recently asked our followers on Facebook what they wanted to hear about in our upcoming blogs because we want to write about what matters to you! So this week, I will do my best to answer the following question.
Q: Should I focus on running faster, or should I focus on being injury free? Does it matter how fast I run?
The first thing that comes to mind is that if you are injured it won’t matter how fast you are!So staying healthy for longer periods of time will ultimately allow you to get faster. Every time you have an injury, all of the training you put into getting faster can easily become worthless. So focusing on staying injury free and healthy is the key to eventually improving your speed.
Injury is multifaceted. Our bodies are amazing: we can often run and exercise through many "poor conditions," but when they start to pile up, we will eventually get injured. Here are some common reasons injury occurs and what we can do about injury:
Training errors: This often means doing run too much too soon, consistently running too hard or not taking enough rest. My suggestion is that if you are new to running or if you have been running for a long time but are consistently getting injured, then hire a running coach. Running coaches don’t have to be expensive and can give you a plan that is specific to you and your lifestyle (if they are good)! If you are in Atlanta, I would suggest checking out Coach Carl: he is my favorite because he is realistic, easy to work with and fantastic!
Stress: This can mean psychological stress and/or physical stress on the body. Research has shown that when people are under a lot of stress with work, family, relationships or financial reasons, they are more likely to get injured. Making sure you are managing your daily stress will impact your ability to stay injury free and run faster. If you are overwhelmed and aren't sure if it is impacting your performance, it may be a good idea to reach out to a sports psychologist like Dr. Kensa Gunter, a life coach likeLiberate my Life or someone that can help you with mental training for performance, likeIntrepid Performance. Unfortunately, there is a stigma around mental health in the U.S., but learning to manage your daily stress or training stress can significantly reduce risk for injury and improve your overall life!
Impaired strength and movement patterns: This seems to be common knowledge, but rarely do runners actually take this into consideration. I was in this boat too - but now I know better. If you can’t stand on one leg and balance, or if you can’t do a squat properly, you are at risk for injury. Research has show that strength training in running will make your faster, improve your running economy and decrease your risk for injury. Strength training doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary - you just need to find the right place. There are several great places in town. My three favorites, depending on where you live, are The Rack, Acceleration Fitnessand Biomechanics Advantage.
Improve your running form: Form matters. If you run too loudly, you will increase the load and ground reaction force in your body. If your knee goes into valgus (dives in), you are overprinting, and your stride is too long. You could increase the stress in your foot, knee, hip and all the way up the chain. Research has shown that getting a running gait analysis is beneficial if you are injured or not. We do running gait analysis all of the time at Precision!
If you have addressed all of the factors above and are running injury free, then it can be a good time to increase your speed. When it comes to speed, some people are built for it, and some people have to work for it. If you are one of the few that is built for speed, you are lucky. Most of us have to work for it.
Interval training improves your anaerobic and aerobic systems. It helps improve the efficiency of glycogen (your energy stores) transport, muscle endurance and your leg turn over.
Running hills will improve leg strength, turn over, and, if done correctly, your form.
Strength training will improve your functional movement patterns, which will have a big impact on your form. It can help improve blood flow and oxygen transport to your muscles and improve your overall running economy.
Consistency is key. Research has show that a constant and moderate exercise routine is more likely to improve speed that a few bouts of interval workouts here and there.
V02 threshold testing can be useful for improving performance and decreasing risk for injury. Once you have been tested, you can use the data to design a program that is specific to your current fitness and physiological make up.
If your goal is to run faster, I suggest you look into working with a running coach. Everybody's body is different, and a coach can create a program specific to your needs. I hope this blog was useful! Keep you questions coming! The more you let us know what you want to read, about the better our content will be!