5 Running Tricks That’ll Help You Get Crazy Fast
By Marrisa Gainsburg; photograph by Dustin Snipes
Welcome to Speed School. It’s running season!
But I’m not a runner and never will be, you say? Doesn’t matter. If you want to burn more kilojoules and flatten your abs, this story is for you.
Between the Olympics and the Paralympics, we’re hyped up on the athletic fever. But as exciting as it is watching the worlds’ top speedsters smashing records, speed training has a place off the track, too. A peppier pace during any run- we’re not even talking races-has major benefits. One: it helps develop your fast-twitch muscle fibres, which propel powerful movements and make any distance feel notably easier.
Two: it burns more kilojoules (duh), but it’s where you burn ‘em that’s exciting. Research shows that speed training has a special knack of melting fat off midsections. And if you’re thinking, ugh, running kills my knees, consider point three: a quicker run may throw 80 percent less overall stress on your joints, says one study.
The best part? Upping your pace doesn’t require overhauling your routine. Many experts agree that adding one speed-focused session to your weekly workouts can safely boost gains. Let these five get-fast principles from trusted running coaches lead the way.
Get this: women, who completed a six-week sprint interval capacity by 8.7 percent, slashed body fat by eight percent and increased their peak speed by 4.8 percent. Alternating between intense bouts and recovery periods induces physiological changes that drive up not only your VO₂ max-how quickly you can bring in and utilise oxygen-for the next 24 hours.
“Your cardiovascular system becomes able to transport oxygen more efficiently to your muscles and your muscles become more efficient at using the oxygen, so you can run faster, longer-enhancing your running economy,” says running coach and strength and conditioning specialist, Nate Vandervest.
Apply it: The treadmill can be the perfect tool for mastering intervals. “Outside, when you’re propelling your own pace, you may start to slow down unknowingly, but the consistent movement of the belt allows you to maintain your speed”, says Vandervest.
Once a week, run all out for 30 to 40 seconds, walk for a minute, run all out for 50 to 60 seconds, walk for a minute, then run all out for 70 to 80 seconds, and walk for two minutes.
Do one to three rounds. A good measure of improvement isn’t just your peak pace, but how quickly you can recover after hitting it.
Change Your Angle
Good ol’ Mother Nature has blessed you with the perfect speed boosters: hills. Climbing up them strengthens your muscles, especially your hamstrings and glutes (the muscle groups that help power your stride) and kicks you heart rate into high gear.
But the downhill portion is just as useful. Because you’re going with gravity, not against it, your feet naturally move faster, forcing you to maintain a swifter pace.
Plus, one study suggests that running with gravity can reduce the amount of energy you need to exert yourself by 10 percent (which you can help save oomph for the rest of your run). As you get used to inclines and declines, try hills sprints: research shows adding eight weeks of this method- which involves running at your max pace up and downhill for a short distance (around 30 metres) can improve your peak speed by 4.3 percent. (For comparison, doing the same on a flat surface can up your speed by just 1.7 percent.)
Apply it: Start with gentle inclines (two to four percent grades) that take a minute or less to run up. Once you can complete those without having to catch your breath, increase the steepness (aim for five to seven percent) or uphill as sprints right away: your first goal is maintaining an effort equal to running on flat ground (which means your pace will likely slow).
As you get stronger, you can try to hit the same pace before, during and after the slopes.
Stuck inside? Mimic the uphill on the treadmill: starting at three percent (at a jog pace), bump up the incline one percent every minute until you have to slow down to continue. Stop after eight minutes.
Try Out Tempos
We tend to think of our runs in two extremes: easy (nice and slow) or exhausting (whoa, fast). Tempo runs are essentially a middle-ground mix. Generally defined as a “comfortably hard” pace that lasts for six minutes or longer (the usual: about 20), tempo workouts offer endurance benefits similar to longer runs, but also train your body to circulate lactic acid.
This improves your running economy and overall ability to push yourself during any distance. You’re not depending on schedules rest breaks to regain energy, tempo runs force you to adjust your pace to one you can maintain.
Apply it: To find your sweet spot, run 20 to 40 seconds faster than your regular pace for 10 to 15 minutes. You should be tired enough that you want to slow down afterwards-if not, you should be running 10 to 20 seconds faster.
As you improve, try to push your tempo run to 20 minutes or longer.
Speed is built in the weights section too- particularly with explosive plyometric moves, which have been found to make you about four percent faster. They also improve your stretch reflex and bone density (those are crucial for preventing injuries, especially when pounding at high velocity.)
Plyometrics are boss at activating your fast-twitch muscle fibres, which aren’t optimised in low-intensity moves. Plus, a recent review of five studies concluded that strength training for at least eight weeks may improve running economy so much that you can maintain your pace using two to three percent less oxygen.
Apply It: Focus on three functional exercises: squats, lunges, and single-leg Romanian deadlifts. “ These not only strengthen your lower body and core, but also mimic natural movements to teach your body to perform the way it’s supposed to”, explains Vandervest.
For a full workout, do three sets of 12 reps each (six on each side for the lunge and deadlift), or add two sets of any to your regular routine at least twice a week.
Want to try plyos? Grab a skipping rope. The quick, small jumps help train your feet to move faster and land softer. Go as fast as you can for one minute, then repeat for a total of 10 minutes.
Follow a Leader
Say you consistently run a seven-minute kilometre. The thought of running a 5:30 minute pace is incredibly daunting, even impossible, and right? That’s because “it’s way too easy to get caught up in numbers when you’re tracking them all the time”, says Hamilton. Losing your watch every now and then help you get out of your head and stop fixating on them”.
So can running with a partner or group: studies show that exercising with someone who’s a bit fitter than you can motivate you to work more intensely (or run faster) than when you’re going at it alone and many experts say the social setting may make the session feel more enjoyable and less difficult.
It’s likely you’ll bust through a limit and finish feeling more confident to boot.
Apply It: This one’s simple: Recruit a friend who’s faster than you and ask her to take you out for a few kays. Let her know she’s the one setting the pace-she should wear a tracker, you shouldn’t and tell her to push you, but not drop you.
Oh, and PS, you’re not allowed to ask about your pace until after you’ve completed the run.
Since running season is upon us, you might want to check this out – When Should You Run An Ultra-Marathon