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When we head to the gym for a workout we often do so with the relatively vague intention to just improve our strength and fitness and to leave healthier than we started off. This is all good and well, but it often means training with no real goal or direction and just floundering around the gym from station to station.
A better way to train often is with a goal in mind and a concrete target so that we are heading towards improving a particular ability or making ourselves more efficient in a specific capacity. One great measure of general physical prowess is the ability to run long distances in shorter periods of time, and generally if you can do this then you're probably in pretty good shape. At the same time being able to run fast is a highly underrated skill that has a lot of use – allowing us to escape dangerous situations, to perform better in sports, and to get around faster when we're in a hurry. Here we will look at how you can improve your running speed in the gym to those ends.
Leg Strength: Of course one of the simplest ways to increase your running speed is to improve the muscular power in your legs. This will mean that you are pushing off of the ground with more force. There are countless ways you can train your leg muscles in the gym, but the single most effective form of exercise to this end is the squat which trains all the muscles in your legs as well as your core in a compound way. You should also make sure to train your calves (usually using calf raises) as well as your hamstrings and your quadriceps.
Explosive Power: As well as training your general leg strength it's also particularly important to train your legs' ability to generate explosive force which will give you that literal spring in your step. The best way to accomplish this is by using exercises that use your legs in an explosive way in order to train the fast twitch muscle fibres. One good example of such an exercise is box jumps, in which you jump up onto a high box and then straight down again and repeat.
Endurance: It's no good being as fast as lightning if you run out of steam after barely travelling. It's important then that you also train your physical fitness and that these two go hand in hand. In order to improve this simply practice running consistently on a treadmill and gradually increasing the distance that you are travelling and/or the speed you are running. One great method is to use 'interval' training, in which you train by alternating between 'intervals' where you will sprint very quickly and then similar intervals where you will walk or jog to recover. This allows you to increase your overall heart rate more as well as encouraging the production of more muscle building and fat burning hormones like growth hormone.
Overspeed Training: Overspeed training means going faster than you would normally be able to run on your own in order to teach your muscles the correct technique for maintaining that kind of speed. Using a treadmill and the hand rails this is relatively easy to accomplish – just put the setting higher than you would normally comfortably be able to run and make sure to hold the handrails gently while you train to ensure you don't fall over. You may also want to use a spotter to help alter the speed of the treadmill while your hands are busy keeping you upright.
Andrew Midfield is a passionate writer and puts great emphasis on a healthy lifestyle routine. He suggests some ideal equipment for gym training, including a motorised folding treadmill.