Slow and steady wins the race? Maybe there’s some truth behind that statement, but what if you could increase your speed and still win the race? If you’ve been pushing yourself to the limit but can’t seem to improve your time, you may not be doing it right. Even the smallest of mistakes can hinder your performance, so let’s take a look at how to increase speed the right way.
Choose the Best Pre-Workout Snack
What you eat and when you eat it can make or break your run. Don’t let yourself get slowed down by a nagging cramp that just won’t go away; choose wisely and fuel your body for improved performance!
- You don’t want to weigh yourself down with a lot of food. Remember: this is a snack, not a meal. Choose something to nibble on about an hour or 30 minutes before you run, and try to keep it under 250 calories. Make sure to drink a glass of water or two with your snack to ensure that you remain hydrated.
- Focus on carbs, but make sure its a good mix of both simple and complex. You want to be able to easily digest your food while gaining lasting energy. Good sources of complex carbs include whole grain bread, beans, oatmeal and carrots. You can get your simple carbs from bananas, yogurt or a fruit spread (without high fructose corn syrup)! Avoid getting carbs from refined, processed or sugary snack foods. Try oatmeal with fresh fruit or a piece of whole grain bread topped with peanut butter and banana.
- Don’t forget your protein! Protein helps build strong muscles, so you’ll need that peanut butter to reap the most benefits. Other good sources of pre-workout protein are nuts, eggs or cottage cheese.
- While you’re at it, what you eat after your workout is just as important as what you eat before.
Stretch Those Limbs
It’s important to loosen up your muscles before running, but make sure you’re doing it correctly. Dynamic stretching will help you run faster than static stretching. What’s the difference? Static stretching is probably what you’re used to: you stretch a body part to a certain position, and then you hold it in that position for a certain length of time. When dynamic stretching, you don’t hold your body in any position for extended periods of time. You’re moving while you stretch, which exercises your muscles and gets your blood pumping at the same time.
Increase the Length of Your Run
When training, increase the length of your run once a week. On this longer run, don’t focus so much on your speed as much as your ability to run at the same pace the entire time. This longer run once a week will help improve your endurance, get your cardiovascular system in shape and keep you focused.
Don’t Stay on Flat Ground
It should go without saying that running three miles uphill is more challenging than running three miles on flat ground. While you certainly shouldn’t only be running uphill, try to make a steep uphill run part of your weekly routine. This run will help develop muscles that aren’t focused on as intensely during flat runs and will challenge your cardiovascular system. Give it your all as you’re running uphill and then let yourself jog down the rest of the way.
In order to properly develop your muscles, you’ll need to make sure you’re running consistently. Think you can take a week off to lay on the beach and drink piña coladas instead of training? Unfortunately, doing this will put you right back at square one. Does this mean you can’t take one day off a week to let your muscles rest? Of course not! You need time to recuperate every once in a while, but make sure you don’t take off too much time. When you’re not actively training, try to add in a couple of stretches or a light jog each day to keep your muscles healthy and strong.
Although you should be exercising every day, it’s good to alternate between hard days and easy days. If you are actively training on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, then Monday, Wednesday and Friday should be focused on shorter runs and other forms of muscle development such as weight lifting or yoga. Remember: one of the days you’re actively training should include a longer run! Alternating intensities helps build muscle faster than remaining at a constant intensity all week.
Don’t Forget to Warm Up!
It’s important to get blood flowing throughout your body before jumping straight into an intense run. Start by stretching, then walk for 5-10 minutes followed by a light jog, and then finally get into your run for the day. It’s kind of like getting your brain warmed up for the day. If you’re a coffee drinker, could you dive right into work after waking up without having that cup (or three) of coffee? Didn’t think so.
Quite Simply, Run Faster
That is to say, you should add some sprints into your runs. How will you ever train your body to run faster if you don’t try to run faster? While sprinting shouldn’t make up the entirety of your run, try starting slow, sprinting for 30 seconds, and then slowing down again. Or run as you usually do and sprint the last 30 seconds of your run. By adding a sprint into a couple of your runs a week, you’ll help train your body to handle running at a faster speed.
Plyometrics are Your Friends
If you think about it, running is a little like jumping. You’re pushing off with your feet, except instead of going straight up you’re going forward. Because of this, it’s important to add some jumping exercises into your daily routine. After each run, do 5-10 minutes of plyometrics (which are jumping exercises) in order to increase your durability and endurance.
It Isn’t a Competition!
If you’re training for a competition, you’re shaking your head at me right now saying “but it is a competition”. When training, it’s important not to compare yourself to others. Your muscles are your own, and you shouldn’t push them harder than you know they should be pushed. If you feel like you need a day off, take a day off. If you need to run a little slower, run a little slower. By keeping with a routine and pushing yourself as far as you can comfortably go without hurting yourself, you’ll notice your speed increasing little by little. Soon enough, you’ll be outrunning your competition with no problem.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and show ’em what you’ve got!