by Team Snapbac
Running may very well be the world’s most loved solo sport, whether breaking world records for speed, testing human endurance, or competing against one or one-hundred. We love to run! It begins as children racing around the schoolyard and grows into something we feel compelled to do every day. For some, it may be a fitness routine that conveniently follows them wherever they go. Others prefer a little competition in their beloved exercise and take on races and marathons for charity, entertainment and personal challenge. For the adventurous sort, they may spice up the daily jog with mud races or obstacle courses putting their overall health and endurance to the test. Then there are the select few whose feet gave them freedom and purpose from the very beginning, and they have made running into a profession. Mo Farah, Eliud Kipchoge, Meseret Defar, Molly Huddle and Galen Rupp are just a few names who have elevated running into a miraculous feat of the human body! If you love to run and have been thinking about your local marathon or perhaps you already compete regularly, we have some great running exercises and tips to help you increase your speed, build endurance and get ready to cross that finish line!
The first two training techniques on our list will help you increase your overall speed and boost your performance. These are great for every runner even if your preference is long-distance. Speed training can often be overlooked when preparing for cross-country, marathons or endurance treks. Steady and strong takes precedence until that last leg when only you and your neck and neck rival are hurtling towards the end. Then you draw on your deep reservoir of strength and energy to push as hard and fast as you can to claim the win. This is the moment you will be grateful for your speed training as you blaze past the competition, your muscles and form on point to make you fly!
If you’ve spent any time running, you have heard this term, however you may not fully understand it’s meaning or what it can do for you! If you run sprints or speed dashes, tempo runs are most likely not part of your routine as they seem to benefit long-distance runners more, however all runners benefit from higher lactate thresholds, and that is the point of the tempo run. For this reason, it is also called anaerobic or lactate threshold training. You will not actually be working with speed on this particular drill, but you should be above conversational level running and definitely feel the challenge. The goal is to run slightly slower than your standard three mile pace, adding on around 25 to 30 seconds each mile. This keeps your body at the same rate of lactate production, the chemical build-up in your muscles from carbs being burned for fuel, as lactate clearance.
By slowing yourself down, you don’t push past the muscle limits and get that dead leg feel from surplus lactate. This reduces fatigue and allows you train steadily, hopefully 20 minutes or more if you are doing it right! Over time, this will increase your overall speed by letting you run faster for longer.
Tempo runs are incredibly flexible. You can track yours by time, distance, or heart rate monitor. If going by time, you’ll work in intervals. So if you are training for a marathon, your warm-up and cool down may be 20-minutes of tempo running with an hour or more of distance running in the middle. If you run for speed rather than distance, try a five to ten minute tempo run, followed by a 30-second rest, and then go full-out into a sprint, followed by a rest and repeat. If you track your tempo run by your heart rate, work at 85-90% of your max. You may be tempted to speed up, but don’t! This is all about staying at or right under your point of deflection (POD) so that you can hold a pace closer to your V02max for a longer amount of time.
Here’s the thing with training for speed, at the end of the day, to run faster, you must fun fast. All of the endurance and strength training in the world will not benefit a speed runner as much as getting out there and giving it all you got, to go as fast as you can. When you target sprints for speed training, you are also perfecting your form and efficiency, building fast twitch muscle fibers, increasing heart rate and staying lean and strong. Speedwork should be added into every runner’s training at least twice a week as it challenges your body to transport and use oxygen more efficiently and modify its stride and breath for greater impact.
If your focus has been primarily on distance and endurance, you may want to start off a little easier by adding in striders to your routine. Start at an easy, conversational pace that is about half of your standard max exertion and hold this for 30-minutes to an hour. When your body is good and warm, add in the striders. Find a flat surface with supportive impact for your feet, like a field or track, and begin what is essentially interval training. Push as hard and fast as you physically can for 20-30 seconds, and then drop to a jog or power-walk for 40-50 seconds. Repeat this cycle six to eight times.
This second option is for those who run for speed often and have the aerobic capacity for distance. Though the focus is speed, it will certainly benefit your endurance as well. Begin with a one mile warm-up and get your body loose. Next you will alternate speeds for six to eight reps, starting with an all out push for 600 meters, or one and a half laps, followed by a 5K pace for 200 meters. Once you’ve completed this, push yourself by alternating the above speeds every 200 meters. Run at a max sprint 200 meters, followed by a 5K pace for 200 meters and try for three to four reps. End this training with a one mile cool down at a light jog.
By pushing yourself hardest at the end, you challenge your body and your mind in race day fashion. You start off steady, but to win, you’ll need that heavy push right at the end. This will get you ready!
When training for endurance, there are no shortcuts. Just as the above rule says to run faster, you must run fast, well to run further, you must run far. The good news is your body will adapt quickly if you stay consistent and don’t push too hard, too fast. Increasing your stamina doesn’t automatically sign you up for a marathon. Even if sprints are more to your liking, by increasing your endurance you build strength, stay in shape and give yourself an edge over your competitors. Speed follows endurance, so work towards challenging your body. Once a week try to tackle one long run, and set it close to half the distance of your accumulative runs for that week. So if you run four miles five days of the week, then set your long run for eight to ten miles. Be sure to give yourself one to two days of rest from any training. If you already run marathons, then pat yourself on the back and continue to work on increasing speed throughout your long runs.
The thing with endurance training is it can be very easy to push yourself too hard and over train risking injury or burn-out. When adding mileage to your training, it’s about muscle strength, psychological barriers and lung capacity, not speed. If your long runs are typically 10-12 miles, start by adding .5 – 1 mile more each week. When building stamina, do not focus on your speed. Instead, run at 80% of your standard race pace. So if you run a 7-minute mile, you’ll break that into seconds, (7 x 60 = 420), then divide the seconds by 80%, (420 / .8 = 525) and convert the seconds back to minutes, (525 / 60 = 8.75). This way you slow yourself down, staying below your POD, similar to tempo runs only slower and for longer. When you reach your maximum distance, like 26.21 miles, then you can start slowly increasing your pace until you beat your best time. All of this said, do not push yourself this hard directly before a marathon as you may burn out come race day!
That’s right; sometimes to improve your running stamina, you don’t have to run at all! Plyometrics are about being light and quick on your feet while drastically improving strength from your core to your toes. More leg strength and faster feet improve gains in distance and endurance leaving you less fatigued. Not to mention, plyo is just fun variety that provides overall strength and cardiovascular endurance.
If you’re reading this and visualizing set after set of box jumps in your mind, think again. Plyometrics is any exercise that includes jumps, hops or skips with fast footwork to quickly build power before muscle contractions. If you enjoy box jumps, then definitely add them in, but you can also reap the rewards by jumping rope or tackling a variety of HIIT exercises that add stamina with burpees, butt kicks and high knees, jumping jacks, skaters, long jumps with shuffle feet back and several others. To improve control and foot speed, add in ladder drills and cone sprints. Basically join your local football team’s training sessions!
You’ll find your running form improves with increased muscle and body awareness, and your endurance increases along with your muscle strength as you are less fatigued and can go farther for longer!
Speed and endurance may be the top focus for competitive runners, but there is one fitness routine that is required by all athletes no matter their focus, and that is weight training. How often and how much weight you work with are the primary differences depending on your sport. For runners, you want to be careful with weights as it can add bulk which increases your physical weight. The heavier you are, the more there is to move, and this can slow you down. A good rule of thumb for building lean mass is to go with higher reps and lower weight and to utilize your own body as the primary source of resistance.
Consider moves that target muscle groups and can be done at home or in the park, like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, planks and lunges. When adding in equipment, mid-range kettlebells, individual hand weights and medicine balls are sufficient for most of what you want to do. When judging the weight, go for three sets of twelve reps each, and if there is no challenge, go up from there. You may be able to work with more weight without bulking depending on your current physique and strength. Remember, you are not lifting for endurance. To build strength, you will need to push past what feels easy and lift to failure with eight to ten reps in three sets.
There are thousands of ways to become a better runner, to get stronger, faster and go for longer. At the end of the day, it’s commitment that matters most. If you are serious about running, you will give anything a try if there is a chance at meeting your performance goals and beating your personal best. Take these five workouts and go to the root purpose, speed, stamina and strength. If our suggestions aren’t your favorite way to train, no worries. What matters most is that you get out there, and you do it with focus, drive, intention and an unstoppable inner cheerleader that won’t let you quit. If motivation is ever a concern, simply sign up for the next race near you!