4 Tips for Building Speed on the Track
You’re bent over the starting blocks, waiting for the sound of the gun to off. When the trigger’s released, you push off the block and peel away from the track, sprinting your way towards the finish line with the wind beneath your wings… until suddenly, you’re passed from behind and a clear victory turns into an unexpected defeat.
If you’ve experienced this, you know how disappointing it feels to get robbed when a win felt so certain. Don’t let it happen again. Use these tips to build speedon the track and ensure you never get suddenly smoked by the competition.
· Start from the Ground Up
You draw explosive power from your connection to the ground, so it only makes sense that you care about what shoes you use as a springboard for your stride. Racing flats and track spikesare the go-to choice for athletes who are looking to pick up the pace. They boast super light, minimalist designs that will never slow you down in weight or cushioning. Spikes are particularly useful for helping runners (in both distance and sprint varieties) maximize traction when rounding turns on the track, surging to pass competitors, and laying down a blistering kick at the finish. You can find offerings from Nike, New Balance, Brooks, and all your favorite brands.
· Don’t Skip Your Strength Training
If you think that the secret to faster speed is in sprint drills alone, think again. While it’s true you need plenty of practice for any competitive racein order to master the proper running form and running economy, the true source of your power will come from pure muscle strength—which means cross-training is a must. Pick up a gym membership and add these exercises to your training schedule:
o Heavy sled drags. These will help you practice efficient acceleration. Make the sled as heavy as your max squat and pull yourself forward by achieving triple extension in the back leg, pulling the knee forward, and driving the foot down for 10-15 yards.
o Bent-knee hip thrusts. In order to develop isometric hamstring strength, begin with your knees at a 10-to 20-degree bend and maintain that angle throughout the entire exercise by contracting your hamstring muscles. Tap and thrust your hips for 10-15 reps per set.
o Glute/ham raises. Hamstrings keep your knee joints stable as force transfers from the hips, plus they assist the glutes in hip extension and slow down the knee extension during the swing phase of your stride. Improve your eccentric strength by performing 3 sets of 8-10 raises, using your arms as little as possible while lowering yourself to the ground as slowly has possible.
· Develop Good Arm Swing Mechanics
Don’t forget about those arms altogether, though! Moving your arms more efficiently is one of the easiest ways to improve your running speed. While running, keep your arms bent at 90-degrees and pump each hand to the front of your face. As you lower your hand, move as though you were about to put your hand in your pocket. If you slouch your shoulders and hunch forward, you’ll slow yourself down.
Practice your body mechanics using the Rev-Up start technique:
o Get into a two-point stance
o Move your arms as if you were running
o Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
o Bend your elbows at 90-degrees
o Practice a few arm swings
o Break away into a sprint focusing on your arm mechanics
· Improve Your Stride Length
Bigger is not always better, friends—especially when it comes to the length of your running stride. Too many runners fall into the mistaken belief that they can cover more ground with a longer stride and while that may be partially true, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be the first one to cross the finish line. By overstriding, you end up striking at the rear of your foot positioned in front of your body (as opposed to beneath your hips, where your foot strike should be).
As a result, you place more stress from shock impact on your joints which leads to injury and results in a loss of energy transfer. At the same time, you don’t want a short and choppy stride, either. Fine tune your cadenceand find your rhythm with the best running form.
Engines, prepare for takeoff! You’ll feel like you’re flying when you apply these speed tips to your next race.