Oftentimes for beginner runners, their primary concern is to build a solid foundation in stamina to sustain long runs. However, for experienced runners who’ve built a good endurance and reached a plateau, it’s time to take it up a notch and pursue running on the next level — increasing your speed/pace. There is no clear cut way when it comes to improving one’s lap time or overall speed. Nonetheless, there are multiple methods to go about achieving these objectives.
1. When the Going Gets Tough
The tough gets going in times of challenges. Stepping out of your comfort zone will never be easy or simple. It takes tenacity and determination to persevere through the awkward phases of discomfort as you gradually acclimatize to your new circumstances — the same with attempting to increase your pace.
Naturally, running faster than normal would be uncomfortable and tiring, inducing breathlessness and fatigue quicker and possibly resulting in more intense muscle soreness. Although it might seem daunting at first, have faith in yourself and your capabilities and just boldly run. Nobody is an expert from the get-go, it requires time and patience to slowly build to cultivate one’s prowess.
2. Training Your Form and Strides
In order to run optimally, form is very crucial. The difference between good and poor form can mean a difference of seconds or even minutes off lap times. Adjusting one’s posture and strides to cover greater mileage less strenuously and more efficiently is important to distribute your energy more evenly throughout the duration of the run.
In a nutshell, good posture entails relaxing your shoulders and swinging your arms naturally in tandem with your strides. Now in terms of strides, the main focal point involves your stride turnover. The more you increase your stride turnover, the faster your pace will be.
To determine your stride turnover rate, double the number of times your right foot lands on the ground in 30 seconds at your 5K race pace. The typical rate for seasoned runners is roughly 180. For new runners, this number is significantly lower. Hence, in order to improve your stride turnover rate, practice consecutively sprinting and jogging (for recovery) at 30-second intervals each set. Repeat this set approximately five to eight times, pushing your stride turnover limit further each interval. Increased turnover rates would lead to more effective runs in the long run.
3. Tempo Runs
Tempo runs are useful for progressing one’s anaerobic threshold or lactic acid tolerance. After a certain point in intensity, the muscle cells can no longer respire aerobically and switch to anaerobic respiration to fuel the body with energy instead. At this stage, it becomes difficult to sustain running continuously. Therefore, by practicing tempo runs, it can prolong stamina or deter the onset of anaerobic respiration later.
To practice tempo run, run at a comfortably hard pace (10K pace) for five to ten minutes before slowing down your pace to about ten seconds slower for the next fifteen to twenty minutes. Cooldown for the remaining five to ten minutes. In total, your tempo run should last anywhere between 25 minutes and 40 minutes.
4. Interval Training
Similar to the popular HIIT workouts trending these days, interval training is also relevant to running for training speed. An example of running intervals would comprise a five- to ten-minute warm-up followed by alternating intervals of 400-meter laps of differing speeds. Basically, run one 400-meter lap at your 5K pace before recovering with a jog during the next lap. This is one set. For beginners, repeat these sets at least three times if able. If your endurance is better, feel free to repeat the sets five or six times.
Although the 400-meter laps are a rough gauge, there are multiple variations to these sets such as 800-meter and 1.6K laps. Select the appropriate interval intensity according to your own fitness level.
5. Speed Play
Otherwise known as “fartlek” in Swedish, speed play is exactly what it sounds like. It involves quick, spontaneous bursts of speed varied with distance. While running on the streets, utilize the street amenities like lamp posts or telephone poles to mark your distance intervals.
Alternatively, music when deconstructed is also a great resource for “marking” duration and distance. Thus, instead of sprinting and recovering for a fixed distance or duration, you can do so for a selected number of markers. Or for music, assign song sections like bridges or choruses for your sprinting and recovery.
These tips are especially useful for those without access to a track, treadmill, or measured space to calculate distance accurately.
6. Traversing Hills
Now, this comes as no surprise but environmental resistances such as incline can serve as effective tools in attaining fast and marked improvements. Hills are one of nature’s greatest assets for resistance training in running given the varying inclines.
By capitalizing on a hill’s upslope and downslope, it conditions your body to gravity’s resistance. We recommend finding a 100- to 200-meters hill with a moderate incline to achieve the best results. Simply sprint up the hill whilst maintaining form and distributing energy evenly. Subsequently, recover by walking back downhill before repeating this set for about three to six times. Aim to increase the number of set reps by one each week.
Although the moving treadmill belt offers little to no frictional resistance or environmental obstructions as opposed to outdoor running, it still has merits. Perhaps one of the most beneficial merits of using treadmills would be its precision in customizing training settings.
Treadmills allow users to set specific inclines and speeds to force the body to match the steepness and pace accordingly. In particular, the forced increase in speed helps train and regulate pace better, facilitating better results in stride turnover rates.
While there are many fitness articles on the internet pertaining to running, few actually offer concrete, certified training methods to increase one’s running economy. They typically offer vague and undetailed tips without explaining the scientific merit underlying these methods. Thus, hopefully through this article, you’ve gained new and unique insights on unheard training methods you’ve not been exposed to prior. Remember, training is a highly-personalised process and it requires several trials before finding the most effective methods. Therefore, it’s important to research and be informed on as many methods as possible to customise your training regime.