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Can You Run Faster by Training Slower?

Training slow has been seen as a sign of weakness or laziness. However, if you want to run (or bike, or swim) faster, a smart approach is to slow down and train “slowly by slowly.”

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #382

image of kenyan runners

In the article “How To Start Running” you learned how to get started and you gathered some important tips on how to be efficient and strong. Then the article “How to Run Faster” offered you six quick and dirty tips to run faster for longer without getting tired.

Those six tips were:

1. Lose Weight (body fat)

Think about carrying a bag of potatoes up a flight of stairs. Compared with simply carrying your body weight, the consequences of lifting one, five, or 10 extra pounds with each step can have you instantly huffing and puffing. You can find out more about that in the article “Can Losing Weight Make You Run Faster?

2. Increase Your Cadence

Specifically, a cadence around 90 steps per minute has been found to be ideal.

The fastest runners in the world have a few defining characteristics, and one is that they take more steps per minute than the rest of us. In running terms, that means they have a higher cadence. Specifically, a cadence around 90 steps per minute has been found to be ideal.

3. Use A Treadmill

Including tempo runs, where you set the treadmill to a slightly faster speed than you are comfortable with, can train the nerves and muscles in your legs to move faster. Since there are no stop lights and street crossings on a treadmill, this can also help you focus on the proper running form that I discussed in the article “Does Your Footfall Really Matter?

4. Run Hills

Running up a hill is a lot like putting some extra weight on the barbell.

The beauty of running up hills is that they allow you to achieve high intensities without the same amount of joint impact and pounding that you would experience while running on flat terrain. Running up a hill is a lot like putting some extra weight on the barbell, it will make you stronger faster. You can learn more about hill training in the article “The Ups and Downs of Hill Training.”

5. Use Plyometrics

The benefit of plyometrics is that they teach the muscles of your legs and feet to quickly absorb your body weight and then rebound from the ground. As a result, you minimize your ground contact time and maximize the distance you travel with each step. Even if you improve by just milliseconds per step, over thousands of steps, that can be a substantial speed boost.

Remember that when it comes to consistency, even a short 15-20 minute jaunt is better than nothing at all.

6. Be Consistent

Running every 48-72 hours keeps your muscles prepared for the specific movements of your running gait. Remember that when it comes to consistency, even a short 15-20 minute jaunt is better than nothing at all.

Today, I would like to add a Quick & Dirty Tip #7: Slow down to get fast!

Slowly by Slowly

The runners who train with the legendary coach Patrick Sang have a term for their run training, “Slowly by Slowly.” Sang is one of the most notable run coaches on the planet, and he told Ed Caesar, a writer from Wired Magazine, about this philosophy. He said that if you thought about only one workout at a time, you were missing the point. The idea of a training program is to improve every aspect of a runner, holistically. One single good training day is worth little on its own, but a good week, or even better, a good month is really worth something. And that is how “slowly by slowly” the athlete builds his or her fitness.

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