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Top 5 Top Tips to Increase your Running Speed

So the festive season has come and gone and you have decided to take up running, maybe just to improve you fitness, shed a few pounds or you fancy the challenge of a local running event. OR, you?ve been running for a while and want to achieve a new personal best time in 2013. In either case there is a need for speed?

Speed is not just for sprinters, it is important in all running distances. Think about this for a second. The top marathoners, on average, run at over 20km per hour for the entire race duration.

Try doing that on treadmill and you will quickly realise how quick it is - and they do this for just over 2 hours. For most, including me, we are nowhere near that speed. On the plus side that gives us plenty of scope for improvement. So, when setting your training goals for 2013, plan to get faster.

Here are my top 5 tips to increase your running speed.

1. Work on your Running Form

My number one tip for faster running is to work on your running form. It doesn’t matter what other interventions you incorporate into your training, if your running form is a less than ideal you will not make the best use of your muscles and tendons in propelling you forward with ease.

Running is a skill and like any skill takes time to perfect. Muscles need to be able to coordinate with body position at any specific point in time. Small changes to running form can make a big difference to speed and performance. Getting this right will enable you to apply more force into the ground and instantly run faster.

Set aside some time in your weekly schedule for technique and form improvement. It should not be done under the stress of high- intensity training. Fatigue affects form. Don’t rush it; in the long run it will be time well spent keeping you running faster for longer.

It’s a good idea to hire a running coach who will have the expertise to analyse your current running form. They will instantly be able to identify running form errors and know what to do to correct them. After all if you were to take up different sport you would probably sign up for some lessons first to do it right from the start. Running is no different.

2. Incorporate Strength Exercise into your Training

For many aspiring runners there is a misconception that strength training is for body builders and other gym goers. This unfortunately this had lead to many recreational runners solely to just run.

No, body building training is for body builders, strength training is for athletic and sporting events including endurance running. You don’t need ‘Arnold Shwarzenegger’ strength and size, just the strength to activate muscles in the right way and to handle the stress of repeated foot/ground contact. A properly designed running specific exercise programme will benefit your running performance. Without it, it will be highly unlikely you will reach your potential.

Start your strength programme by including squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups onto a bench and basic jump exercises such as ankle and squat jumps. Do these exercises 2-3 times per week. Finally, don’t worry about building body size, this takes a lot of specific training and plenty of time in the gym. Time you could spend running.

3. To Go Faster, Go Faster

To state the obvious, to get faster, run faster. A common training error is always running at the same pace no matter what the distance. Focus on speed! When running speed increases, legs cycle and turn-over faster. This has a number of benefits: the nervous system gets stimulated helping to improve whole body coordination, muscles and tendons are activated to a greater degree thereby improving their strength and reactivity, and both combine to turn you into an energy saving machine. The result is an overall increase in running speed.

Incorporate short distance intervals into your training. Focus on the distance and completing each interval at pace. For example, 200, 400 and 800 metre repeats. Observe proper recovery times between intervals as failure to do so results in early fatigue and the inability to run fast. Words of warning however, take the time to develop a good running technique prior to speed training.

4. Prepare your Body to Run

You’re wearing the latest in footwear science and technology and keen to put them to the test. The goal, shave seconds off your personal best. Often we look to the latest technology to solve our performance woes. This might be the case in some circumstances, but what might be better is to take a closer look at you. What I mean is your own body structure. Running requires a good running posture. Ask yourself: are my ankles and calf muscles tight? Hips locked up? Tense in the shoulders and upper back? If so, then you may be in need of a posture MOT. Speed tip 4, therefore, is spend time improving your running posture.

If you don’t have the expertise in exercise then hire a personal trainer or running coach who conducts postural assessments for runners. They will quickly be able to identify problem areas and give specific exercises. It will save you time and keep you motivated. If you want to do it by yourself then incorporate flexibility and mobility exercises for the ankle and calf muscles, the hip and the upper back muscles. You will get a better result in running performance than just buying the latest in snazzy trainers.

5. Take Time to Recover

As fitness improves you will find you can run for longer, faster and more often. So surely more running is needed to continue the improvements. However, more is not necessarily better. In fact too much of a good thing is a bad thing. You see your body needs time to recover. It’s often hard to associate time not running with performance improvement, but muscles, tendons and bones all adapt at different rates. Adding in recovery days allows these structures to become stronger and more resilient, and more resilient structures tolerate higher stresses leading to speed improvement. Too much training on the other hand, can cause a repetitive stress injury, in which left unchecked will cause an inconvenient long-term lay-off from running.

Recovery does not necessarily mean doing nothing. You can try other activities such as Yoga, cycling or swimming. Monitor closely any prolonged aches, pains and soreness and rest longer if needed.

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