We all want to be faster. Let’s face it, it’s cool to be fast, to be known as “the fastest on the team.” As athletes, we love that. Not to mention, being fast is fun. But getting faster is often presented as this elusive trait that either can’t be taught, (we’ve all heard, “You can’t teach speed!”), or is only reserved for those who have access to fancy equipment.
The truth is, there are physiological limitations on speed, but the idea that we have reached them as amateur athletes, moms and dads, and weekend warriors is highly unlikely. It’s also true that parachutes and sleds can help improve speed, but that’s not the only way.
The best way to be faster is to practice running fast. That may sound over-simplified or even silly, but think about it. If you want to improve your free throw shooting, what do you do? Shoot free throws. If you want to be a better baseball or softball hitter, what do you do? Get in the cage and take swings. It’s the same principal, just applied to the skill of sprinting. Because that’s exactly what sprinting is – a skill. It requires proper technique just like shooting a free throw or swinging a bat. Learning that technique and then practicing it over and over makes us better at that skill.
There are two main phases of sprinting that require proper form and biomechanics: acceleration (top picture) and top-speed (bottom picture), in that order. The acceleration phase is what it sounds like – beginning from the initiation of the sprint and lasting until top speed has been reached. At this point, top speed takes over and needs to be maintained with proper form as long as possible. Working on the mechanics of these two phases is a huge piece of the puzzle in improving speed.
The Keys to Speed:
Run fast on a regular basis:
Mark off 10, 20, 30, and 40-yard lines in your driveway, yard, or anywhere you are able, and use them to run sprints several times a week.
Time and record the sprints
Grab a sibling, parent or friend (Anyone who can use a stopwatch!) and ask them to hand time your sprints. Record your times and watch yourself improve over time.
Fully recover between sprints
You are no longer training speed if you are still out of breath when you start the next sprint. I repeat: you are no longer training speed if you are still out of breath when you start the next sprint. At that point, you are conditioning, not training for speed. Both have a place in training, but they are different places. Allow full recovery between sprints in order to train for speed. An easy rule to go by is 30 seconds rest for every 10 yards of sprinting. (If I run a 30-yard sprint, my rest is 90 seconds.)
Analyze form and biomechanics.
Work on your weak spots! What are you best at? Where do you need to improve? This is where a performance coach comes into play.
The bottom line is: if you want to be faster, you have to run fast, run on a regular basis, time your sprints, and treat sprinting like a skill to be acquired.
Stay tuned this week for a few of our favorite drills for acceleration and top-speed, as well as more discussion around proper form in both phases of sprinting.
This guest blog is provided by the athletic performance experts from the Ohio State University Medical Center and Bo Jackson Elite Sports Performance Hilliard.
Photos courtesy of: chiefactive.com (top) & tonygentilcore.com (bottom)