Fitness Is an Adventure

Check out our Exercise Glossary for photo demonstrations of how to do the following exercises.

May 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

[#7] Speed
The Rush
Against all odds, five-foot-eleven-inch former Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers receiver Don Beebe finally got a Super Bowl ring out of the NFL, thanks in large part to his blazing speed. In 1998 he set up the House of Speed, a suburban Chicago clinic where he's bestowed the gift of Hermes to more than 10,000 athletes. "When I first started, people thought you couldn't teach speed, but you can," Beebe says. Good form is the key.

Start with this simple formula: Speed equals stride length times stride frequency. In other words, don't think of speed only in terms of horsepower. Think of speed in terms of revolutions per minute. The higher your RPMs, the faster you go. It's the same principle that Lance Armstrong adopted on his bike. Instead of mashing on his pedals, Lance bumped up his cadence and now spins his way to victories. It's why top-flight track sprinters' feet never seem to touch the ground.

The Workout
To perfect your form, fold this drill into your interval workouts five times a week. On a 30-yard stretch of track, road, or field, walk briskly while driving your knee up until your thigh is parallel to the ground, then snap it back down. For your second 30, move to a "funny run", mimicking the same stride at 50 percent of a full sprint. Do a third at 60 percent of max, a fourth at 70 percent, and a fifth at 80 percent. "At 80 percent, a lot of people start to lose the knee drive," Beebe says. It can take months to go from 50 to 100 percent, where, if you watch your form in slow motion (highly recommended—recruit a pal to videotape you), you'll look shockingly like Maurice Greene and Marion Jones.

Toolbox: If you want running speed, try the "funny run" drill. "Most people land on their heel and waste time rolling onto the ball of their foot," says Beebe. "You want to force it downward into the ground, landing on the ball of your foot right under your hip, to reduce the foot's time on the ground."

[1] Drive your right knee forward into your stride until your thigh is almost parallel to the ground. [2] Kick your lower right leg in front of your knee, toes pointed up, as your foot drops to the ground. [3] "Paw" your right leg back to the ground, landing on the ball of your foot, directly beneath your hips. At this point, the knee of your left leg should be driving forward.

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