How to Run Faster

marathon

How to Run Faster by Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

When I trained seriously for marathon running, I thought that the runner who ran the most miles would be the best. I didn't become a great runner, but I did become an expert on injuries. My patients seldom come to me with a running injury that I haven't had.

Many top runners run more than 100 miles a week because their bodies have the genetic ability to withstand such abuse, but the vast majority of runners will never be able to run 100 miles a week without being injured frequently. Furthermore, running a lot of miles slowly will slow you in races. The ability to run fast in races depends more on how fast you run in practice than on how many miles you run each week.

At the University of Copenhagen, Danish scientists studied experienced runners who had been running 60 miles a week at a fast pace. One group was told to cut their mileage in half to only 30 miles a week, but to run a series of around 50 to 100 yard dashes as fast as they could. The other group continued running 60 miles a week at a fast pace. Runners who ran fewer miles at a faster pace had a 7 percent improvement in their body's maximal ability to take in and use oxygen.

Runners who did not increase their speed in practice did not improve, even though they ran twice as many miles. Jogging slowly reduces your chance of injury, but it won't help you to run fast. You can race only as fast as you run in practice.

However, every time you run fast, your muscles are damaged and feel sore on the next day, and it takes at least 48 hours for your muscles to heal enough to allow you to run comfortably again at a very-fast pace. After every workout in which you run very fast, take the next day off or run at a much slower pace. Most top athletes plan their workouts so they run very fast only two days a week. Try to run fast once or twice a week, never on consecutive days, and don't run fast when your legs feel heavy or hurt.

Weight training should be part of your program also. Working against resistance or lifting weights makes you faster and improves coordination in all sports that requiring strength and speed.

Training is specific, so bicycle racers train for strength by climbing hills in very high gears; runners train for strength by running rapidly up hills; rowers and swimmers use pulleys with weights on their ends that mimic the way they use their arms when they swim or row.

Muscles are made of two different types of fibers: the red, slow-twitch fibers, used for endurance; and the white, fast-twitch fibers, used for strength and speed. When you strengthen a muscle, you train the white fibers that also make you faster, so strength training helps you move faster. Strength training also improve coordinations because stronger muscles use fewer fibers for the same task and therefore are easier to control.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports at http://www.DrMirkin.com

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