Speed it Up
When you watch a large race like the Boston or New York City Marathons, it’s amazing to see how the elite runners maintain a high level of speed for such long distances. While many of us can sprint or even run faster at shorter distances, keeping that speed for 13.1 or 26.2 miles takes some serious training. Besides having long legs and a stride that mimics a gazelle, these elite athletes incorporate some serious speed work into their daily routines. Read on for some easy tips on how to reach that personal records safely and effectively by quickening up your pace.
Just like any training program, it’s important to ease yourself into a new workout to avoid injury. To start off with speed work, try some basic striding exercises to get your muscles used to the faster turn over of your feet. Run easy until you’re warmed up and try some 15-20 second bursts of speed followed by a slower recovery jog. Focus on running relaxed but also lift your feet and knees a little higher than normal to engage different muscles. Repeat 4-5 times per session and only about 2-3 times a week to start. This can help to get your muscles and endurance ready for kicking it up when the time comes.
It’s got a funny name but can produce big results. Swedish for “speed play,” fartleks are a great tool for any runner to get their pace up using any training environment. Much like the striding exercises, fartleks are based on short bursts of speed followed by a recovery period, repeated numerous times during a training session. You can do this on the road, trail or treadmill and no watch is needed. Next time you’re out, try to run at a pace slightly faster than your race pace for a couple minutes, recover and repeat. These short bursts of speed help to increase your aerobic capacity, enabling you to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time. Quick tip – this is a great way to make the miles go faster when on the dreaded treadmill.
Want a sure fire way to up your speed? Hit the hills! Hill repeats are probably the most effective way to gain strength, speed and endurance during training. Find yourself a good slope and repeatedly run up and slowly jog back down, repeating several times. Running on an incline automatically improves your form by forcing you to run on your forefoot, drive your arms, and pick up your knees. Hill repeats also help build muscle since it ignites your core, hip flexors, and lower back to propel yourself forward. And since you’re exerting more energy, these bursts are helpful to build endurance.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of speed work, track workouts might be your next step in hitting that PR. Track workouts are exactly as they sound, workouts on a track. By utilizing the premeasured distances, runners can carefully track their progress. Start with a warm-up of some exercises or a short slow jog to get the muscles loose. As for total distance, aim for 2-4 miles of total intervals ranging from 200 meters (1/2 the track) to one mile (four laps). Make sure to give yourself enough recovery time and repeat. These workouts are pretty demanding on the body so they should only be done once a week to start and should usually be followed by a recovery or easy day.