Performing workouts that help hone a fast finish can benefit all runners –from weekend warriors to regular racers. Intervals, drills, sprints and even short races help boost your heart’s efficiency, improve your form and strengthen your muscles. “Running fast builds mental toughness, so you gain confidence in your abilities,” says Andrew Kastor, a running coach based in the US. These tips from elite runners will fine-tune your high gear.
Run Short Intervals
US Olympian Amy Yoder Begley – who won a 10,000m race with less than 50m to go – credits her ability to pick up the pace in the last 50m to 400m to running short intervals. She runs as many as 20 repeats of 200m in a single workout. Fast running makes your heart work harder, says Kastor. A strong heart can supply more oxygen-rich blood to muscles and flush out waste products like lactic acid better. Occasionally hitting the gas also improves leg turnover and recruits more fast-twitch muscle fibres than slower running. The more you train those fast-twitch fibres, the more powerful your sprint. Try It: Whether you’re training for a 5km or 10km race, or if you just want to boost your fitness, do intervals once or twice every week. If you’re training for a half- or full marathon, do them once every two to three weeks.
Skipping, bounding and other forms of drills add power to your stride. The hopping action of the exercises also keeps tendons and ligaments springy, which helps quicken your leg turnover. “Drills build the strength muscles needed to run at a faster pace, and that helps your closing kick,” says Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein, who does his on easy days or as a warm-up to fast-paced workouts.
Try It: Once a week, dedicate the last 5 to 10 minutes of your easy runs to drills. Do one or two 30m sets of the following: bounding (run in slow motion, exaggerating the height and length of your stride), skip for height, skip for distance (focus on moving forward rather than up) and run with high knees.
Run Fast When Fatigued
Sprinting short distances after every fartlek, tempo run or long interval workout trains your body and mind to run fast when you’re fatigued. This is so that you can dig deep at the end of a race or tough workout, says Kastor.
Try It: At the end of one or two quality runs a week, run fast for 1 to 2 minutes, or over 400m. Aim for a 5km race pace or slightly faster, or any speed faster than what you were running.