Base and Stretching the Base
"Speed happens, grasshopper."
I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has come up to me and said, "I really want to run faster so badly, but every time I try to run faster, I get injured." I would even venture to guess that there are a fair number of folks out there who must think by now that speed and injury go hand-in-hand. A lot of this action-reaction is a biproduct of our society with its dependence on instant gratification. The current marketing paradigm would have us believe that it's much better to have things sooner, to be faster, to finish ahead, and to end up with more.
When I look around for things that represent sudden permanent change of any kind, the main things that stand out are not that great. In fact they tend to be more catastrophic than good like natural disasters and acts of war to name a couple. My point is, that one of the ingredients of change for the better is our old friend "time".
A second and equally important piece in the formula for positive change is building a good base. Whether it's a house or a running program, the same law applies, "If you do it right from the start, the end result will be of much higher quality and longer lasting."
So when someone tells me that they'd like to run faster, I don't immediately start talking intervals and speed work, I talk "form".
Working to improve your running form is the best building block for a successful and long lasting running career. Two of the best ways to almost insure that you'll sustain some sort of injury while running are:
A.) to run beyond your present physical capabilities and
B.) to run in a way that does not follow the natural way that your body was designed to move. Simply put, if your running technique is inefficient or incorrect in some way, your body will take the brunt of it and get beat up in the process.
The best formula that I've come across is what I call FDS, which stands for Form-Distance-Speed. First comes FORM work, which involves training your body to be relaxed, smooth and efficient. Ideally you want to get to the point where no part of your body is either overworking or under-working. Then, as your form gets better and better, you work to keep that great running form for longer and longer DISTANCES. Start by teaching yourself to run without holding any tension in your muscles...a nice soft foot-strike perfect arm-swing and all the rest for a quarter mile. Stretch that base to a half mile then to a mile then to two miles and slowly build until you reach the distance where you want to level off. THEN, when you can run any distance you choose without your form falling apart, all you have to do is add a little more "lean" to the soup and "voila!!!" you've got SPEED. Good running technique should be your goal, and speed should be the biproduct not the other way around. Technique should come first, then distance, and then speed.
Don't be in a hurry to get fast or you could find yourself in the fast lane headed for the sidelines. If you follow the FDS method, you could find yourself running farther and faster than you've ever imagined, while enjoying it more.