Stepwise Guide To Improving Speed & Stamina

By October 22, 2020December 9th, 2020No Comments
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Speed and stamina are two different skills which every runner wants to work on. Short distance runners, sprinters, track and field runners constantly aim to up their game by working on speed. Runners who aspire to run long distances, such as half marathon, marathon and ultra marathon, need to train for distances and hence they need to train for endurance, build stamina so that they can easily last through their targeted distance. Having said that, these category of runners also need to work on their speed as they aspire to finish strong and improve their timings in competitive races such as 5K, 10K, 21.0947K and 42.195K.

Is it possible to work on speed and stamina both at the same time? Overtime, you can do both. When one is new to running, that is the time one has to work very hard in gradually building the stamina and when you have it, one needs to maintain the stamina by being consistent.

When we talk about stamina and speed, it’s important to introduce the concept of Skeletal Muscle Fibres – Slow Twitch and Fast Twitch.

Slow Twitch are Red Fibres or Type I, they are fatigue resistant, help in building stamina and endurance. This type of muscle fibre support marathon and endurance runners. They enhance aerobic power and are the cornerstone of any endurance runner. On the contrary, Fast Twitch muscles are known as White Fibre or Type II, these muscles cause fatigue and are usually used in fast burst of high intensive activities such as sprinting, interval running and are anaerobic in nature. Recruiting Slow Twitch muscle fibres help in enhancing stamina, oxygen capacity of the muscles, helping us to stay longer in the game by expending energy over a long period of time.

To work on stamina and speed, we need to ensure that we are recruiting and activating both these Slow and Fast Twitch muscle fibres in order to get the maximum desired outcome and benefits out of our body. All of us have both these muscle fibres, the ratio would depend on muscle function, age and the level of training.

How To Build Stamina

Frequency of Running: The frequency of running is an important factor to build running fitness, agility and stamina. The more we run and stay consistent, more we are tuning our muscles and body to take the load. Starting with three times a week and going up to five times a week. The more mileage we run, the better we become, but this needs to be cautiously approached.

Build stamina gradually by being patient and persistent: Rome was not built in a day. Follow a plan that takes care of increase in distance scientifically, following the 10% rule, allowing proper recovery days in between the runs. Overtime, you will see the difference, what used to be insurmountable becomes attainable, enjoyable. It’s okay to take walk breaks in between but it’s important to show up and stay committed to your training plan.

Run long, run slow: This is training for distance. By running slow and long, you are building a good aerobic capacity that is the foundation of any endurance runner, at the same time, you are more aware of your running movements, muscle engagement and postural control. As the adage goes slow and steady wins the race, fix the basics before you progress towards introducing intensity and variety.

Add strength training to your training plan: Strength training and resistance exercises play a significant role in not only building stamina, making your muscles stronger but also to prevent injuries.

Train mentally with good nutrition and sleep: Training mentally may mean different things to different people. One way is when you are going to attempt anything for the first time, it plays on our mind and that is a universal truth. There are strategies and techniques that one can follow to train mentally. Meditation, training in tough weather conditions, during odd hours – you need to have the mental and physical strength to take on these challenges and embrace new untested ones.

How To Introduce Speed In Your Running

Every runner wants to introduce speed and this is a common challenge for all runners. This is where you need to introduce variety, intensity and volume through increase in mileage. Before you start introducing variety of speed work in your training, gearing up mentally can do wonders to fulfilling your training objectives. Running hard requires mental strength to drive yourself to consistently be around your speed goals. If done well can enhance performance, self-confidence and self-belief. Benefits surely outweigh the energy and investment. So go for it to add a bit of spice in your running life.

1. Start small by introducing strides. The basic principal of introducing strides in your speed strategy is to start with a 3-4 km slow, easy run and then do 50 metres x 12 reps hard, followed by a walk/easy run next 50 metres x 12. As you get comfortable, you can increase to 80 metres and 100 metres.

2. Introduce interval repeats by starting with 400 metres hard and 600 metres recovery/easy, you can do 6 to 8 repeats and can take it to 600 metres hard and 400 metres easy. As you feel comfortable, start doing km repeats hard run followed by easy km and repeat again. Marathon runners often do bouts of 800 metres hard followed by 200 metres easy as you advance into your speed workout regimen. Finally, you can even go up to mile repeats such 1600 metres fast followed by 800 metres easy.

3. Run slow, run fast: Start with a warm-up, go fast for 1 mile and run slow for a mile. This helps to acquaint your muscles with faster pace.

4. Introduce tempo runs: Typical example is to run at varying paces of your targeted distance. Let’s say your plan is to run 16km. A specimen example of a tempo run: First 5K warm-up easy pace at 6:30 and next 5K at 5:30 pace and next 4K at 5:00 pace and cool down at 6-6:30 pace. Your tempo pace is a few seconds slower than your 5K pace and 10K pace, something that we can hold, it is not an all-out effort running at about 75-85% of HR.

5. Introduce progression runs, such as divide your 20km runs into 5 phases. First 4km at a pace of 7 min/km, followed by 6:30, 6:00, 5:30 and by the time you are in the last leg of your run, which is the last 4km, try to run them at 5min/km. This can be combined with your weekly long run also.

6. Practising form drills constantly reminds us of the running posture, helps in engaging the muscles effectively, helps us in working on our running technique and efficiency.

7. Staying consistent will result in developing a good muscle memory. Allow sufficient days between the runs for proper recovery and rest. Introduce easy days after a hard day’s run or active rest to ensure the body is rested well so we can play the speed and stamina game to the best of our running potential.

Suresh Srinivasan

Suresh Srinivasan

The author has been running and practicing fitness for 20 years. He has completed seven marathons till date which includes three international marathons, two world majors.

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