The Running Doctor: Speed workouts
All speed workouts simulate race conditions; extremely hard workouts will just get you closer to those conditions. Since there is a greater risk of injury, one should be attuned with their body and listen to warning signals.
There are a few ways to run faster, either by increasing the speed at which each stride is taken (leg speed), or to increase the distance each stride covers (leg span). Any increase in speed is the result of an increase in either one of these two functions, or the positive interaction of both. To run faster, we must look to the physiology, psychology, and biomechanics of running for the things we should do in proper sequence. Running is the act of moving the legs and arms to increase stride length and stride rate. To do this, we must place the body in a different position (lean forward) or otherwise upset our balance.
Road racing, like no other sport, allows the novice runner to feel the excitement of being in the same race as the elite runners.
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The smart competitor always plans their training/racing strategically. More importantly, races should be planned ahead of time to allow for "peaking." The term "peaking" refers to when the mental and physical preparations are at their highest point; thus, it should mean a top performance.
Perhaps the easiest way to roil faster is to increase your overall flexibility. This will allow for a greater range of motion; more ground will be covered on each stride. Therefore the runner will be taking fewer strides per mile, or the same number of strides but with less energy expenditure.
One of the greatest advantages of flexibility is that it allows the muscles to apply force more directly to the levers needed for efficient running, rather than against stiff tendons, ligaments and muscle tissue. The result is more efficient use of energy.
From a biomechanical standpoint, the Achilles tendon is a vital component in fast running as well as racing as it gives tremendous push to the ankle joint, which is the strong lever arm for motion. It also helps create acceleration by getting the heel up and shortening the leg as it swings forward and up. The shorter and tighter the leg swing, the more potential for speed.
Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a Sport Podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. A Veteran of 35 marathons, Dr. Weiss has a practice in Darien: The Foot & Ankle Institute of Darien. For more information, visit www.therunningdoctor.net.