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Healthy Habits for Bonsall & Fallbrook Folks – Running fast – How to increase speed

Megan Johnson McCullough

Special to the Village News

Some people have the gift of speed when it comes to running. What makes a person get from point A to point B faster than others, has a few factors to keep in mind. Physical fitness ability certainly plays a role, mindset towards running and technique can be influential to speed.

Physiological factors are big indicators of speed. The circulatory system with your heart and lungs are the oxygen pumpers, so their health and capability are important. Genetics have their role with this process of getting oxygen to the muscles, but effective practice and training can assist.

Speed comes down to slow-twitch versus fast-twitch muscle fibers. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are used for endurance and fast-twitch muscle fibers are recruited for more explosive movements such as sprinting. There can be extensive examination done to someone's body to know which you are more prone to be better at, endurance versus sprinting, but most people know their abilities.

Gait is the movement pattern that can be trained for performance improvement to run fast. Gait training is often used in physical therapy to improve the ability to walk and stand. Gait the movement pattern the leg and foot follow with each step. It's the cyclical pattern the motion makes to propel you forward.

There's a stance and swing phase. Stance is when the foot initially makes contact with the ground until the body is over the foot. As the body moves forward and over the foot, the swing phase takes place when the foot has left the ground and before it makes contact with the ground once again. During this time, the hip and knee are flexing.

The next moment is when the foot is in the air; it is called the float stage. The foot and body are not touching the ground, and it is the difference between walking and running. The more efficient you are with the gait movement pattern the faster you can run.

Typically, consistent gait training for six to 10 weeks can contribute to noticeable improvement. Some example drills include running with high knees, "A" skips and "B" skips – high knee with dorsiflexion versus high knee then extend the leg forward – butt kicks, power skips, carioca, bounding and strides. These exercises are good to do even for the general runner because better form is a proactive approach to preventing injury.

There's an entire running community that exists and for most, distance and endurance become the preferred style of running with age. There's no doubt watching sprinters compete is an amazing sight to see, and it literally happens so "fast."

There are a multitude of apps and devices that track and motivate running as well. Walk, trot, jog, run or sprint: movement is medicine to the body whether it be fast, slow, short or long.

Megan Johnson McCullough, Ed.D., recently earned her doctorate in physical education and health science, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.


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