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Updated 03 May 2013

5 surprising tricks to help you run faster

Whether you are a running veteran or a running newbie, we bet you want to be able to run faster.

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How to get a personal best and improve running performance

Whether you are a running veteran or a running newbie, we bet you want to be able to run faster. Here we show you five unusual and surprising tricks that will help you improve your running performance and hopefully help you to achieve a personal best.

Work out if you associate or dissociate

What type of runner are you? Experts have suggested that most runners are either an associator runner or a dissociator runner and a study conducted in 1996 at the London Marathon found that these two types of mental strategies could be further categorised into the following:

  • Internal association – a runner’s attention focuses on the way their body feels when running. You might think about your breathing or the fluidity of your legs when running.
  • Internal dissociation - a runner’s attention focuses on distracting their minds when running. You might make up a story, solve a problem or think about people in your life when running.
  • External association - a runner’s attention focuses on the external details of the race. You might think about the next water station and monitor split times when running.
  • External dissociation - a runner’s attention focuses on the external details that are not associated with the race. You might think about the landmarks you are passing, the weather or the scenery when running.

Understanding what type of runner you are means that you can employ strategies that suit your running style that will help you to run faster. For example, those people who are dissociated runners will find that using distraction methods, such as listening to music when running, might help you to run faster.

Listen to Bon Jovi

Dr Costas Karageorghis is a sports psychologist who has carried out extensive research into the effects of music on sports performance. According to Dr Costas Karageorghis listening to music when you run could improve your running performance by 15 per cent.

Dr Costas Karageorghis believes that listening to music can help you to run faster in many different ways. Firstly, music can encourage you to think positively when you are out running and it can also help you to feel less fatigued, by making you less aware of the amount of effort you are putting into your run.  According to Dr Costas Karageorghis, music can reduce our awareness of effort by as much as 10 per cent.

If you want to utilise the power of music and use it to make you run faster pick songs that trigger something in you. Remember everyone is different and just because Paula Radcliffe finds it useful listening to Kanye West’s Stronger, you might not. When putting together your playlist choose songs that inspire you and pick songs with different tempos that match the different stages of your run.

Eat beetroot

According to research undertaken by researchers at the St Louis University in America, eating beetroot could help runners finish a 5k run faster.

The study asked participants to run 5k on a treadmill twice. Before running the first 5k the participants ate baked beetroot.  In the second instance they ate cranberry relish that provided the same amount of calorific values as the beetroot. The study revealed that when the participants ate the beetroot they ran 7.6 miles per hour compared to running 7.3 miles per hour when they ate cranberries.

It is thought that the nitrates present in beetroot helped the participants to run faster. It is also thought that beetroot juice can improve a runner’s stamina and help to keep their muscles working efficiently. Next time you go on a run tuck into some beetroot an hour or so prior to your training session.

Run slower

Although you want to run faster, in order to get quicker you need to run slowly sometimes too. Mixing up your workouts and running different distances at different speeds will help you to improve your overall fitness and will eventually make you run faster in the long term. You should aim to run longer distances at a slower pace, fit in some interval training sessions and do some hill work if you want to beat your personal best and run faster than you’ve ever ran before. Remember, the key to speed is to diversify.

Jump more

Plyometric workouts involve doing fast, explosive exercises. Plyometric exercises are great for runners because they improve your muscles’ elasticity, make your muscles contract faster and eventually they will also enable your body to cope with bigger workloads more effectively.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska found that those people who were able to jump high vertically, also had better 10k times, suggesting that your ability to perform plyometric exercises, such as jumping, can help you to run faster. 

Plyometric workouts do not have to be long though and fitting in one to two plyometric sessions should help you to improve your running performance dramatically. Do scissor kicks, hops, jumps, box jumps and tuck jumps as a part of your plyometric workout.

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