How to Increase Your Running Speed Without Running

Speed is one of the elements of youthfulness and even though we all slow down  as we age, keeping your speed up will help you not only sprint out of the way of a derelict driver but also will help you feel younger.

We know that your top walking speed is closely tied to your longevity and sense of youthfulness.1

Increasing your walking speed is fairly easy and has low risk of injury since all you have to do is walk as fast as you can for short intervals.

But increasing running speed is a different story. There’s a lot more risk of injury since the ground reaction force is much higher than walking. Depending on how fast you run, you’re looking at 4-6 times your body weight in force traveling up your leg into your trunk.

How to Increase Speed Without Running

So how can you increase your running speed without actually running?

The key is squat strength.2

The stronger your legs (and trunk) are, the more force you can produce and absorb.

You don’t have to use a barbell slung over your shoulders either.

Remember, strength can be increased in a lot of ways. Sure, loading up a barbell and doing a back squat is one way but there are other, more joint-friendly ways to boost your leg strength.

Drills to Increase Leg Strength

The password for the videos is fusiontribe.

Backslider. This drill looks relatively easy but it’s deceiving. The reason is that as you squat one leg, you’re balancing and sliding on the other. Some people look at the drill and say, “Oh, that’s the same as a reverse lunge.” Not true. A reverse lunge is actually easier because it’s almost impossible to not push off with the opposite foot. You’ll get plenty of leg work with body weight force to start with but if you need more load, it’s easy to do with a dumb bell or two.

Sideslider. This is another sneaky drill. Some ActiveAge Blueprint members have commented that they discover hidden imbalances, weaknesses when they try this drill. You need decent hip mobility and control. The sliding leg is not the load bearing leg. You squat on one leg while sliding the other.

Speed Squat. A simple drill requiring only a chair and your own effort. When you try this, keep the legs moving just up and down. No deviation to the side in or out. Speed is a simple way to boost strength.

You might be thinking, “Well, I don’t ever run so I don’t need to worry about this.” I understand that. But, try changing your thinking about it a bit to prevention like flossing your teeth. Day to day you don’t have to floss unless you want to reduce your risk of tooth decay and gun disease. Same thing with leg strength. Maybe you don’t need to run but I’ll bet you will want to feel younger as you get older.

  1. Michelle Lusardi, PT, DPT, PhD, Geriatrics Section session, Combined Sections Meeting, APTA, Feb 2012 “Walking Speed: A Vital Sign and Even More” []
  2. Comfort, P., N. Bullock, et al. (2012). “A comparison of maximal squat strength and 5-, 10-, and 20-meter sprint times, in athletes and recreationally trained men.” J Strength Cond Res 26(4): 937-940. []
Lacey says

Oh, and I really do not like it that we all slow down as we age – even if we fight it! Ugh. I don’t care so much about looking young, but my bout with orthopedic pain and lack of mobility showed me how much I want and need to feel young, to be physically able to do what I love. I consider myself lucky that at the reasonably young age of 35 I was injured just enough (enough to need a 5 point strategy to get up off the floor) to learn that lesson because it keeps me determined to stay strong- and thankful to you guys for putting me on the solid path to strength.

    DD Kelsey says

    Lacey –

    I really enjoy hearing from people who are excited about what they’re doing to get the most out of their life – like you. I agree with you on what it means to feel younger as you get older. I think it’s more about energy and mobility than it is anything else. When you can move the way you want to and you have energy to spare, you’ll have a certain vibrance about you. And that is when you’ll not feel your age.
    Live free.

Lacey says

I’ve been loving the back slider for a few weeks, or months maybe. My furniture mover was too small for me to keep my foot on, so I slide sock on carpet. It isn’t the same, I admit, it’s easier. But, last night I just added another set using a 20 lb weight because it had gotten too easy. I’m thinking about trying a few one leg squats straight up… or maybe I’ll just try a bigger furniture mover first 🙂

I’d forgotten about the speed squat! They were part of my return to running program. You go down further than I did (or maybe it just looks like it bcs your legs must be 5 ft long). You go to at least 90 degrees… I’ll try a chair and go a little slower and test it out going down that low.

Can’t wait to try the side squat! I get to run today, so these new tools will have to wait till tomorrow 🙂

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