Greg Laraia, ATC
This is a super common and great question in the running world. To be honest, there isn’t one straightforward answer, which kinda sucks. We all want the simple solution that makes all of this happen. Unfortunately in this case it takes a little bit of time, but the cool thing is that you can do it.
Here are a few of my tips to work on improving speed.
Strides: Add strides during or after your runs. This is one of the easiest things you can do to help improve your strength, speed and efficiency. A stride is a hard effort burst that usually lasts between 15-30 seconds. Start nice and easy, work up to a top end speed, then slow back down controlling your speed. The goal is to focus on your form and to feel comfortable with increasing speed and maintaining solid mechanics at the end of a run. I usually recommend a basic 4×15-20 second strides after easy run days, to get the legs moving and opened up. The goal is to teach your body how to open up and feel more comfortable while doing it. Boom Speed!
Strength: Work on improving your strength, specifically through running movements. I’m not saying to only focus on running drills or movements. Most runners need a ton of lateral stability to help improve gait mechanics. So, that is where you start. Focus on small things that you might not be good at, like stability at the hip and ankle. This will help improve your ability to put power to the ground efficiently; then build into bigger movements where you are actually moving weight to improve power itself. If you are stronger you will be able to push off each foot harder creating a higher ground reaction force. Boom Speed!
Form: Running mechanics is one of my favorite pieces to the puzzle. It’s super simple but very different at the same time. There are a lot of moving parts in the body while you run, but if you focus on them and create balance on both sides, you will be able to move your center of mass forward faster. Focusing on things like a more efficient arm pump and reducing over stride are two huge pieces that will build efficiency. You can also look at core and hip control to improve the springiness of your stride. If you can reduce the amount of lateral shift or eccentric load through your stride, you will improve speed. Your best take away from this is to get a running evaluation because not everybody runs the same and not every running cue works for every person. The more efficient you run the faster you will be. Boom Speed!