How to Develop Sprinting Speed as a Distance Runner

Many distance runners do not do any speed work that forces them to run at maximum effort or close to maximum. They go through their runs every day running the same pace or they may throw in a tempo run or an interval workout where they run 5k pace or a little faster.

Those workouts are great and will help you become a better runner. But why are distance runners typically afraid of other types of workouts or endurance activities, like triathlon training or sprinting?  Both can benefit your running dramatically. Without sprinting, your training is incomplete. 

Sprinting offers distance runners many key benefits that they can use to race faster in longer races like 5k’s and even marathons. But that’s not all.

What are the benefits of sprinting for a distance runner?

Efficiency

Sprinting forces your body to run more efficiently. By practicing to run at your maximum speed, your mile, 5k, or half-marathon race pace will seem much slower because your body has adapted. Sprinting creates neuromuscular efficiency that teaches your muscles how to move correctly.

Injury Prevention

Sprinting also recruits all of your muscle fibers, rather than just some of them like when you’re running slower. By recruiting all of your muscle fibers in an intense, 100% effort sprint you’re making your leg muscles work harder and get stronger. This strength will help protect you from injury.

Increased Metabolism

Running at your maximum effort jacks up your heart rate, recruits all of your leg’s muscle fibers, and requires more coordination. If you’re frustrated because you can’t lose those last few stubborn pounds, it might be because your training is lacking intensity. Include some sprints into your training and you’ll burn more calories during the workout and increase your metabolism for hours afterward.

Incorporating Sprint Workouts into Your Training

I have three favorite “mini-workouts” that I like to do almost every week that help me make sprinting a priority. Even though my own personal goals are road races from 5k – half-marathon right now, sprinting at max effort is an important part of my training. Let’s look at the workouts:

Post-Run Strides

These are simple and are done after a normal distance run. Preferably on a track, artificial turf field, or grass (but you can do them anywhere), the entire stride is about 100 meters. Start running at a normal pace and accelerate into a full sprint right before the halfway point. Hold your sprint for about 20 meters, then slow down to a walk. Take about a minute of walking recovery (these should not be hard) and start your next one. I like to do 4-6 strides.

Bonus: Do your strides barefoot.

Mid-Run Surges

These are also simple and are done during the last 10-15 minutes of your run. They can last anywhere from 15 – 30 seconds depending on your fitness level and how hard you want to make them. Essentially a very short and fast fartlek, mid-run surges are like strides except harder. After your first surge, you continue running at your normal distance run pace for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then start your next one.

I like to do 4-6 surges during the last mile or two of my distance runs. Right now I’m doing 5×20″at my max speed with about a minute of slow running in between each one.

Bonus: On a hilly route, make sure your surges are uphill.

Hill Sprints

Hill sprints are the fastest (and most fun!) of all these sprint workouts. Find the steepest hill you can and start with 1 or 2 sprints of 8 seconds long. These are done at 100%, maximum effort – be like Usain Bolt!

After 4-5 days, you’re ready to start your next session. Add 1-2 repetitions until you reach 8-10 hill sprints, then you can start increasing their length from 8 seconds to 10 or 12. Take a full 1-2 minutes of walking recovery between each one and always err on the side of too much rest. Right now I’m up to 5 x 10 second hill sprints.

By implementing some short sprint workouts into your otherwise monotonous distance runs, you’ll increase your running economy and ultimately become a faster runner. Hill sprints are also a very powerful tool for injury prevention, as they recruit all of your leg muscles and are like running-specific weight lifting.

 

The physical and mental benefits of running

With all the different forms of exercise out there, why run? For me, it was a simple choice of economics, as I could save money by replacing my gym membership with a treadmill and a pair of moderately priced running shoes. Others who run, do so for different reasons.

While running is easy to learn and fairly inexpensive, it also benefits the runner’s mental outlook. Basically, what is good for the body is good for the mind, and psychologically speaking, running has a lot to offer!

You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement. – Steve Prefontaine

Mental benefits

Running reduces stress by boosting levels of serotonin in your brain and creating a more positive mood.

Self esteem is improved and goals are achieved through running. Runners realize a greater sense of self-reliance and accomplishment. In other words, running provides an individual with an all natural, drug free, power-packed ego boost!

Running fights depression with the brain’s release of beta endorphins. These are neurotransmitters made in the pituitary gland that can reduce pain, boost the immune system, and bring a greater sense of well being. These “miracle” compounds have eighty times as much pain-easing effect as morphine.

Runners can enjoy a sense of freedom, by forgetting about troubles and feeling the wind in their hair. They can control their own destiny, as they alone make the decision to run as fast and as far as they want!

Running sharpens focus and improves mental stamina, by giving circulation a boost and increasing the flow of blood to the brain!

Social circles can be widened through running by joining a group or a club of fellow enthusiasts.

Lastly, running helps to improve appearance by getting the blood pumping which creates a healthy glow and by reducing the waistline. The bottom line is, when we look better, we feel better!

Physical benefits

In addition to the psychological benefits, running has so many physical benefits that it is hard to know where to begin.

As mentioned earlier, running helps to keep weight under control. With the exception of cross-country skiing, running burns more calories than any other physical activity!

Cardiovascular health is greatly improved through running by increasing your heart rate and working the heart muscles on a regular basis.

Running can increase HDL levels, which improves overall cholesterol in the body.

The immune system gets a boost through running with an increase in white blood cells. These are the fighter cells in the body, which can combat the early stages of diseases like diabetes and cancer.

Running also improves bone health. Weight bearing exercises increase bone density and prevent injury and the onset of osteoporosis.

And finally, running improves lung capacity and promotes better breathing which enhances general overall health.

The most logical conclusion

Whether you choose to run for health purposes, to make friends or just because it makes you feel good, the fact is that running is a good thing! With the many mental and physical benefits of running, the question should really be why NOT run?

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s run! 🙂

Taking care of your feet: Questions from RunAddicts readers

Why do I keep getting blisters on my feet when I run long distances?

If you are a forefoot striker or you tend to over pronate, your chances could be higher of having blisters especially after long runs. Friction is the one and only cause of blisters but it varies from one runner to the other. Some of the common causes of friction include:

  • Friction between your shoes and your feet
  • Friction resulting from your toes rubbing against each other
  • Friction between your socks and your feet

Tips to prevent/cure blisters

  • Get the right shoe size. Here is an easy tip: there should be a thumb-width space between your toes and the shoe front when you are standing up
  • There are so many downfalls to wearing a cotton sock because cotton tend to retain moist which often causes blistering and skin breakdown. In addition, cotton fibers swell when the cotton is wet resulting in friction. So, saying goodbye to cotton socks is a wise move and fortunately the alternative is available: use polyester-based socks that are often referred to as “technical socks”
  • Your technical socks should fit smoothly without any extra fabric at the heels or toes. Too large socks can easily result in friction. That’s why; you need socks that fit just right, not too loose and not too tight
  • If taking the above steps was not reliable enough to eliminate your blisters, consider wearing a two-layer sock. The advantage of wearing this sock is that all the friction will happen between the sock layers, leaving your feet friction free
  • Reduce the amount of your feet movement by Lacing your shoes with heel locks. This way, your heels will be pulled back against the heel counters of your shoes
  • Since you know the blister-prone spots on your feet, take a preventive action and apply either petroleum jelly ,Body Glide lubricant, or Vaseline before running
  • Once you have blisters or skin breakdown, protect your skin using moleskin or BandAid pads

 

6 Biggest Mistakes of Beginner Runners

6 Biggest Mistakes

1. Doing too much too soon

One of the biggest mistakes new runners are seen making is not building a proper base.  When first making the decision to become a runner and possibly deciding to go for a certain goal, new runners can get very excited.  Adrenaline is pumping, enthusiasm is at his highest and motivation is through the roof.  Motivation is so high that you can head out the door and easily find yourself running farther then you’ve ever run before, whether that be around the block or a mile or 10 miles.

However, it is important for new runners to reel in this excitement.  Whenever starting a new activity such as running, it is important to ease into it.  Do not make the mistake of going to far to soon or running too fast before you are ready.  Ease into a training program by gradually building up both your distance and your running intensity or pace.  By easing into your training program the beginning runner can drastically decrease their high risk of injury.

2. Ignoring recovery

Many beginners think that the only important part of running is the act of running itself.  Many beginners put their shoes on, head out the door or to the treadmill, get in their run and then immediately hop the shower and go off to the next part of their day.  However, this is a big mistake!

Running is an intense exercise that requires you take great care of your body to reach your full potential.  In order to alleviate the aches and pains involved with running, beginners need to pay special attention to recovery.  Recovery starts in the cool down.  At the end of any workout it is important to do a cool down by either doing a slow jog or walk for about 5 minutes after your run.  After a cool down the beginner runner should focus on stretching.  Stretching can help minimize some of the soreness that usually follows a good run.  Beginning runners also need to focus on proper hydration, refueling the body with some proteins and carbs and then icing any sore muscles or joints shortly after the workout.

3. Not wearing proper shoes and equipment

While it may be true that there are no barriers to entry in running such as high tech and expensive equipment, it should be noted that there are some basic pieces of equipment beginning runners should acquire early on in their running endeavors.  The most important piece of equipment for running is a proper pair of running shoes.

There is great debate in the running community currently about whether you need the traditional running shoes sold by the big companies such as Asics, Brooks or Nike or if you are better off running barefoot with protective footwear such as is sold by Vibram.  However, it is very important to have some protection for your feet.  Proper footwear can help protect our feet from debris on the roads.  Whichever side of the debate you are on, it is important for new runners to not run too much in improper footwear such as basketball shoes or regular tennis shoes.  These shoes are not meant for running and will force your feet and legs to take on a running form that will more then likely produce injury.  Along with proper running shoes, the beginning runner should make sure they have proper workout clothes to help protect them from the elements of nature.

4. No goals or plan

Another mistake new runners make is not having a predefined goal or a plan on reaching that goal.  Motivation is very important in running.  Having a goal with a proper plan in place to reach that goal helps the beginning runner fight through the times when motivation starts to lack.  Many beginning runners decide they want to get healthy or lose weight and therefore they will start running.  But these are not good goals.  A goal needs to be specific so if you are running to lose weight then it is important to decide exactly how much you want to lose.

Create a goal and come up with strong reasons why you want to run and achieve this goal.  A good goal with a strong reason for the goal can help get any beginner through the rough times.  Running is very challenging.  When the going gets tough many will quit.  But if you have a strong goal and a well thought out plan for how you can achieve your goal then you are more likely to stick to the intense exercise of running.  If you do not know how to attain your goal then it is probably important to seek out help.  Find a coach, read books about running, read blogs like this one and reach out to others who may be able to help you develop a plan to reach your running goals.

5. Learning to properly pace

A big mistake many beginner runners is not learning how to properly pace themselves.  Many new runners will be excited and take out the door to run their first run.  But they will inevitably take off too fast at first.  Gradually they will slow down until eventually being forced to stop and walk.  The same thing happens to beginning runners who decide to enter a local 5k road race.

Many will start off way too fast in the first mile and be forced to dramatically decrease their pace or even walk in order to finish the race.  Proper pacing can help the new runner avoid the slow down or forced walk.  By learning to run an even pace, new runners will have a much more enjoyable experience with the sport.  Not only can running a slower even pace help the runner finish without walking, but by running even pace the whole way the runner is more likely to have an overall better time!  The good news is that properly pacing comes with experience.  The more running the beginner does, the better feel for their own body and fitness will be achieved which in turn leads to better knowledge of how to pace themselves on a run.

6. No variety in training

Many beginner runners know how to do only one type of training run.  Most beginners focus only on going out for slow short jogs.  Usually running every run in the same distance at the same pace, many times on the exact same course.  One of the keys to success in running is variety in training.  There are many ways to get variety in training.  One of the easiest ways is by running different courses.  By running different courses on your different runs you will add variety to your training with hills, flats and possibly even surface conditions.  Running different courses can help prevent injury since different surface, hills and flats will work all your different running muscles.

The other way to add variety to training is by doing different types of running workouts.  It is important to mix up your pace by sometimes doing faster speed workouts and sometimes doing slower long runs.  Mixing up pace and distance of runs will add variety to the beginning runners training which in turn will help the beginning runner improve at a much faster rate.

Running is a great activity to take part in.  By avoiding these 6 mistakes that new runners frequently make, you can dramatically increase your chances of running success in the future.

 

Parkour: Tackling Obstacles While Running

Differences between running and Parkour

Whilst the runner is likely to only think about dealing with an obstacle when they are faced with one, the practitioner of Parkour actively seeks out obstacles to hone their skills and practice their movements upon. In fact the majority of their time is spent practicing to be free in their movements, rather than just moving and facing whatever comes their way.

Most runners will spend the majority of their time directly practicing their sport and try to improve their technique during the activity, or might even work with a trainer, but they will spend most of their time running. Whereas in Parkour, a person might spend most of their week training individual elements or techniques and only combine them all in to a ‘run’ just a few times per week, depending on the individual.

Parkour is a return to the roots rather than a new branch of gymnastics.

And movement is only one part of the whole when it comes to Parkour. Back in the mid-eighties in a quiet suburb of Paris, it was in Lisses that the childhood games of a handful of kids would grow to inspire what we now call Parkour. There were no jumps or obstacles in the beginning, there was simply a desire to become stronger and challenge yourself. Can you lift that rock? Can you throw that stone across the lake? Can you jump and touch that branch or can you push that car? The children played every day and pushed themselves to achieve something new. As they grew up, they became stronger and fitter as their bodies adapted to their activities. It was only with a great deal of training behind them did they begin to wonder.. Can we jump from here to there?

Whilst some might then argue that Parkour is a new activity born in Lisses, that has evolved from running and various other activities, such as gymnastics, others agree that Parkour is one of the oldest disciplines known to man. Going back to a time when the first men and women had to hunt and fight for their survival each day, they would have used their bodies not just for running but for climbing, balancing, jumping and swinging too, indeed moving any way they can to avoid prey or to hunt. So to some, Parkour is a return to those roots rather than a new branch of running or gymnastics.

So is Parkour a sport? A discipline? An art form, maybe?

The term sport seems to suggest a competitive element these days and although competition is something that various organisations are trying to promote and organise, Parkour is a non-competitive activity.
To date, every large-scale organised instance of Parkour competition has resulted in at least one major injury to a competitor. This is chiefly due to the nature of the activity and the only safe way to progress is to work within, but of course close to, your limits. When competition is introduced, people are too eager to take chances and prove themselves better than their peers and it is only in stepping too far beyond these limits that Parkour becomes dangerous. More similar then to a martial art, Parkour is a discipline focused on self improvement and the mastery of oneself and the immediate environment.

Beginning your journey in Parkour as a runner, you might be surprised at just how different the respective practices feel, even if they might look similar at first glance. Very few muscles in the upper body are stressed to the extent they will be during a Parkour session and upper body strength and development is one of the first key focus areas of training for a new recruit. This, combined with exercises linked to balance, the passing of obstacles, ways of moving over, under and through your environment and drills to hone spatial awareness and adaptability all fuse to create a complete discipline for the body and mind. And it is this ‘mind’ aspect that also separates more traditional running activities, from Parkour.

 

Confessions of a Naked Runner

In addition to the shoes, most runners will purchase a runners belt, blackberry’s, hydration bottles, a GPS-system, a heart-rate monitor, an MP3-player, …

When I run, I have a bottle of water/sport drink with me – that’s it.

Although I love music, I was actually enjoying running and enjoying the chatter of the local park, birds singing and people in the park. That became my music.

For example, the other night – I took off on a nightly run (I did have a small flashlight with me, so I would not be caught in the dark). As I turned the corner on mile 2 – what stood before me was an incredible view of the Red Rock Canyons (near Las Vegas, NV). I was awestruck on how beautiful the sun was behind those mountains. Although I have lived in Vegas for a long period of time, I really saw the mountains and twinkling of the first stars. I think I would have missed that moment, if I was grooving out to my latest tunes.

 

The Importance of a Proper Arm Swing

Tips for a proper arm swing

  • Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle
    To envision this, never let your hands drop below your waistline, or go above your shoulders. Think of your arms as a pendulum, moving smoothly back and forth, tucked closely to your body so the elbows aren’t opening out wide, or collapsing in. This will allow your hips to rotate fully so you are in fluid motion.
  • Resist the urge to lift your shoulders
    If your shoulders, neck, or upper back get sore when you run, it’s because your shoulders are moving up and down with every arm swing. To see what it feels like to run with no shoulder movement, stand up and put your right hand on your left shoulder. Swing your left arm back and forth, putting your mental focus on the point of your elbow. Switch sides. You may need to practice this a few times before the swing starts to feel natural, but you’ll remove the tightness and feel more relaxed as you run.
  • Run with loose hands
    Some runners clench their fists, which causes unnecessary muscle tension. Your fingers should be curled inward, as if you were running with an egg in each hand that you don’t want to crush. Keep your thumbs on top and don’t stick them down into your fingers. Your thumb position will also be a reminder to run with your palms facing each other, instead of with your palms facing down.
  • Push your elbows back
    Make the emphasis of your arm swing a backward push instead of a frontward pull. You’ll see that when you push your elbow back, your arm will naturally come forward on its own. The one exception is when you’re running up hills. Because of the increased effort, you’ll want to focus on moving your arms forward. It will take some of the work off your legs as you find your legs will lift up more easily.

As you can see, your arms are just as important as your legs when you run. There is a lot of information to remember about proper arm swing, so take it one step at a time. Soon you’ll notice a better flow in your running, and maybe even a new PR!

 

Core Training for Better Running | RunAddicts

Most runners have strong hearts and strong legs, but they forget about a key component between the two: the core. You’ve probably heard a lot about strengthening your core for better fitness. If you aren’t sure exactly what your core is, it is the group of muscles that control and support your spine and pelvis. In other words, it’s the muscles of the stomach, back, and hips. 

Think of your core as the center of your energy. A strong core will move the energy out to the other parts of your body so they function at their maximum. A weak core doesn’t transfer the energy as well, so some parts of your body will have to compensate by working harder to produce the same motion. After a while, those body parts will break down from excessive wear and tear, and injury will occur.

 

Maintaining Exercise Regimen with Hectic Schedules

Steady minor modifications have a huge impact

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Say “No” to junk food and replace it with healthier options most of the time
  • A dip in the hotel swimming pool (you see, even travelling can help you exercise!)
  • Walk as much as you can. Get out of the bus/taxi at least two blocks away from your destination.
  • Engage in short but rather intensive workouts (a great tip if you are ultra busy)
  • A few stretches, push-ups, and crunches requires 10-15 minutes and can be done at home, hotel, private office, you name it!

Good health does not mean going to a gym

I’m certainly not against using a gym. In fact, many people find the gym highly motivating but for those who are short of time, all the above exercises can be easily done anywhere with no need for any sophisticated equipments. Still, some of us manage to invent very creative excuses to avoid consistent exercising. Anyway, the results of adhering to these small workouts are immense enough to motivate one to follow through. Some of them can be:

  1. High Level of Energy – When one travels, it is natural to feel exhausted particularly when crossing time-zones. But a regular exercise greatly contributes to maintaining stamina and high energy levels which leads to better productivity.
  2. Sound Sleep – Exercising is a proven recipe for sound sleep. When travelling it can be difficult to get the desired amount of sleep but exercising helps in maintaining a proper sleep pattern
  3. Toxic sweat – On business trips, it is very common that people often get indulged in alcohol and other toxic drinks. A regular exercise pattern can get rid of this toxic waste in the form of sweat.
  4. Burning Calories – Although this should never be number one reason for exercising, it is a definite bonus that that comes with it. Many weight-related diseases can automatically disappear thanks to regular exercising.
  5. Goodbye Stress ! – exercising greatly helps in getting rid of the stress that some people face while travelling.
  6. Muscle Toner – Carrying heavy luggage and jostling through the rush are very common while travelling. This could sometimes result in pain and fatigue. Exercise helps in stretching the muscles so that the tension that has gripped them can be released.

If the benefits of exercise are common sense and known to everyone, then why there is still a need to emphasize the significance of maintaining a health regimen? Sometimes we need someone to come forward and remind us about the obvious facts so that the obvious doesn’t slip into oblivion!

I sincerely hope that the ultra short none-excusable workout techniques mentioned above can help us all in creating an ongoing exercising routine that’s both highly beneficial and enjoyable.

Enjoy investing in your most precious asset: YOU!

 

New Ways To Stay on Track With Resolutions – The Jakarta Globe

Daniel Giovanni, a traceur and a Nike Plus user. (JG Photos/Lisa Siregar)

Daniel Giovanni, a traceur and a Nike Plus user. (JG Photos/Lisa Siregar)

New Ways To Stay on Track With Resolutions

   

Twice a week, Daniel Giovanni gets up at 5:30 a.m., puts on his running gear and does laps for an hour around the Bung Karno stadium in Senayan, South Jakarta.

“I’ve measured the circumference of the stadium with my motorcycle. It’s exactly one kilometer,” Daniel said on Tuesday morning after his run.

Daniel is a traceur , which refers to someone who practices parkour , a sport from France that involves moving efficiently from one obstacle to another in a built up environment. Advanced traceurs leap without harnesses from building to building, often quite high up. But running is the first skill they must master.

As the new year approaches, Daniel said his health resolutions were to maintain his workout schedule and add to his endurance. For his training he relies on technological gadgets to track his progress, as well as using Twitter — the micro-blogging Web site that sprang into the mainstream this year. Twitter allows him to keep in touch and compare notes with other athletes.

Daniel recently bought a Nike Plus Sport Kit at a midnight sale. The kit includes a receiver and sensor that allows runners to track their progress, giving them data on distance covered, calories burned, number of steps taken and the time they spent training. It works in conjunction with an iPod, which receives the data from the sensor. Daniel uses an iPod Nano, but the device also works with the newest generation of iPod Touch or the iPhone 3GS.

There are also special Nike Plus running shoes available that have a slot for the sensor, but Daniel said you can slip the sensor into any shoes. “My shoes are not Nike, but I can still use this sensor to help me keep track of my workout results.”

Every time he finishes running, Daniel pulls his iPod Nano out of his pocket to see how he went.

“Knowing how I’m going motivates me to run faster,” he said, adding that since he has been able to measure his progress he has found he has been able to increase his pace.

Daniel also discovered a Twitter group of Nike Plus users who share their running results with one another. So when he returns home after training he synchronizes his iPod with his iTunes, which uploads the results graphic to Nike’s official Web site for archiving. The Web site automatically sends his results to his Twitter account.

He said that having friends online to compare results with has given him even more motivation, “especially after one of [his] Twitter friends started the GLTD challenge.” GLTD stands for ganyang lemak to demak , which roughly translates as “burn fat to the max.”

When running, Daniel listens to PodRunner, a free podcast of workout music. There is a variety of music on the podcast, all categorized by the tempo, or beats per minute. Daniel has four songs with different beats per minute on his iPod. He said any song with 130 BPM or above was a good choice for running, but if you were new to the sport, you may want to subscribe to PodRunner Interval, a similar free podcast that lets you take it easy with a slower BPM every few minutes.