How to run faster

Usain Bolt at 2012 London Olympics

For inspiration: a picture I took of Usain Bolt prepping for his 100m preliminary in the 2012 London Olympics

For the past several months, I’ve been focused on distance over speed. Now that my long race is over, I’m trying to work on my speed so I can crush my PB at the Sporting Life 10km this year.

In the last week, I’ve run two different 10km routes. Out of curiosity, I decided I would run as fast as I possibly could maintain just to see where I’m at. The first run was about 53 minutes. The second run was 55 minutes. Not terrible… but certainly nowhere close to my goal of 49 minutes.

The most maddening thing was that I felt like I was sprinting. Like a full-on, all-out, Usain Bolt kind of sprint. I felt like anyone that saw me was thinking, “wow, that girl is going super fast!” As it turns out, I wasn’t all that fast.

So I decided I needed to turn to the trusty internet and learn a little more about the things I can do to speed up. Here’s a few suggestions I will try in the coming weeks.

Fartleks

I plan to try a  running technique called “fartleks.” Yes fartleks. Go ahead, snicker. According to several running websites, fartleks are critical for fast racing. What is it, exactly? Well, the word literally means “speed play” in Swedish and it is a form of interval training where you pick up the pace whenever you want, run as fast as you want, and then recover as long as you want. It’s kind of like the way we used to run as kids. Go super fast for a short period of time and then recover, then go super fast again. This style of running helps increase stamina and speed.

Intervals

Intervals can be a fun way to work on speed. My experience with intervals is limited, but basically, you alternate between running fast, and then taking a break or running more slowly as recovery. For example, you can do a track workout, where you go one lap around the track (400m) at your 5km pace, and then one lap more slowly as recovery. You do this 2-3 times. There are lots of variations of interval workouts. I also like this Pyramid workout detailed here.

Hills

Yes, those dreaded hills. Usually I avoid them. I pick routes that are totally flat and if there’s a hill in my way, I can very easily convince myself that that’s the perfect time for a walk break. But the reality is, hill repeats are a pretty effective way to build running strength. The muscles you use when running hills are the same muscles you use for sprinting, so the strength you build will help improve your speed. To do a hill repeat, you just find a fairly steep hill that’s about 100 metres long. Run hard to the top of the hill and then slowly jog back down. Start with 3-4 and then work your way up. I can only do this two or three times before I’m ready to call it quits.

I know being fast isn’t everything. Besides, we all know it was the tortoise that won in the end. But you have to admit, it’s a lot more fun to be the hare. J

Do you have any favourite speed workouts?

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