Many first-time runners focus more on pounding the streets day after day without giving much thought to their overall health or the involved biomechanics. However, understanding the biomechanics involved behind running can help first-timers, recreational runners and seasoned professionals alike in improving their performance and running speed. If you too are looking to improve your running efficiency and speed, here are four important speed training techniques that you must keep in mind.
Make Your Ankles Stronger
Often, runners lack the necessary mobility and strength in their ankles, which in turn, prevents the ankle joint to generate appropriate speed. This happens because the structure of ankle joints doesn’t allow them to complete their natural range of motion back and forth. The calf muscles too, are often tight and require more flexibility in above cases. The good news, however, is ankles can develop more speed and flexibility - more than most runners realize.
There are various ankle drills, which can be incorporated into workouts to help increase the joint strength and mobility. These drills include:
Ankle circles (30 seconds per foot)
Straight-leg calf stretch (hold position for 30 seconds before repeating 3 times per leg)
Bent-knee calf stretch (hold position for 30 seconds before repeating 3 times per leg)
Standing calf raises (2 sets of 30 raises each)
Standing squat jumps (2 sets of 25 jumps each)
Ankle bounces (3 sets of 25 jumps each)
Keep Your Knees High
Top running coaches and professional runners around the world insist upon lifting the knees up to the hip level while making forward strides. This running action helps make your run more efficient without causing unnecessary stress on the torso. Furthermore, it allows you to stretch your stride more and enable you to bring the foot up high behind, therefore, shortening the lever established by the knee joint.
First, you need to start doing some high-knees, on-spot running, then repeat the high-knee drills described below, two to three times over a distance of 30 meters:
High-knee toe up
Full effort high-knees
High-knees skipping march
Run Tall, and Not Slouched
Slouched shoulders are common in runners who spend a major portion of their day slouched in front of a computer. Running with such an inefficient form is ideal for running fast. As runners, therefore, you need to try and make yourselves six inches (or 15 cm) taller when speeding up. Running tall means you have to keep an upright posture, with your back straight and head up. You also need to ensure that your chin is always parallel to the ground.
To develop such running form, you can repeat the exercises below for two to three times over a distance of 50 meters while focusing on running light and tall:
Running on toes
Running on toes into strides
The pace of Running? Mix it Up
If you are looking to improve your maximum running speed, then running flat out during every workout might not be a great idea! It may sound counterintuitive; however, easy runs allow us to build speed better and develop base endurance.
Therefore, you need to change up your speeds while running. Alternatively, you can choose to mix things up with:
an easy endurance run
a tempo run
some speed work such as intervals
(All photographs are courtesy of the original owners unless otherwise indicated)
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