Get Fast Now

You don’t need to be born fast to have fin­ish­ing power. Here’s how you can de­velop it

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Is­sue -

A sim­ple plan to up your pace with­out the strain


De­vel­op­ing that sec­ond re­serve means train­ing your body to re­cruit as many mus­cle fi­bres as pos­si­ble, and learn­ing to use them when you are tired.

Build­ing more mus­cle re­cruit­ment, and thus pure speed, starts with power­based work­outs and ex­plo­sive moves such as all-out sprints of 20-100m, hill blasts (short, steep hills ap­prox­i­mately 25m long) and ply­o­met­rics. This kind of work is tax­ing – it needs to be done in a re­freshed state at the be­gin­ning of the work­out and with full re­cov­er­ies be­tween each re­peat. This isn’t aer­o­bic con­di­tion­ing; you shouldn’t be breath­ing hard be­fore start­ing an­other sprint. Aim for one day a week ded­i­cated solely to your speed de­vel­op­ment.

A ply­o­met­ric rou­tine (see Fast-fin­ish Moves, right) can be done two or three times a week, af­ter one of your hard work­outs, but not on re­cov­ery days. You want to keep every­thing hard on one day so you can have true re­cov­ery days. Lance Walker, global di­rec­tor of per­for­mance with Michael John­son Per­for­mance, rec­om­mends sin­gle-leg hops and the split-squat jump. He’s also a fan of what he calls ‘re­ac­tive-re­sponse ply­o­met­rics’, aimed at re­duc­ing the foot’s con­tact time with the ground; ex­am­ples are dy­namic A-skips and pogo jumps. Af­ter speed is de­vel­oped through these meth­ods it’s time to move on to work­outs that mix speed with fa­tigue-in­duc­ing el­e­ments. TRY THESE:


Do 4-6 x 500m re­peats, with the first 200m at 5K pace or faster, straight to 100m of bound­ing – ex­ag­ger­ated long strides, driv­ing off the back leg and lift­ing the front knee as high as you can – then a 200m kick fin­ish. ‘The bound­ing in­creases force re­quire­ment and thus mus­cle-fi­bre re­cruit­ment, and then you’ve got to use that dur­ing the fi­nal kick,’ says Mag­ness.


Run 4-6 x 800m with 3:00 rest. For each rep, run the first 400m at 10K pace, the next 300m at 5K pace and the last 100m at mile pace.


Coster’s work­outs fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing a gear faster than race pace. Ath­letes per­form race-pace work­outs for dis­tances one or two events shorter than their goal race (eg, marathon­ers aim for 10K race pace dur­ing 800m-to-one-mile re­peats). Sim­i­larly, spend­ing a train­ing sea­son aimed at a race a step faster than your usual goal will im­prove your kick. Coster’s 5000m run­ners fo­cus on 1500m train­ing for a pe­riod of time, ei­ther a full sea­son or as a tune-up race be­fore their 5000m event.

An ad­vanced op­tion is to com­bine strength and ply­o­met­rics with run­ning in a cir­cuit-style work­out – for ex­am­ple, run 100m of strides be­tween sets of squats and lunges. ‘Do­ing the strength ex­er­cises forces mus­cle re­cruit­ment and then you learn to use it when run­ning,’ says Mag­ness.

Ath­letes want­ing to run faster to­ward the end of a race of­ten try to force a kick. This causes them to tense up, change their gait and slow them­selves down. In or­der to run faster, try to re­lax. ‘Shake it out,’ says Mag­ness. ‘One of the best things you can do is to just drop the arms, open up the hands and shake them out for a sec­ond.’ The neck, shoul­ders and jaw are ar­eas li­able to har­bour ten­sion; take a deep, yawn­ing breath with your mouth wide open and make sure your neck isn’t cran­ing for­ward. Keep your breath­ing con­trolled, don’t let your­self over­stride and aim for faster turnover.

In­stead of ob­sess­ing over times and splits, move your fo­cus to sus­tain­ing the ef­fort, re­main­ing calm and con­trolled, and en­vi­sion­ing your legs push­ing off the ground and ex­plod­ing with each stride. Stay­ing relaxed when fa­tigued is a skill that, just like any other, needs to be prac­tised. Many run­ners find that af­ter putting all the in­gre­di­ents to­gether, the kick comes nat­u­rally when the time comes to use it.

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