Running short distances at high speed can be exciting and fun. Mastering this art, however, takes more than bursts of energy and trying to move your legs quickly. To be really good at short-distance running, you need to be disciplined and follow a regular exercise routine. You also need to run in a way that uses your energy efficiently and keeps your body in good shape. Combining these three factors can result in speeds you never thought you could.
Part 1 of 3: Putting together a routine
Step 1. Warm up.
You need to warm up and stretch before you start running, and for that you should try a combination of light jogging and dynamic stretching.
- To start, lightly jog around the track a couple of times at a comfortable pace. Don't expend too much energy just yet, it's just warming up your muscles.
- It's been said that you need to stretch before you run, but it's now believed that normal stretching before exercise can actually lead to (or even cause) injury.
- Instead, try doing dynamic stretches, which are swings of the arms and legs done in a smooth, continuous motion, rather than holding a stretch in a specific position.
- For example, you can stand perpendicular to a wall and swing your outward leg back and forth, increasing the height with each repetition. Then turn around and stretch your other leg.
- If you already have a specific injury or feel stiff pain in a tendon, stretching it before starting may be a good idea.
Step 2. Cool down
To stay stretched, avoid injury, and ease pain later on, spend a few minutes after each training session doing a light exercise, such as a slower run, and the last five to ten minutes stretching all of your muscles. Your legs, your ankles, your arms, your shoulders and your neck all need to be stretched.
- Stretching helps remove waste such as lactic acid that builds up in your muscles and causes swelling and pain, and helps them recover faster.
- It is generally important for all exercises, but especially for running, which uses the whole body. See articles on stretching for more details on cool-down stretches.
Step 3. Do some drills
Once you start to warm up, do some workouts to get your heart rate up and get your body primed for the real action. You can do running workouts starting at a faster pace and accelerating to burst speed. There are many other workouts that are great for sprinters:
- High Knees: Walk bringing your knees to your chest.
- Arm Workouts: Make Ls with your arms using your elbows as the corner of the L, ie leaving them at 90 degrees. Then swing your arms back and forth using just your shoulders. Alternate movements by bringing the elbow of one arm back while the other is up, but not past your face (for example, at the height of your chin). When you're comfortable with this, increase your speed. Go as fast as you can for as long as you can.
- Long strides: Take long strides, lifting your knees to raise your leg. The idea is to go as far as you can in fewer steps. Don't put too much weight on your front leg (especially on the undersides of your toes). If you do, you may lose your balance and stumble.
- Rear Pedals: Turn around and run backwards in a kicking motion.
- Alternate blast running with blast: do a blast run for 10 m and then blast run for 50 m. This exercise is great for changing mechanics, as sudden changes in time improve your burst speed, which will be crucial for sprinting. In fact, switching between low-intensity and high-intensity exercise is one of the best ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance, which will help your body pump oxygen more efficiently when you're running and will help keep you from getting tired.
Step 4. Create an exercise routine that's right for you
There is no one perfect routine for everyone because each individual has their own needs and schedule. The ideal, however, is to set aside at least three days to work at speed and two to lift weights. Here is an example of a routine:
- Monday (speed day): run five 80-meter stretches, that is, running 5 times for 80 meters and taking 2 minutes of rest between each stretch, six 70-meter stretches, four 60-meter stretches, three 20-meter stretches and a stretch of 100 meters.
- Tuesday (weightlifting day): Work all your muscles, as all of them will be needed for sprinting.
- Wednesday (speed/endurance day): Run four stretches of 300 meters. It's important to do this type of running trying hard to make your heart stronger, which will make you much faster.
- Thursday (semi-speed day): Run five 200-meter stretches, three 100-meter stretches and two 50-meter stretches.
- Friday (Weightlift Day II): Go back to the gym and increase the challenge. Once you feel you have mastered a certain exercise or equipment, move on to a new stimulus. As your body learns to move one way, it becomes more efficient, making less effort to perform the same activity and reaching a plateau. Avoid this problem by keeping your exercise routine fresh.
- Don't forget to warm up before each exercise and cool down afterwards.
- Rest for the weekend. You need time to recover.
Part 2 of 3: Improving Your Technique
Step 1. Try running using the bottom of your toes
Although the scientific evidence remains uncertain, many believe that running over this area of the foot helps you move faster. The less time your foot spends on the ground, the better.
- This move will be a little artificial at first; try running barefoot and then imitate putting on your shoes.
- Running heels first can also be bad for your joints, muscles and ligaments as it creates a very unnatural V-shape with your shins and feet that puts unnecessary weight on everything.
Step 2. Take more steps
You might think longer steps will increase your pace, but that's not what happens. After all, you can't move forward with your feet in the air. Taking shorter steps will actually make you faster if you do it correctly.
- When you take too long steps, you lose your posture, as your right foot stomps in front of you and ends up acting as a kind of brake on your entire body. You then need to shift your foot, which leads to a jump that is not good for posture or speed.
- Keeping your stride normal also keeps you from getting tired too quickly.
Step 3. Lean forward a little
Just two degrees can make the difference between a decent run and a great one.
- You shouldn't throw all your weight forward and constantly struggle to keep from falling forward, just lean a little to move faster without losing your balance.
- It's also important not to lean back. Sometimes, near the finish line or looking back, you may be tempted to lean back or look up and change your posture. This can also slow you down. You can look around after you finish the race.
Step 4. Use your arms
They can help propel you if you move them correctly. They should launch you with their legs, carrying you forward.
Try to make an "L" shape with your arm: your relaxed fists should reach chin height and be brought back with your elbows
Step 5. Strive
You should never slow down during a sprint. If you start moving at less than your maximum speed, you're wasting valuable time. If you feel the need to slow down, focus on pushing yourself harder. If you're having trouble doing this, start a little slower. The ideal is to finish faster than you started.
If you're racing, starting a little farther back can give you a psychological boost to speed up. Those who start fast and get tired sometimes think they've already won and don't expect to be overtaken by those who are further behind
Step 6. Breathe effectively
You should always harmonize your breathing with your steps.
- There is some disagreement as to which is most beneficial: breathing through your nose or mouth, or whether it makes no difference. The crucial thing is to make sure you get enough oxygen, so try both and see which is most comfortable or works best for you:
- If you're not tired but your muscles are, try breathing in more deeply. They probably need more oxygen.
- In addition to working on your running skills and posture, improve your breathing as well: focus on it as you warm up to get trained and breathe properly and deeply while running.
Step 7. Eat well
It is very important to follow dietary guidelines that everyone can benefit from. Athletes, however, have extra needs.
- Carbohydrates are essential as they will release a lot of energy and give you strength. Cereals, bread, pasta and potatoes are all good examples.
- Extra proteins are also needed to strengthen your muscles. Consider lean sources like turkey and cottage cheese.
- Champion Usain Bolt lives on a diet of yams, pasta and rice, chicken and pork and keeps his distance from fast food.
- You will also need more calories during the day than less active people. Eat a healthy breakfast every day, especially if you're training that day.
- If you have a race ahead of you, fill up on the correct foods first, but stop with heavier foods a few hours before the race so your stomach doesn't hurt during the effort.
Step 8. Stay hydrated
All of this exercise will cause you to lose a lot of fluid through sweating, so to stay hydrated, you'll need to drink a lot of water. If you're training in the sun, it will be even more important.
A good rule of thumb is to replace 500ml of water for every 450g you lose with each exercise. So weigh yourself before and after to get an idea of how much you need to drink. A high school football player, for example, can lose 2.3kg to sweating after training
Step 9. Go to a gym
Correct strength training and weight lifting with adequate breathing is another important part of increasing speed and should be incorporated into your routine at least twice a week.
- Weight lifting that actually tests you, but not so heavy that you shiver or fail to start, will condition your sprint muscles by making them bigger and better able to withstand the fatigue.
- Each gym is different and has variable machines, so look for ones that focus on working your legs.
- Don't try too hard not to be seriously injured; try to increase the weight little by little.
- If you are not confident in your abilities to join a gym, it is possible to train at home.
Step 10. Work on your leg muscles
They are, of course, essential for running faster. Use squat machines to strengthen your quadriceps and do various exercises on them, such as jumping squats and lifts. There are also several dumbbell exercises that can strengthen your legs:
- Do land surveys. Find a long bar that can handle a lot of weight. Put some weights on it, squat down and pick it up. Then stand up. Now, lean over with your back and try to make the barbell touch your feet while holding it. You should feel the work in your hamstrings, the most important muscles for running.
- Try the "power clean," a maneuver that involves crouching down to pick up a long barbell and standing up quickly while lifting the barbell at the same time with your arm.
- Do dumbbell squats. Rest a long dumbbell on your shoulders, holding it in place with both hands. Then, with your feet wide apart, squat down keeping your chin parallel to the floor.
Step 11. Work on your abs
Strengthening these muscles takes a long time, but having a strong core will make it all easier, make the effort worthwhile, and will also help prevent injury.
- A good exercise is to hold a barbell (10 to 20kg) or weights in your hands and do some sit-ups.
- Work on your lower abs too. To do a good workout in this area, find a pole or something like a leg support used on a bench press, the frame of your bed, etc, grab it tightly, lie down and lift your legs. Keep them together and raise and lower them very slowly. If you feel a burning sensation in the lower part of your abs, you'll know it's working.
Step 12. Work on the shoulders
They're also important for running fast, as they give your body the necessary boost, increasing both acceleration and control. If you have a shoulder or bench press machine in your gym, spend some time on it.
- Bench presses also help your chest muscles, which are also important.
- Be very careful working with your shoulders and neck. Hurting this area can be quite painful and stop your exercise routine for quite a while.
Step 13. Climb up hills
This exercise is not only great for your lungs and leg muscles, but it naturally improves your posture as well. You'll find yourself using the undersides of your toes automatically and leaning forward a little.
Think of uphill running as a mix between running and weight lifting, as they burn a lot of calories and are great for your calf muscles
Part 3 of 3: Optimizing your performance
Step 1. Get the right equipment
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes and shoes if you just want to run faster, but state-of-the-art equipment will come in handy if you're competing or looking to break world records.
- Buy shoes for runners. You should wear light shoes with studs. The less weight you carry the better, and the time you spend on the undersides of your fingers will be easier to support with the latches.
- Wear the correct clothes. Getting comfortable is key: the pieces must fit comfortably and keep the body at the correct temperature. You don't have to worry about buying lower limb compression garments unless you really like the way they feel on your body; research suggests they don't improve performance much.
- Buy a starter block. If you're serious, buy a set of those blocks that Olympic runners use to get started. They help propel you off the start. The nearest sporting goods store should have them.
Step 2. Run with other people
Whether you're on a team or just running with friends, running with others is almost a guarantee that you'll run faster. Friendly competition can help you stay motivated.
Whether on a row of treadmills or on a track, running with friends can give you an incentive to be the best that's harder to find on your own. Seeing people on your perimeter or trying to get past it will make you more dedicated
Step 3. Time your time
The sprint involves your speed and how long it takes you to get from A to B. To know if you're really improving, you need to time yourself.
You'll probably want to set new personal records, but do this only two or three times a day at most. After a while, your performance will start to drop and you will only become more frustrated as you get tired and find yourself unable to catch up with your previous efforts
- Never overeat before running, or you may get cramps during a run.
- Never run injured. A limp or favoring certain muscles can cause further injury to these or other muscles or bones.
- Lifting weights to the point of trembling or experiencing severe pain can do harm rather than benefit.
- Always go to the bathroom before going for a run, as a full bladder can compromise your performance.
- If you've just taken off a plaster cast or elastic brace, wait a few more weeks to recover before running.
- Be careful when training. Exerting yourself is great, but overdoing it can lead to injury.