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3 Reasons You’re Not Running as Fast as You Want to Be

performance running Feb 07, 2022
Run Fast

Are you putting in the hard work and running but can’t seem to run faster?

A common goal among runners is to improve their speed. This means you are a better runner, right? Same distance over a shorter time frame.

Many runners simply think it is enough to run longer distances, or to increase their running speed by a few seconds or even a minute during some of their long runs. This may not actually lead to the speed improvements you are looking for.

Runners can get stagnant and burnt out after piling on miles and miles of training. However, most running plans found online (and many programmed specifically for you) can lack a few key variables to really get you faster.

Getting faster isn’t easy. It takes hard work and dedication. Here are 3 common reasons why you’re not running as fast as you want to be:

1. Not doing intervals (or the right intervals)

How often are you sprinting? I don’t mean running fast, but an all out sprint like a 100-m race. The mechanics of running fast are tied to your muscles and your nervous system. If you are not training both systems by moving at a very fast pace, then you won’t see a change.

This is where interval training comes into play. This has long been established in the training programs for Olympic runners. Intervals will allow you to run shorter distances at a faster pace with short breaks to allow you to cover a greater distance at a greater speed. We like to see shorter bursts of speed, so try to avoid 800 meter or longer intervals. You could do intervals based on time (2 x 30 seconds, 4 x 20 seconds, 6 x 10 seconds) or based on distance (4 x 400 meters, 4 x 100 meters).

Interval training should be done at least once per week (preferably 2) if you are serious about running. You need to show your body what it is like to run fast, often.

2. Running too fast for too long

Okay, yes you need to run faster for longer to be able to improve your speed. My point is that you shouldn’t always run fast. You will need training days at race pace, days at a sprinting pace, and recovery days. Your recovery days will typically be moderate to long distance runs at a casual pace. Recovery is critical for good runners (even bad runners), but failing to have recovery days will hinder both your recovery and your overall performance.

If you like to be more particular, then your recovery runs should be in zone 2 (60-70% of max heart rate). These are very slow runs and some people may border on a walking pace. Training at various heart rate zones is fundamental in building your running capacity. This strategy is used by the world’s top runners. You should be able to hold a conversation at this pace without labored breathing.

3. Not doing strength training

Most runners hate strength training. It’s not uncommon to get an eye roll when telling a runner they need to get stronger. Strength training will improve your tissue’s capacity to handle load. This helps to prevent injuries and, you guessed it, run faster. Resistance training can also improve your running mechanics.

You should work on full body strength to stay balanced. The recommendation here is to strength train 2-3 days per week. You can be successful with shorter, 30 minute bouts of strength training if done properly. You can add these sessions onto your recovery run days.

Functional strength is more important than bodybuilding for the runner. For this reason, you should strongly consider squats, deadlifts, presses, carries, and core exercises. Prioritize free weights over machines. You should also make sure to include single leg exercises, such as pistol squats, split squats, and single leg RDLs since running occurs on one leg at a time. Most exercises should be performed over 3-5 sets and reach fatigue in the last set or two.

In case you haven’t noticed, the secret to running fast is actually running less distance. You can still run at high volume, but you need to take some time away from long runs to incorporate short sprints and strength training.

Corey Hall, PT, DPT

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