3 Tips for Improving Speed Without Speedwork

Posted by Beni Cook
Improving athletic performance, in this case, speed, it’s not quite as simple as we would like it to be. The science behind it can at times be very contradictory to each other because there are so many different approaches and numerous coaches all with their own unique views on how to make improvements in their athletes. 


Piecing together what we know about human physiology into a structured training program, that will work well for that individual when applied into practice, is the mark of a great coach and not easily done. When this knowledge is applied in an intelligent and systematic approach, taking into account the individual’s abilities and limitations, it can help the athlete unlock their potential without sacrificing their health. This is the ideal result for any athlete and personal trainer.


When it comes to improving athletic performance, along with any aspect of health and fitness, people immediately think that they MUST train harder and longer all the time, when this couldn’t be further from the truth. The no pain no gain mentality can initially produce some results but will over time, lead to diminishing results and performance as inevitably injuries and illness begin to surface. 


What we will highlight are 4 highly effective, alternative training methods that can help you get faster with far less risk of injury or illness. The reason these particular techniques were chosen is for their ability to increase the body’s efficiency and movement economy, so it doesn’t matter the sport you are in or play, the more efficiently and economically your body can move, the better you can train and perform while reducing the number of negative impacts you experience.


You can try 1 of these methods or all 4 and regardless of how many you choose, you will see improvements, especially in your speed. 


1. Overreaching:

This aspect of training is something that is difficult for a lot of people to achieve, and that is the ability to find the training sweet spot.

This means getting enough volume and stimulus to make athletic improvements but not so much that you go too far and lead to over-training, diminishing your results. This point can be called overreaching, which is the point at which a person maintains or increases fitness levels, but holds just short of the point of over-training that inevitably leads to loss of performance, injuries, and illness.

A great formula that you can use is one by Phil Maffetone which is Training=Workout+Rest. The most common reason people go past the point of overreaching is simply they think that the more hard training they do the more results they will see. These sessions can be undoubtedly useful and necessary to improve athletic performance, speed rate, and endurance but if performed too frequently performance suffers. 


2. Muscle balance:

The body is designed to operate as a cohesive and collective unit and when your muscles function in harmony with each other, you’ll move much more efficiently and with a greater energy economy. However, the slightest imbalance in the muscles and how they operate as a system can greatly decrease your performance and increase the risk of injuries.

The neuromuscular system (the brain and muscles) regulates movement and if muscle imbalances develop, your ability to run, walk or even throw will suffer. Imbalances occur for many reasons such as incorrect footwear, poor lifting technique, nutrition or lack of adequate recovery.

Another big factor is strength! Some styles of weightlifting or training can quite often diminish aerobic function, impair gait cycles (that’s how you walk and run), and can reduce endurance levels, all of which can make you slow. Finding an intelligent weight training system that compliments your athletic capacity and goals is the key. 

3. Feet: 

Our feet are an architectural marvel in the body and are pivotal, along with our lower legs, to harnessing our ability to produce and reduce force from the contact we make with the ground. This energy return system can be very significant but it won’t operate at its best if our feet carry imbalances or structural deficiencies such as collapsed arches, muscle imbalance, overstretched tendons or even a lack of flexibility. All of these and more can greatly finish the feet’s ability to produce this extra force to speed up or learn to absorb it. The main cause of dysfunctional feet stems from over-supportive shoes that have thick, rigid, odd-shaped soles.

Shoe weight is also another completely overlooked factor in making our feet more dysfunctional. Tests run by renowned track coach Dr Jack Daniels highlighted how dramatic shoe weight was that can greatly affect one’s speed. He tested runners on a treadmill with various weighted shoes which showed a great decrease in their speed rate and running economy with shoes that weighed more.

For example for every 3-5 ounces of shoe weight, this added approximately an extra minute in your speed or more in a marathon. To improve or maximize running economy and your feet’s strength, we recommend that you spend some time barefoot. 


4. Healthy foods:

This should come as no surprise to anyone but what you eat will directly affect your performance. This can be through improving fat-burning capabilities, helping build balanced muscle, increasing circulation and helping to build better aerobic capacity. The biggest blocker to performance is refined carbohydrates, minimise these if you want to improve your performance. (Check our previous blog entry for an easy-to-do healthy meal)


If you want better results from your training, contact us today to learn how our experienced personal trainers can help you.

Beni Cook
Beni Cook is the Head Personal Trainer and Founder of Beyond Best. Beni is a health and fitness expert who develops individualised exercise programs that will meet your own short and long-term objectives, while providing information, advice and encouragement that will enable you to lead your healthiest life, every day.

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