How To Boost Your Speed and Conditioning

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A majority of individuals think of speed in terms of it being an attribute: something that is either developed through working hard for years or something you are naturally born with. However, speed is an ability. Although you might have the physical underpinnings for it – the muscle strength and metabolic conditioning – your body still must learn how to move fast.

According to physical therapist Robert Forster, who rehabs and trains elite-level athletes in Santa Monica, CA at his Phase IV center (phase-iv.net), it all is centered around neurological reprogramming. He says that the systems are all prepare to fire, but they need to be taught since they haven’t done it before.

Forster teaches athletes how to go fast through using a technique that is referred to as overspeed training. It involves placing the individual in a harness that is suspended above a treadmill. Approximately 20 pounds of body weight is removed by the harness, which allows the athlete to fluidly and quickly turn his legs, like he was running across a planet that had less gravity. Forester says it is easy to adapt to it quickly and takes just a few sessions to get the nervous system trained to be able to break through a speed plateau.

However, what should you do if you don’t have access to a sprint-capable treadmill and gravity harness? Foster says that the running down hill is the low-tech way to perform overspeed training for the purpose of neurological training.

However, running downhill isn’t as easy as it sounds. It isn’t for beginners for one thing. Forster details the classic periodized training pyramid that the Russians sports scientists originally created: the largest level and first priority is joint stability (which provides the structural integrity for training hard), this is followed by strength training, and then power. The smallest and final part of the pyramid is speed. What that means that before you begin speed training you need to start first with a solid base of flat and slow running, three to four mile at least, a few times per week. Next you should run uphill (strength) for four weeks at least and a few weeks at least performing fast and short intervals or plyometrics (power). A person who already performs a well-rounded condition program such as CrossFit will be able to start almost immediately on downhill training.

Most people have a tendency of leaning backward as a natural form of braking mechanism whenever they are going downhill. However, for overspeed training, try slightly leaning forward so that your body stays perpendicular with your running surface. Using a faster cadence and shorter stride is recommended by Forster. This will help to prevent all kinds of injuries. Your goal should be to do 180 steps a minute (30 steps per 10 seconds) no matter what the decline or pace is.

Forster says the training will transfer over to the gym for a couple of different lifts as well. He adds that the whole reason for doing it is to generate more leg speed, and those muscle fibers will have the ability to fire faster in certain lifts.

Cruise Control

Try to perform the following downhill running program one time a week for a total of three weeks to boost your speed and conditioning. Next take a week off. Then perform two downhill running sessions a week for three weeks.

  • To warm up, run for one mile.
  • Locate a slight decline (2-4 percent grade). Run for a total of 50 meters. Then walk back to your starting point. Repeat this process for four or five total intervals. The intervals should be at around six on a Perceived Exertion scale (with three at a warm-up pace and 10 at all-out effort).
  • After each session, stretch. Forster says to focus on your quadriceps. This can also help to prevent your kneecaps from becoming sore.
  • Don’t over do it. Running down hill is stressful and you need more recovery time.
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