Different paces fit the criteria of what running fast means for different individuals. No matter if your pace is 6 mph or 15 mph, we all share something in common when running fast: We run with power!

Isn’t it weird that we feel so powerful and strong when running fast, but the majority of us focus on steady endurance workouts? In the world of running mid- to long distances, there’s a perception that lifting weights will make you slower. Even stranger is when I hear runners talk about weight training, they think they shouldn’t pick up anything heavier than 12 pounds and nothing over 20 light reps.

So, how do you want to feel: powerful and strong?

“Almost any sports require explosive or power movements. Power involves the generation of force in a short period of time. Because strength training increases our ability to generate force, and force is one of the two components underlying power, by increasing strength we therefore increase our ability to generate power,” explains Richard Lopez, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and professor at Florida International University.

In this sense, Anthony Turner, MSc, CSCS, from London Sports Institute, points out that when long distance runners completed a heavy strength training program for eight weeks, the time to exhaustion at maximal speed increased by 21.3 percent.

If you are a runner who wants to improve performance, you should lift weights. Turner says: “If rest periods are too short , less than 30 seconds, loading is likely to be compromised, thereby diminishing gains in strength, power and rate of forced development.”

Don’t overlook the lateral jumps, jumps onto boxes or consecutive jumps. Plyometrics – movements that involve a rapid lengthening and shortening muscles contractions – improve propulsion and the ability to produce the same force with less energy (running economy).

For Turner, this is not about simply adding some weights now and then. 

“When 37 percent of total aerobic endurance training was replaced with strength training, the protocol was able to preserve if not to enhance the ability to maintain higher power outputs,” he says.

Speed it up

In exercise physiology, there’s something known as specificity, which means that if you want to be better at something, you better be working on this specifically. This means that to run faster, you need to, well, run faster.

Turner explains in his review that high intensity endurance training is more important to improve V02 max than moderate and low intensity training. Intensity and volume are not exchangeable.

Pyramid sprint training

In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research when players were assigned to do sprint intervals following a increasing distance protocol (100m, 200m, 300m, 400m) and decreasing distance (400m, 300m, 200m, 100m). The letter was associated with higher anabolic response (growth hormone, which is critical for stamina and strength) and less perceived exertion regardless the greater metabolic demand.

Take away message: When doing sprints, it seems that going from long to short makes the most sense.

Note: If you want to find out more about how to incorporate high intermittent training (HIIT) in your workout check out this article.

Leg workout for fast runners

- Perform this routine twice a week on non consecutive days.

- Beginners: do 1-2 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise. Rest as needed.

- Intermediates/advanced: do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps of each exercise. Rest 60-90 seconds in between reps.

- If you’ll do plyometrics, do them at the beginning depending on the difficulty of the exercises chosen.

- Include one weekly upper body strength session at least.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.

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Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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