Tag Archives: speed work

4 Keys to Running Faster

Ultimately the goal of any runner who wants to hit a competitive goal, from breaking a 2 hour half marathon to nailing a sub-15 minute 5k, will have to work on having quicker feet.  Running faster is hard work and can sometimes become frustrating.  Here are four key elements to becoming a speedier runner and hitting your next racing goal.running faster

Form.  Running faster than you currently do is hard work.  It’s even harder if your elbows are swinging way out, you’re heel striking or breaking at the hip.  Developing proper posture, a mid-foot landing and solid turnover can be the first step in running faster.  Having good form should be the base of any quality program and since we all move a little bit differently, it’s a good idea to get together with a coach for a gait analysis before making any drastic changes.

Turnover.  Moving your feet faster, increasing cadence and stopping overstriding will help two things.  First it can decrease your risk of injury.  Increased turnover can help stop heel striking, meaning your foot spends less time on the ground, and it’s hard to get injured in the air.  Second, it can make you faster and more efficient.  Elite distance runners have an average cadence or step rate of 180 steps per minute reaching upwards to 220spm in elite sprint races while less experienced runners can hover around 165.  Getting out there with a metronome to help you find your current beat then trying to stay on it as you increase the speed for several 100M striders is a great way to start upping your turnover and get used to running faster.

Power.  The more power you put into the ground with each step, the more will be returned to your legs for the next one.  Strength training is the best way to build power.  Exercises like box jumps and jump rope mimic the muscle needs you have when running.  Sit-ups and push-ups are great for posture and mid-line stability.  Sprinting up hills and squatting under loads (with supervision) will build legs that are ready to race.

Practice.  To run fast, you have to run faster.  If you want to run a 2 hour half marathon, 9:09/mile pace, you’ll need to spend some time training faster.  Building VO2Max, improving form and increasing turnover all come from getting out there and pushing yourself hard.  Interval and tempo sessions are the best way to work on these things and need to be included in each week’s training plan.

Find a coach to help you get started and you’ll be running faster by the end of this training cycle.

Coach Meredith

Why Running Cadence Matters

Everyone has heard the word ‘cadence’ at one time or another and those who run or race regularly have probably heard it during a conversation about running.  Cadence is defined as “the beat, rate, or measure of rhythmic movement.”   Your running cadence is the rate at which your feet hit the ground, typically in steps per minute (spm) measured with one foot.  The magic running cadence number seems to be 90spm counted on one foot and while elite runners can have cadences that reach to or even past 120spm, it’s important to remember every runner is an individual and this value can vary.

Why does it matter?  Higher running cadences are associated with lower ground contact times, reduced lower body stress, decreased injury rates and increased running economy.  All of those reasons mean that whether your base running cadence is 65spm or 80spm, you can benefit from working on picking your feet up faster.  The many possible sources of longer contact times are beyond the scope of this article, but the results are the same.  The time your foot spends on the ground is seen as rest and long contact times are often associated with injuries like shin running  cadence (strideuk.com)splints and stress fractures.  While resting feels good, it isn’t the best way to get from Point A to Point B in a timely manner, especially when those points are a Start and Finish line, or stay injury free.  In the end, a lower running cadence mean longer ground contact times, more rest, more potential for injury and slower race times.

So how do you decrease contact time, lower your risk of injury and clock faster race times?  Work on increasing your cadence.  The best way to start raising your running cadence is by using a metronome.  These devices create a beep, tone or click at a predetermined rate, giving you a steady, constant rhythm to train with.  When using a metronome to keep your cadence, it can be easier to choose a single foot, divide your desired cadence by two and concentrate on getting one foot on the ground with the beat.  If one leg is hitting it, the other will follow suit, keeping you in rhythm without lots of distracting noise.  Want more than a click?  There are also phone apps that will do the job and playlists that feature songs at your desired number of beats per minute available, too.

Start cadence training by establishing your initial running cadence.  Count right foot falls for 15 seconds and multiply by four.  Add 5% to this number and set your metronome to it for your first series of drills.  Pick up the beat while running in place, then take off for 200-400 meters, seeing if you can stay with it.  Continue to work in short intervals until you can stay with the beat through the whole thing.  Gradually make your intervals longer and don’t be afraid to really get those feet moving by working at cadences 10-15% higher than your comfort level for short periods of time.

Increasing your cadence can be hard work but in the end it will make you a faster, more efficient runner.

Coach Meredith

5 Reasons to Do Interval Training

Interval training is an important part of any training plan.  Whether you practice high intensity interval training (HIIT) in the gym or speed work sessions on the track, interval training has many benefits for any level athlete.  Here are 5 reasons you’ll want to include interval training in your event preparation plan.interval training

  • You’ll burn more calories.  The challenge of a tough interval workout burns more calories than a steady state run but your body will also by busy burning calories to repair damaged muscles for hours following the session.
  • Intervals increase lactic acid threshold.  Produced by anaerobic activity during high intensity activity, lactic acid needs to be broken down for muscles to function properly.  Trading moments of lactic acid build up with lactic acid breakdown teaches the body to become more efficient at breaking lactic acid down.  This results in the body adapting to handle higher levels of activity for longer periods of time before becoming fatigued.
  • Intervals have been proven to increase fat-free mass, aerobic power, blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity.  They also provide a massive increase in human growth hormone (HGH) which is responsible for increased caloric burn and can help slow the aging process.
  • You’ll break through a barrier.  If it’s weight loss, the additional calorie burn from an interval workout can help.  If you’re looking to run or cycle faster, the increased rate of turnover during a fast interval can get your body get used to moving those legs fast.  If you want to be able to work at a steady state for a longer time, the benefits to your cardiovascular system will make longer, slower efforts easier.
  • Intervals are fun!  Using varied interval workouts prevents boredom and is a great way to judge progress.  You can do high intensity training anywhere, with or without equipment and without a big time commitment.  A thirty minute high intensity interval workout will garner the same benefits as a two hour long steady state endurance workout.

Everyone can reap benefits from interval training. Need help adding interval training to your plan?  Ask us!

Coach Meredith

How to Use Timed Runs

There are lots of methods people use when training for a race.  Whether a 5K, 10K, half marathon or Iron Man, every runner has a different program, but the goal of each program is the same: finish in less time than I did before.  To reach this goal, every runner needs to run for time.  There are different types of timed runs out there, and each one serves a different purpose.  Short times runs, tempo runs, and distance runs can all fall into the timed run family and each one is valuable to any training program.

Short timed runs serve as benchmarks and baselines, giving you a sense of what your race pace will be by letting you know what kind of pace you can maintain over a period of time.  They are a great way to evaluate improvement in your fitness level and give you an idea of what your next goal should be.

Tempo runs are used to increase lactic acid threshold, or the point at which muscles feel fatigue.  They accomplish this by teaching to body to work when it’s already tired.  Tempo runs start with an easy pace to warm up then slowly increase to reach 10K pace for a short time in the middle, before finishing with another block of easy running.  A 30 minute tempo run would consist of 10 minutes warm up, ten minutes at a comfortably hard pace, with a peak at 10K pace around 15 minutes, then finish up with 10 minutes of easy running.

Your long timed run is there to make sure you can finish your race.  To be successful, determine how long your longest timed run should be, estimate the time it will take you to finish your race.  If you’re racing 13.1 miles and comfortably run 9 minute miles, you can guess you’ll finish in about two hours.  Your timed runs should build up so your body is ready to work for two hours.  If your body isn’t prepared to ahead of time to work for the amount of time it’s going to take you to finish, the end of your race will be tough both physically and mentally.

No matter what flavor of timed run you plan on doing, they are a great tool when you travel.  Running for time means you don’t have to measure new routes or waste time on the internet finding something, or somewhere, that’s already been measured, giving you more time to relax.  Running for a predetermined time is also perfect on days when you don’t feel 100%.  You can run for 45 minutes without caring how far you go or worrying you didn’t get a good enough workout in because you know did what you set out to do.

Have questions about running for time or training for your next race?  Contact us at Info@FitNicePT.com!