You might think that a particular running speed is something you’re born with, depending on your body type. That’s only partially true. No matter what type of body you have, you can likely increase your running speed in a variety of ways. You can strengthen muscles in your legs and core -- particularly the fast-twitch muscle fibers that deliver more short-term power than slow-twitch fibers and are the keys to sprinting speed. You can also increase your flexibility and improve your running form to help you run faster.
Warm up before every workout. Do five to 10 minutes of cardio activity, such as pedaling an exercise bike.
Stretch your muscles dynamically after you’ve warmed up to improve your flexibility and increase your range of motion. Do activities such as side and forward leg swings, butt kicks, pike stretches and walking lunges. Perform 10 repetitions of each stretch.
Run with the correct form to gain the maximum efficiency from your movements. Keep your head up and look at your target, not the ground. Run with an upright posture rather than leaning forward or back. Use your shoulders to swing your arms. Keep your elbows bent at about 45-degree angles and drive your arms straight forward and back, rather than across your body. Stride so your lead foot lands flat, about 2 to 4 inches in front of your hips.
Increase your leg strength by performing back squats with a barbell across the back of your shoulders -- making sure your thighs are parallel to the floor at the bottom, to work your quads, calves and glutes -- and barbell Romanian deadlifts to strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and core. Perform three to five sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise while lifting 70 to 80 percent of your one-rep max, which is the heaviest load you can handle once. Do the exercises two or three times per week -- but never on consecutive days -- for eight to 12 weeks. For the next four to eight weeks, do three to five sets of three to eight reps while lifting 80 to 90 percent of your one-rep max.
Perform plyometric exercises two or three times per week, on the same days you do strength training. Plyometric activities build the type of explosive power you need to push forcefully off of the running surface. Include 10 long jumps and two to four bounding drills in which you run with bounding strides -- basically a series of single-leg horizontal jumps -- for 20 yards per rep.
Sprint on a track or a similar surface. Keep your sprints short and your speed sessions brief, running 10 repetitions of 10 to 50 yards per session. Run at about 85 to 90 percent of your maximum effort. Do one or two sprint workouts per week to help develop your fast-twitch muscles.
Run intervals on a track by alternating walking with fast-paced running. For example, take two turns around the track, running at 75 to 80 percent of your best speed down the straights and walking around the curves. Or perform a three-level drill in which you jog lightly for two to three minutes, run at medium intensity for one minute and then at a fast pace -- although not an all-out sprint -- for 30 seconds. Perform the drill two to four times. You should be able to converse at the first level, speak a few abbreviated sentences at the medium level, but only manage a word or two when you're moving at a fast pace. Do your interval training once or twice each week. Intervals also build your fast-twitch fibers.
- Runner’s World: A Dynamic Routine
- Stack: Get Faster With This Sprint Form Checklist
- Stack: Get Faster With 3 Essential Speed Training Strategies
- Human Kinetics: Ten Tips to Help Improve Your Speed
- Runner’s World: 5 Key Speed Workouts Every New Runner Should Do
- Runner’s World: Use Your Muscles to Run
- Photo Credit Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images
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