We'd all like to be faster. Here's our six-step guide to make it happen.
1 Check your running style
Everyone has quirks to their running style (Paula Radcliffe’s nodding dog, anyone?), but perfect your form and you’ll surge forward with ease. Mike Antoniades from The Running School (therunningschool.co.uk) takes us through the basics:
Body Be upright, with your weight shifted onto the balls of your feet.
Head Upright with a straight neck. Look at the ground 10 to 15m ahead.
Legs Running is chiefly done with the rear muscles. Pull your heels up towards your bum and let your leading leg drift through back to the front.
Feet Don’t land on your heel with your foot in front of you; land on your midfoot under your centre of gravity.
Arms Use your upper body muscles to pump your arms in a straight line, without crossing them. Keep shoulders and hands relaxed, arms locked at 90˚, push back with your elbows and let the arms float back through to the front.
2 Try a speed-training workout
The Egyptians knew a thing or two about pyramids, and so will you after beasting yourself on this pyramid speed training session:
Find a stretch of quiet road (or park) about 400m long and after a warm up, do two sets of: 200m, 400m, 800m, 1200m, 800m, 400m, 200m — with two minutes’ rest between reps and five minutes’ rest between sets.
And why endure this lung-buster? “Staggered interval training teaches you speed endurance,” says physio Scott Mitchell (moveclinics.com), who has worked with international track and field athletes. “It also increases your VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen your lungs can process per breath.”
3 Eat the ultimate power food
Usain Bolt might like a chicken nugget or two before strolling to another world record, but, for us mortals, fuelling up properly before exercise is a must.
You know the basics already, but if you’re after a magic bullet to fire your engine before a race or key training session, then here it is — kedgeree. Yep, that strange fish and rice dish that our colonial forebears used to guzzle before a spot of Bengal tiger-hunting.
The kippers reduce inflammation of the lungs, helping you breathe easier while running faster; the peas are high in fibre and protein, which keeps your blood sugar steady; the rice provides slow release energy; and the spring onions keep your arteries wide open, promoting swifter blood flow.
4 Improve your arm power
“Strong arm swing equals more power with less effort,” says Toni Minichiello, heptathlete Jessica Ennis’s coach. Here’s one of her favourite drills:
Stand with a 1kg ball (try the Physical Tornado Medicine Ball, £34, from physicalcompany.co.uk) in your right hand about 20m from a wall.
Step forward with your left foot and bring the ball behind you.
Throw the ball forward keeping your torso forwards.
Five throws per hand is one set.
Do three sets of 10 with two minutes’ recovery.
5 Hone your breathing
Poor lung function causes your body to divert blood to the lungs to help them work better — at a cost to your other muscles.
Get yourself a Powerbreathe K5 breathing trainer (£450, powerbreathe.com).
It’s a handheld digital device that uses a loaded valve system to resist when you breathe into it, working your lungs harder.
Go for two minutes, twice a day.
6 Trick the brain
A study at the University of Cape Town shows that our brains tell us we’re fatigued before we actually are, as a defence mechanism. It’s called the “central governor” theory.
Here’s how to train your body to bypass your brain:
Say “Om” — Studies at US medical institute Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center show that just 80 minutes of meditation can reduce “pain unpleasantness” by 57 per cent, increasing your pain threshold.
Buddy up — University of Portsmouth researchers found that the competition of partnered training pushes the brain to use secret fuel reserves.
Free your mind — Stressed athletes have a higher perception of exertion and give up an average of 15 per cent earlier, according to research done by Bangor University. So take some downtime in front of Sky Sports News before you go training.