3 expert tips to improve your speed
Whether you’re a long-time running fan, someone who picked up the habit during lockdown, or someone new to the sport, the question of how to develop running speed is quite common.
Since I’ve never run a mile at anything considered a “fast” speed, I reached out to an expert for some advice here. Samantha Shearman is a physical therapist, sports scientist, founder of the 10 Weeks to Stronger Running app, and ambassador for the UA All Out Mile Challenge.
If you’re wondering, the UA All Out Mile is a common international challenge (lol) of June 1 to June 5 in which you are asked to attempt a 1 mile or 1.6 km run, using UA MapMyRun, at your fastest speed. You can attempt it as many times as you want during the challenge period and your best time will be recorded in the leaderboard.
For those looking to improve their running speed or train before the All Out Mile competition, here are Shearman’s top tips.
How to improve running speed
High Intensity Interval Workouts Are Your Friend
Via email, Shearman explained that “ITo run a mile faster, a runner needs to train both their anaerobic system (which provides short-term explosive energy) and their aerobic system (which uses oxygen to provide energy, think of it as our engine).
She suggested introducing workout styles into your workout as below:
- Fartlek sessions – eg continuous running with periods of faster running
- Speed intervals – for example, maintain a fast pace for a short period of time, with full rest in between
- Hill reps – e.g. repeat running intervals on a difficult gill
- Tempo sessions – eg continuous running at an intensity between our aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. This is about 85-90% of maximum heart rate.
It’s important to remember here, though, that while high-intensity training is important for increasing speed, so is adequate rest. Shearman said that “a runner should also include easy and steady sessions” in their training program “to develop their aerobic base”.
“Building a strong aerobic base can also improve high-intensity performance because it increases your VO2max (maximum amount of oxygen consumed by the body), lactate threshold (the point where lactate begins to build up in the blood ) and running economy (how efficiently the body uses oxygen),” she added.
Don’t Skip Strength Training
We’ve written about the power of strength training for running before, and Shearman certainly agrees.
“Research shows that runners benefit from lifting low-repetition high loads to improve their running performance,” she said.
She explained that things like generating more power, increased muscle stimulation and coordination, and better elastic energy “lead to a more powerful stride” for runners.
“Strength training has been shown to improve time trial performance in runners, just as we improve running economy. Importantly, it can help reduce the risk of injury,” Shearman pointed out.
When introducing strength training as a way to help increase your speed when running, Shearman suggested two sessions per week using “compound movements such as squats and deadlifts, single leg exercises to improve stability – and make sure you never neglect the calves.
Don’t forget the warm-up
Ah, the most overlooked element of fitness ever (except for a cool down, perhaps).
Here, Shearman said that “tThe final piece of the puzzle is making sure you’re warming up enough so your body can perform at its best when running for speed.
“Warming up wakes up the nervous system, elevates your heart rate, improves joint range of motion, muscle temperature, and tendon elasticity so your body is ready to perform at full capacity right from the start,” he said. she explains.
If you need advice on where to start your warm-up, she suggested:
- Light jogging (10-15 min)
- Dynamic stretches: such as leg swings, hip openers, dynamic walking lunges
- Running technique exercises: such as A-Skip, Bottom Kicks, High Knees
- Stride: short accelerations of 50 to 100 m reaching 95% of the maximum speed
Now go ahead and get yourself a PB. Oh, and if you need some new running shoes, check out this review we wrote a while back.