3 Tips To Increase Your Running Speed

We are lucky to have a great San Antonio running community.  I recently met Travis Perry who is a Personal Trainer and Run Coach working out of the downtown Gold's Gym.

I asked Travis to provide us with some information on his background and services so that we could share it with our running community.  Please read Travis' guest post below and contact him if you are interested in his services.


My name is Travis Perry and I am a certified strength and conditioning coach and a run coach. Currently, I work as a personal trainer at Gold's Gym at the downtown location on Travis Street. Exercise has always been a part of my life. After growing through experience, academia and training for over 10 years, I finally decided to do what I love to do full time and coach people to fulfill their own fitness goals. Whether it's helping people sculpt muscles with free weights, utilizing functional fitness techniques to become a more proficient athlete (sport or occupational), or running a marathon, that's what I'm here to help you do.


How can we get faster once our run speed seems to hit an unbreakable plateau? Since I've started running and working as a run coach, I've observed a fundamental piece of training missing in many runner routines. That piece is strength training.

Fundamentally, we've determined that increasing speed means (1) pushing off of the ground really hard as well as (2) minimizing ground contact time and (3) improving running economy. For this article, I want to focus on the “push off the ground” and “ground contact time” part. When pushing harder off of the ground, it automatically improves stride frequency and stride length, two key components related to a fast run.

First, let’s look at stride frequency. Research by Paavolainen, et al., indicates that runners can improve their speed by decreasing ground contact time. In this study, endurance athletes improved their 5K (3.1 miles) times by introducing explosive-strength training into their routine. They cut their foot-strike time down by 15 milliseconds. This doesn’t sound like much but in a 10K (6.2 miles), this could mean an improvement of about 99 seconds. And when a new PR always seems to be just out of reach, or when that 1st place prize keeps on going to your running nemesis, this sort of training could be exactly what you need to break that personal barrier or push you to the front of the pack.

Okay, so what exercises help with stride rate?

Sprints. Get out on the track and spend some time doing 50-100 meter sprints. Make sure to get in a good warm-up of about 10-15 minutes first! Take it slow if you're not used to this. Start with about 10 sprints on the first day of exercise and see how your body responds. I suggest you work on good core training or Plyometrics before you get into sprints.

2. Plyometrics/Explosive Drills. What are Plyometrics? Think explosive exercises like box jumps, drop and hurdle jumps, bilateral counter movements, and one leg jumps. Do them explosively with emphasize on hitting the ground and leaving it quickly. Some of these drills we already incorporate on track days. You can also use light weights (between 0-40% of 1 rep max) to do exercises like split squats and air squat jumps but make sure you do them with explosive force (safely) doing about 5-15 reps. Most of them time however, your own body weight will work just fine. Take enough rest between each rep to recover a little, enough time to get good explosive force on the next rep, nearly equal to that of the first. This is not meant to be HITT training or cardio so don't be afraid to rest.

3. Stability and Balance exercises. When producing high forces with exercises like the jump squat, you need to make sure your body can handle those forces by working on your core strength and balance. Build a strong foundation that will allow you to perform your strength training properly. Creating a strong core will help you sustain longer distances at a faster pace. Also, you'll find yourself at much less risk of injury. When the hips are strong, many times the consequences of a weak core/weak hips like achy, painful knees and ankles go away or never even appear in the first place.  

Sources: Leena Paavolainen, Keijo Häkkinen, Ismo Hämäläinen, Ari Nummela, Heikki Rusko Journal of Applied Physiology Published 1 May 1999 Vol. 86 no. 5, 1527-1533 DOI: http://jap.physiology.org/content/86/5/1527.long

If you want to find out more about how you can improve your running, contact Travis at clayton.perry@goldsgym.com and schedule a complimentary session with him. This invite is open to everyone, members and non-members of Gold's Gym.