Workouts to Run Faster

Workouts to Run Faster

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Training to become a blur on the track differs from long-distance training.

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Running is perhaps the purest of all popular sports in that it involves no special equipment or implements; it is a simple test of your ability to cover ground as quickly as possible. This might mean maximizing all-out sprint speed or training yourself to hold the fastest pace you can over a longer distance such as 5K, 10K or the 26-mile marathon. Tried-and-true workouts can help you make the most of your natural gifts so you can run faster.

Sprint Workouts for Speed

Longtime UK athletics coach Brian MacKenzie stresses that improving all-out sprint speed requires not only repeated bouts of sprinting -- usually over distances shorter than your goal event -- but also a focus on strength, flexibility, form and technique. For example, the heart of a workout might be two sets of four repetitions of a distance between 30 and 100 meters, but you also need to be conscious of your form: Run tall, relax your shoulders, and land on the balls of your feet. Practice starts using starting blocks, and weight-train under the guidance of an experienced strength coach.

Endurance Counts, Too

If "running faster" to you means improving your time in races 800 meters and longer, then the majority of your training should consist of distance runs of up to 10 miles or so done at an easy to moderate pace. About once a week, however, you need to do race-pace work the prepare both mind and body for the rigors of racing. According to Competitor Running, such workouts might include strides, which are near-sprints lasting about 20 seconds; fartlek, which is variable-pace running over hilly, off-road terrain; and interval sessions, in which you run segments of about 200 to 1,600 meters at close to your 5K race pace, with rest periods lasting half the duration of the work bout in between.

Hill Training for a Challenge

Hill running has been called "speed training in disguise," and with good reason. Running uphill strongly recruits the muscles most involved with power development and allows you to develop a more efficient stride overall, both of which contribute to greater all-out and sustained speed. Elite running coach Brad Hudson advises runners to start your hill training with just a couple of eight-second sprints up a steep incline at the end of an easy run. Each week, do two such hill sessions, increasing the number of repeats by two every week until you reach 10 to 12 reps.

Supplementary Training Tactics

The physiological principle of specificity implies that the surest route to becoming faster is to practice running faster as often as your body allows. That said, there are well-established, non-running workouts you can do a few times a week that can help make you both quicker and stronger. MacKenzie advises that runners -- especially sprinters -- do plyometric drills such as drop jumping, bounding, single- and double-leg hops, and using a medicine ball to increase both your strength and your range of motion.