Pick Up the Pace
10 ways to run faste and burn more calories in less time!
Nothing beats running for burning calories, and the faster your feet hit the ground, the more calories you incinerate. Consider this: A 150-pound woman walking at a brisk four-miles-per-hour pace for half an hour burns 145 calories. The same woman running at six miles per hour torches 365 calories, and if she kicks it up to seven miles per hour, she melts 420 calories. The extra 275 calories she burns means she can have a 1.5-ounce dark chocolate bar, with calories to spare-or drop half a pound in a week if she runs daily. Who wouldn't pound the pavement or trails for that? Running pros chime in on techniques to help you accelerate.
Use Your Other Limbs
While your legs have the starring role, getting your arms in on the action will provide momentum to drive your body forward, says Carolyn Smith, M.D., sports medicine physician at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and co-author of Running for Women (Human Kinetics 2012). "Your arms work together with your leg stride, helping propel you onward so your lower body doesn't need to do all the work."
Expert tip: The arm movement should be fast enough to drive your hands forward, but not your shoulders. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and focus on swinging your arms forward and back instead of across your body. Keep your shoulders low and relaxed and your hands in an unclenched position, as that increased muscle tension expends unnecessary energy, Dr. Smith says. "It also causes your form to break down, which changes your center of gravity." She suggests practicing by this motion while standing still and holding resistance bands or light weights.
Head for the Hills
Hill training increases leg muscle power and improves the performance of your heart and entire cardio-respiratory system, Dr. Smith says. Running up a slope requires you to use your legs, arms, and trunk in different ways that fatigue your muscles faster than running over flat terrain does. With time, however, you'll be able to tolerate a faster pace without pooping out as quickly.
Expert tip: Once a week, incorporate hills of various lengths and grades into your distance run or perform hill repeats: From the base of a hill, run up it hard, then jog back down. Start with three hills or repeats, and increase the number as you get stronger, aiming for a specific effort rather than a specific speed. (This usually corresponds to an effort level of seven to eight on a 10-point scale where 0 is rest and 10 is maximum effort.)
Foray into Fartleks
This funny word, Swedish for "speed play," is used to describe continuous runs where you vary distance, speed, and recovery periods within the same workout. They help develop and strengthen your running muscles and cardio-respiratory system similarly to interval training, Dr. Smith says. Alternating easy and hard running helps your body adapt to the faster efforts, but by gradually stressing the system in a more-controlled environment, the risk of injury is minimized.
Expert tip: Fartleks can be structured or unstructured. A structured fartlek might include a 20-minute run where you alternate between one minute of hard running and one minute at an easy pace. The unstructured version could include running comfortably hard periodically throughout a 30-minute run. Try either type once or twice a week.
Hit the Iron
Strength training and hoofing it may seem incompatible, but lifting weights boosts your strength and power so you can apply more force into the ground as you run, says Neal Pire, C.S.C.S, founder of Inspire Training Systems in northern New Jersey and author of Plyometrics for Athletes At All Levels (Ulysses Press, 2006). "You'll increase your stride length and cover more distance with each step." Plus, strength training enables you to bring your leg forward more explosively, making for a quicker pace.
Expert tip: Include a total-body weight workout two to three times a week, focusing on the key running muscles: the hips, hamstrings, calves, and lower back. For example, do 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps of step-ups, leg curls, toe raises, and back extensions.
Jump to It
Plyometrics, or "jump training," includes exercises comprised of a lengthening of the muscle followed by a rapid contraction, much like a spring. Jumping jacks and jumping rope are examples of low-level plyometrics. "Jump training helps runners accelerate quicker, as it increases overall speed and movement efficiency," Pire says. However, advanced plyometric moves should only be done if you're weight training and possess good core stability and balance.
Expert tip: Start with a simple exercise such as squat jumps: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your hands clasped behind your head. Keeping your weight on your heels, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor; pause, then jump as high as possible. When landing, make sure to absorb the impact by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Immediately jump up again and repeat 25 times. Start with 2 sets and work up to 4, performing the squat jumps no more than two or three times a week.
Be Like a Flamingo
Since running is a series of one-legged jumps, it's important to maximize the strength of each leg independent of the other, Dr. Smith says. Single-leg exercises require your muscles to rapidly lengthen and shorten, and this improves muscle power, making you a smoother, faster runner. "If you can increase the rate at which you produce force, your running performance and speed will improve," she says.
Expert tip: Once you've mastered moves such as squats, lunges, and calf raises on both legs, try them on just one. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps of two exercises, and add one or two more moves each week, depending on your tolerance. Feeling good? Add single-leg jumping exercises.
Resist the Run
Imagine trying to run away from someone while they have hold of the back of your shirt. That's the concept behind resisted running, only you use a bungee instead of risking a tear in your clothes. The bungee attaches to an immovable pole or a weighted sled loaded with 10 percent of your body weight, which creates overload, but not so much that you're sacrificing form, Pire says. Why hook yourself up to one of these? It'll increase stride length so you cover more ground with each step.
Expert tip: Resisted runs use all the leg muscles and also utilize sport-specific movements, so you can do this in place of a leg weight-training workout. Strive for once or twice a week.
Sprint for It
"Sprint drills break down running into very basic components so you improve each of them," Pire says. The sum of those upgraded individual parts is better overall running skill. Try wall drives (below) to enhance your ability to apply force backward into the ground during acceleration, decreasing the time it takes you to go from 0 to 60.
Expert tip: Place your hands on a wall at shoulder height in a push-up position, keeping your body straight at a 45-degree angle. Bring one knee up to your chest in a starters position and then quickly "run" by alternating legs as if trying to storm through the wall. Drive for six seconds and count the number of leg exchanges. Use that as a baseline and add on from there. Once or twice a week does it.
Switch Up Your Warm-Up
Trade your pre-run jog for dynamic conditioning, which will warm you up while also helping you become faster. "Dynamic warm-ups prepare your nervous system for a higher level of performance and increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption," Pire says. Read: You'll burn more calories for hours after your workout as your body returns to its pre-exercise state.
Expert tip: Examples of dynamic moves include skips, hops, side-shuffling, and other traditional track and field drills. For skips, jump high on the ball of one foot, lifting your front leg high until the thigh is parallel with the ground and driving your rear leg down and vertical. Continue switching feet for 65 to 100 feet. Pire recommends these drills before every running workout.
Perfect Your Posture
"Running with perfect posture makes you more efficient, and the more efficient you are, the more energy you will have to go faster," Dr. Smith says. A runner with proper posture is straight and long from head to toe with a whole-body forward lean, which allows you to use gravity to your advantage. You can achieve this carriage by simply looking directly ahead instead of down at the ground-this will naturally straighten your neck and back and keep your shoulders low and relaxed.
Expert tips: Improve your running stance by shoring up your core and glutes muscles, Dr. Smith says. Two to three times a week, include planks and step-ups in your workout. Hold the planks for 30 to 60 seconds, and do 12 to 15 reps of step-ups.