Running is a primary human function that we all must practice at some point in our lives.
Whether we want to run faster for sport, or run further for endurance, we have all been intrigued by the performance and its potential, either as a spectator or a competitor.
First, why do you want to run faster? To answer this question, you must consider your fitness goals and establish a plan for success.
So, let’s begin by setting a starting point and build a plan from there.
Your running performance is ultimately defined by your power, speed, running mechanics, and of course, cardiovascular fitness. Depending on your specific running goals, each of these key factors will play a different role in determining your success.
Start off by setting your current pace, defined by how fast you are moving over a set distance; usually expressed per kilometre (km). Use 10km as our distance; a beginner-level runner would try for 8 minutes per km, whereas a more experienced runner would aim for 5 minutes per km.
The key here is that this pace must suit you and your current fitness level.
Maintaining a comfortable pace is far more important than trying to push yourself too hard, especially if you are just starting off.
Next, we must consider your stride length (distance covered with each step) and your stride rate (number of strides). Improving each of these will allow you to run far more efficiently, making your runs more enjoyable!
Race season is only around the corner so let’s look at some training techniques to unleash your true running potential. An evening jogger or a dedicated runner will both benefit by enhancing their program with:
Interval training – best performed on a treadmill (for precision) or outdoors. This will allow you to get comfortable running at a greater pace, but for shorter distances. Cardiovascular fitness will improve as your body adapts to a faster running speed, and resting periods will allow recovery, increasing your endurance.
Beginners should aim for 1 minute walk followed by 1 minute run (pick speeds based on fitness level) and aim to complete the distance goal.
Intermediates can reduce recovery time (walking) to 45 or 30 seconds. Adding a slight incline (2 to 4 degrees) will also make it more difficult.
Strength endurance exercises – it’s no secret that stronger legs will increase running performance. By increasing the load capacity of our lower extremities, we make running (or carrying our body) easier. Add some squats, lunges and marching drills to your workout routine to gain more strength in your legs. 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps is the target here.
Plyometrics – jumping, skipping, hopping and bounding will increase your power. This will vastly improve your stride rate and stride length by enhancing the body’s potential force production. After all, running is essentially hopping from one leg to the next, albeit in a very controlled manor, so providing similar stimulus in the gym will yield big performance results!