How To Become A Faster Runner
A question that is so often asked by people is, “how do I become a faster sprinter or runner”, but no simple fix seems to be given that will genuinely help them, rather a whole bunch of over complicated drills, skills and gimmicks is offered. Don’t get me wrong there is a time and a place for complex drills and skills in speed development, but when someone asks me for a way that they can enhance their speed, I give them the 2 simplest methods that can be used to enhance this capacity. In short I tell them to run fast and get strong!
To develop any physical capacity, it needs to be isolated or specifically targeted and pushed maximally or overloaded. For example, if someone wishes to get strong, the best solution is to lift heavy (obviously, the term heavy being relative). If you are training to become the next world’s strongest man, you are not going to do 4 sets of 15 repetitions at 60% of your max. It is all about being specific to your target, so if you are trying to develop maximal speed, you need to ensure that you have sessions in your week that include maximal velocity running. So often people over complicate methods to becoming faster that they forget to sprint maximally to develop their speed. This is not to say that there should not be days where you are working at lower intensities to target different factors associated with sprinting, i.e. skills or anaerobic thresholds. While sprint technique will help with sprint velocity at the top end of the spectrum by small percentages, it will be of absolutely no significance if there is no focus on reaching maximal velocity in any of your training sessions.
This leads me onto my next point, you can have the perfect sprinting technique and to do every single drill and skill perfectly and still be a slow sprinter, or a sprinter who never gets faster. Sprinting is all about the application of force into the floor to propel the body upwards and forwards. It follows along with Newtons 3rd law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If your body does not have the capacity to put force into the ground to propel the body upwards and forwards, you will never be fast. This is where getting stronger helps! So often you hear people say that if you lift weights you become slower, this may potentially be the case if you train like a body builder and isolate muscles to look aesthetically good, instead of training the body as a system, the way it functions. If you are training specifically for strength development and training using exercises which replicate running, I ensure you that it will not make you slower. In fact, if you are someone who has a zero baseline of strength, you will see dramatic improvements in your sprinting speed, by implementing strength training into your programme.
These are 2 of the most simple, but yet overlooked means that can be used to improve your running speed as a beginner to intermediate athlete. Only once an athlete has a relatively good base strength and simple jump-landing mechanics, they should start focussing on more advanced methods, such as plyometric and explosive training, as well as many of the skills and drills commonly associated with speed development. I don’t mean to say that basic plyometric ability and explosive development should not be incorporated into a beginner’s programme, however, it should not be the main aim or emphasis at all, until a very good base line strength capacity has been developed.
If you are an athlete looking to develop running speed, here is a 2-week speed development programme to get you started.