross country runner, football player or just enjoy exercising, running speed is an important physical attribute that most competitive and non competitive athletes would love to improve upon. Athletes may try different diets and different training programs, but a handful of athletes can’t seem to find noticeable results or even see a decline in their running through the workouts that they do.
If you’re looking to improve your running speed for a competitive gain or to push yourself as best as possible, follow these key steps to success, and you’ll be leaving your old times in the dust!
If you’re really looking to improve your running speed, you’ll want to stretch before you begin any workout.
Stretch all of your vital leg muscles; you know, your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. Stretch your groin and your hip flexors, too, because they are the more low-key important muscles you’ll need to work. Even stretch your arms, because without proper arm mobility when you run, you won’t be able to generate additional speed from the power of your arm swings.
Building speed is about firing these muscles explosively or pushing these muscles to their endurance limits, and the last thing you’ll want is a tight, unprepared muscle to be strained because it wasn’t stretched enough prior to your workout.
2. Warm Up
Never jump right into an intense workout. Before or after stretching, you should warm up to give your muscles additional time to get ready for use.
Ease your way into an intense workout with a low intensity warm up. If you’re more of a sprinter, you can include more explosive drills like high knees and skips for height and distance. If you’re on the distance side, an extended jogging workout should do the trick. As a runner, you should include build up runs that gradually increase your speed from a slow trot to a high level stride or sprint (depending on your running style).
Warm up based on your running style. A sprinter should be getting their fast twitch muscles ready, a distance runner should be warming their muscles up for an endurance test.
3. Work On An Explosive Start (Drive Phase)
They say it’s not how you start a race, its how you finish, but how you start can largely effect whether or not you finish strong.
The first few steps of your running approach are the your most important. A strong start is going to give you momentum that will propel you ahead of the pack early and give you momentum as you push forward into your run. Keeping your head down as you get out with your first few steps will help you focus on your all important drive phase.
40-yard and 100-meter dash sprinters should look to get out of their three point stance with a big, powerful first step followed by a quick and powerful second step. A distance runner should look to come out with strong strides as they come out of their starting position.
Even a fairly speedy runner may not be able to overcome a poor start, so its imperative that you work plenty on your first two or few steps if you want to improve your running speed!
4. Work On Your Running Form
Tweaking your running form correctly will have an immediate, albeit slight, impact on your running speed. Consistent improvement on your running form will help you see solid results.
It might sound like the opposite, but a runner should really use their arms to help them forward. Powerful arm swings will give you as the runner more momentum to work with. Your arms should never swing too much to the point that your upper body turns, and your arms shouldn’t jut out from your body. Keep your arms close to your sides and your elbows more inward. Try not to lock your back arm, or flag it. Keep your arms in a 90 degree angle at all times. Lastly, don’t keep your hands clenched into tight fists; this subtracts from the energy that you need. Keep your hands relaxed and loose.
Your legs should be in a constant cycle. Distance runners should focus on leg extension, and sprinters should focus on a high knee drive with each revolution of the legs, but all runners should strive to have their feet underneath them at all times when they’re on the run. Sprinters should be running on the balls of their feet to allow them to push off quickly and explosively, while distance runners should be using more of their whole foot to even out the stress miles put on them.
Lastly, your body should be upright, not leaned forward or too far backward. This will force your arms and legs to work harder than they need to to make up for poor running posture.
Tweaks to your running form can show slight improvements in the short term, but will show huge results if you keep at it!
5. Run, Run, Run
Simple enough, right?
The best way to improve your running speed is by continuing to run. Sprinters should be sprinting, distance runners should be racking up miles. Workouts that push you to run further than you normally would are going to increase your tolerance and make the distances you want to run easier to do so. Running up and down hills will work on power generation and acceleration improvement. Plyometric workouts are going to help you hammer down your running form so it has little to no flaws.
Repetition and consistent work are going to be the easiest two ways to improve your running speed. Just keep on running.
6. Work On Turnover Speed
Listen, you’re going to get really tired pushing yourself through all of these workouts, but improving your running speed includes working through fatigue in order to reach your goals.
Working on maintaining your pace, even while tired, is improving your turnover rate. Turnover is the amount of steps you’re taking at a given time. Every runner’s turnover is strong at the beginning of their race or run, but can fade in the end if you don’t have the stamina to hold up. Doing hill runs and ladder runs are each excellent workouts to help increase your turnover speed.
I’ve mentioned the importance of a powerful start to build momentum, and this is where that momentum is carried. Right into your turnover in the final stretch.
7. Never Skip Leg Day
Improving your running speed isn’t all about getting out there and running. You’ll need to add some muscle to help you move forward faster, too.
The weight room can be a runner’s best friend, especially for sprinters. Distance runners will want to utilize the weight room to maintain their muscle strength or help increase their endurance even more. A sprinter will want to bulk up in order to add power to their body in order to be more explosive during their short bursts.
Working your arms is also an important key to help improve your running speed. Your arms are your legs biggest supporters when you run, and having weaker arms can take away from your arm drive and thus take away from your top potential speed.
You don’t want to be a body builder if you’re looking to run, but adding a few pounds of muscle or maintaining the muscle you already have will help you improve your running speed!
8. Develop Strong Core Muscles
Your legs and arms are crucial to your running form, but did you know that your core is just as important?
Your arms and legs do all of the visible work for all runners, but their ability to function comes from a strong core. Having a strong core will help your running form by keeping you stable as you run and give you more power and endurance, depending on what you need as a runner.
Your abs are the core of your running success, so be sure to work on your abs often!
9. Give Yourself Time To Rest And Recover
You’re going to have to push yourself and work yourself to the brink if you’re serious about increasing your running speed, and that means that you’re going to need the right amount of rest to recover from your high intensity workouts.
Take breaks in between sprints, do cool down jogs to help your body relax after running for a few miles, and don’t overwork your muscles to the point they shut down or fail to recover properly in time for your next big race. You can never improve your running speed with constantly fatigued muscles.
Hydrate properly, sleep an appropriate amount of hours, and put healthy foods into your body. Push yourself, but also realize your rest is important for your aching muscles to heal and grow.
Improving your running speed takes a strong commitment toward putting in the work necessary to do so. You have to be fully willing to put forth your best effort in order to see your times go down run after run. You have to be motivated and patient with the process and, of course, you have to know exactly what you’re doing
Following these key steps will put you in a great position to see the results you’re looking for. Find a track, lace your shoes, and improve your running speed today!