Always wanted to be a faster runner, but dread the thought of incorporating speed drills and track workouts into your routine? Take notes from ultramarathoner Jennifer Pattee, owner of Basic Training in San Francisco. "I am not a particularly fast runner; my body is built for endurance," Jennifer says. "If I wanted to become faster the quickest way possible, I would do track workouts and speed work. But I don't really like track workouts and speed work — even though they work — so I avoid them until I have to do them." Instead she focuses on making running efficient with the following tips, which she's dubbed "the lazy girl's approach to speed work."
- Try to land flat: How your foot strikes the ground can make a difference in your overall speed, so concentrate on landing midfoot. "Striking with a flat foot is always better than striking with your heel or toe because you are less likely to injure your joints and muscles," she says. "For people who suffer from shin splints, often those are caused by the way their foot is striking the ground."
- Keep strides short: Your stride can also affect your running efficiency, so focus on keeping them regular and short. "Taking long strides might make you feel like you're going faster, but they actually slow you down," Jennifer says.
- Seek out hills: You may dread them, but hills are an excellent way to strengthen your lower body muscles and joints. Find a hill that you can run up and down a few times during your run. "Hill repeats force the muscles in your hips, legs, ankles, and feet to work while supporting your body weight. Plus, while gravity may not feel like your friend, it's providing resistance for your muscles to work against as you attack that incline," Jennifer explains. "That extra resistance, combined with your body weight, helps your muscles develop power. Power leads to speed, especially when you're back running on the flats."
While you shouldn't cut out conventional speed training if you are trying to shave minutes off your mile, small changes that make running more efficient can help you with your speed relatively quickly. Take it from Jennifer, who explains the connection between running efficiency and speed this way: "When I am running more efficiently, running feels easier. When running feels easier, I have more fun. When I have fun running, I run more often. When I run more often, I get in great shape. When I am in my best shape, I run my fastest." Sounds like "lazy" might be a misnomer!