This much is true: your genetic make up puts a ceiling on your speed. How many "slow" and "fast" twitch fibres you're born with determines whether you will be a Linford Christie clone or a counterfeit Steve Cram, but that doesn’t mean you’re a victim of your DNA, or that you can’t become faster. You can, and you will if you sign up for the RW Speed Camp, which will take three short weeks.
For the next 21 days, we’re going to give you something to do every day that will make you faster. Some days it’ll be an easy drill or a short cross-training session. Other days it will be a full-blown session. They’re all relatively simple but effective, as you’ll soon discover, and some days we'll give you a day to relax and stretch to make sure you're recovering and ready for the next day's activity.
If you're a Runner's World UK magazine subscriber, you can see all 21 days right here. Otherwise, enjoy these five as a preview - and if you want to subscribe, you can save 30% right here.
1 Speed Through Fatigue
"A good way to increase your strength and speed is to do a session that makes you run faster when you're already fatigued," says Owen Anderson, editor of Running Research News. So, on today's run – four to eight miles – run at normal pace until you have about two miles left. Then pick up the pace until you're moving faster and breathing harder (think pleasantly uncomfortable) for one minute followed by one minute (more if you need it) of slow jogging. Alternate like this the rest of the way.
2 Fast-Foot Flambé
Jog to warm up for 10 minutes, then for 50m pretend you're running over hot coals. To prevent searing your soles, you must lift each foot as fast as you can. This forces you onto your forefeet, the way sprinters run – which greatly reduces your time on the ground (ie you don't go though your normal heel-to-toe transition). This drill derives from a Harvard University study that concluded you must do two things to become faster: increase the force you apply to the ground, and decrease the time your feet are on the ground. Do four to six reps, walking to recover after each.
3 Two-Speed Tap Dance
We have the coach and physiologist Jack Daniels to thank for this little gem. After two miles of relaxed running, run 10 steps faster than your normal pace, then do 10 very slow steps followed by 20-20, 30-30, and so on up to 60-60, then reverse it back down to 10-10 – or even go straight through to 100-100. "Depending on your fitness, you can adjust the speed of the fast and slow portions, or both," says Daniels.
4 Rest Day
Time to relax and stretch.
5 Marching Orders
Jog a mile or two, then walk with an exaggerated knee lift, bringing the thigh of the swing leg parallel to the ground as it moves forward and upward. Do this nonstop for one minute, rest, repeat. From here, proceed to skips (yes, like the skipping you did in childhood). Drive your right leg up at the same time that you push off with your left leg with a little "hop". Then switch legs, driving your left leg up and hopping with your right. Keep pushing off and landing, alternately swinging your arms as you would with running. Do this for 50 metres, rest, then repeat three more times. Finish with a jog.