The majority of sports played at both the amateur and professional level involve running. American Football, Soccer, Rugby, Cricket, Baseball, Basketball, Netball, Lacrosse and Field hockey all involve running – and most sports that don’t involve running are typically contests to see who can move faster without actually running (i.e. swimming, rowing, bicycling, etc…). All of this despite the fact that nobody actually likes running…track athletes say they like running, but that’s a lie. In other sports, running is used as a punishment for dropping a ball or blowing a play. Track is simply a combination of punishments taken from all other sports.
Alright, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it would be no great stretch to say that if you want to get better at sports, you should get better at running. And if you want to get better at running, here’s what the research says:
1. Get stronger. Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces, not more rapid leg movements.
(J. Appl Physiol 2000 Nov;89(5):1991-9.
3. Try pulling a sled to increase your short sprints. Pulling a weighted sled has been shown to improve both acceleration performance and starting speed.
(J. Sports Med Phys Fitness 2005 Sep;45(3):284-90.)
4. Try combining uphill and downhill running. Research indicates that maximum sprint speed is increased more effectively increased with a combination of uphill and downhill running as opposed to horizontal surface running.
(Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009 Jun;4(2):229-43.)
5. To burn more calories run on sand. Research indicates that the net energy cost (aerobic + anaerobic energy cost) is higher on sand than grass.
(J Sci Med Sport. 2001 Dec;4(4):416-30.)
6. Ditch the unstable surface training. Forget trying to train with all of the fancy wobble boards and bosa balls that have infested commercial gyms. Research performed at the University of Connecticut has strongly suggested that using unstable surface training attenuates performance improvements in healthy, trained athletes.
(J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):561-7.)
7. Don’t go crazy with downhill or “overspeed” sprint training. Running down a slope of 5.8 degrees has been shown to be optimal for improving 40yd. dash times, achieving an average decrease of .35 seconds in trained athletes.
(Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2008 Mar;3(1):88-93.)