ChiRunning makes running easier and injury-free, but can it make you faster? The answer is YES. As you learn to use the assistance of gravity to increase your momentum, instead of pushing with your legs, you’ll discover that you can increase your speed without feeling a big increase in effort. The one caveat that I want to impress upon you though, is that speed should be a byproduct of good running technique, not the other way around.
Working on your speed can do a lot more than just make you faster – it requires that you pay closer attention to your technique, helps you truly relax, and it can feel freeing and fun. If you’ve never focused on speed, start with a 5K or 10K. The workouts in our intermediate 5K and 10K training programs are specifically designed to help you get faster.
A few general tips:
Follow the formula: technique + distance = speed. If you’re doing a 5K, you should be able to run 4 or 5 miles easily. If you’re doing a 10K, 7 or 8 miles should be no problem. Long runs are not the time to practice speed. Instead, maintain a comfortable aerobic pace so you can focus on your technique and build the aerobic capacity you’ll need to train for speed.
Practice speedwork on short runs. Speed Intervals are alternating periods of fast running and slow running. Speed Intervals are not about “trying” to run faster. They’re about creating the conditions for speed to happen. Speed Intervals are just Form Intervals done with more lean and more relaxation. What they do is teach you how to relax your hips to increase your range of motion and strengthen your core by requiring you to hold more of a lean. Speed workouts are best done on a track, a measured flat loop, or a straight stretch of measured road.
Begin each interval at a slow pace, and gradually increase your lean as you progress to the end of the interval (2nd gear – 3rd gear). It is important to do Speed Intervals with a metronome because it will train you to relax your hips and pelvis and lengthen your stride while keeping a consistent cadence. Keep your chin down (lead with your forehead), sit up in your chair, increase your lean, and relax your legs (allow them to go almost limp) as you fall forward. Gravity never gets tired, but your legs will if they’re doing the big job of moving you forward.
Do your best to use the Principle of Gradual Progress. Your first interval should be your slowest, and the last one should be your fastest. If you do your set of intervals correctly, your exertion level should feel the same on your last interval as it did on the first. You should never feel wiped out at the end of a Speed Interval workout. If you push yourself too hard early on, you risk getting injured.
Our intermediate 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon training programs give you more details on how to run effective speed intervals.
If you start slow, you’ll finish fast. There are several benefits to starting your race or workout slower. During aerobic exercise, your body relies on the glycogen stored in your muscles to help burn stored fat. If you start off your runs too fast, you risk burning up all of your muscle glycogen which leaves you with nothing to help you access your body fat for fuel. When you start off slowly, you can run relaxed, and relaxed muscles burn less fuel. That fuel will be available to you when you’re ready to increase your speed at the end of your run or race.
The mental benefit of keeping a slower pace at the start of a race is that you’ll get to pass a lot of runners later on. You’ll get a boost of confidence towards the middle/end of the race when you need it most.
Increasing your speed can be about more than just numbers on a clock. Getting faster can be about pushing past your perceived boundaries, or feeling the freedom of really letting your legs go. Take your time, stay relaxed, and enjoy the release.