I heard a story recently about someone’s coach giving them speed work advice to get faster. I immediately questioned (in my head) how smart it is to have someone doing leg strength training every day. I’m not a coach (I’M NOT A COACH…just in case you missed that) so I’m not an expert. But I have to question a direction that will most certainly tire your legs out thus giving you the opposite result than what you are looking for.
So I thought I’d touch on the ways you can improve your speed without wearing yourself out in the process. I’m going to bullet it and keep it short to make skimming easy for you! See how thoughtful I am?
- More mileage. I know. Not your favorite. Who has time for that? or energy? it’s okay…there are other options.
- Speedwork. Now there’s an unfriendly word. But no one can argue that tempo runs and fartleks, and intervals are proven ways to increase your running speed.
* fartleks are quick and dirty. Head out on a run and then pick a spot ahead and run at a faster effort, after you reach your spot…slow down to an easy pace for a recovery…then pick a new spot and do it again.
*tempo runs is going to be done at a “comfortably hard” pace. This is a threshold run.
*Interval training gets you running at a high intensity level for short bursts…. 60 seconds to up to three minutes of high intensity and then a slow down for recovery and repeat. This is more structured than fartleks. Keep your interval runs short (no more than 3 minutes) and your easy recovery at two to three minutes.
- Hills. Getting the hint? If it’s harder, it’s going to do the job. Hills are no one’s friend. But running them for speedwork will make you stronger and will also prepare you for that hilly race you have on your calendar. I mean, they’re ugly but they get the job done and when you tackle the hill without passing out there IS a certain feeling of satisfaction. If you pick a shorter hill you want a slightly steeper grade incline, around 15%. Then do repeats…up the hill 5 to 10 times. If you choose a longer hill (half mile) your grade can be less (5-8%). Do this 5-6 times with a slow jog back down.
- Strength training. You should be doing this anyway so stop making excuses. If I can do it you can do it and let me tell you…I do not enjoy it. But we need it. So…yeah. Leg work and core work are at the top of the list. If your core isn’t strong you are just not going to get the best out of your body. Even if you’ve done everything else right, your core is the key to a good strong run. Work it out. Planks are your friends. The friend you don’t really want to spend time with and then are pleasantly surprised by the great time you had.
There are a lot of tiny little ways to increase your speed…and it all works together to make one strong runner. These are your top four go-to’s.
*get enough sleep
*yoga (yoga strengthens your core and stretches you out…so very good for you)
*stretching it out.
*research says drinking coffee before your run gives you the energy boost to go a little faster
*don’t overtrain. Tired muscles don’t run faster.
The key to all of these is to not do them every day. If you strength train every day your legs will be tired. You aren’t going to get the best from them. Strength train two to three times a week. The speed workouts can be done once a week, no more than twice. Pick two different if you’re doing them twice. Hills one day, intervals a few days later. Mix it up. Your muscles like the different challenges and you don’t want to tire them out.
Run on…and run faster…