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Get faster and fitter with speed drills

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Speed up!

Feeling the need for speed? Try these moves to get faster, quick!

Runner
Whether you want to run a faster 5K or just keep up with the kids on the playground, chances are you'd love to live life with a bit more speed in your legs. So if you're ready to pick up the pace in your workouts, try some speed drills, which focus on improving your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Work these into your workouts twice weekly and watch yourself get fitter and faster. Just keep a lookout for cops - you might start moving so quick, you could be charged with a speeding ticket!

FIRE UP THOSE FAST-TWITCH MUSCLES

Your muscles are basically made up of slow-twitch fibers, which are responsible for endurance exercise, and fast-twitch fibers, which generate short bursts of strength and power. In order to crank up your speed, you need to focus on your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Think about it this way: The 100-meter sprinters and pro basketball stars are more fast-twitch-dominant, giving them the ability to explode with speed and agility on the track and court. Marathon runners, on the other hand, have better-developed slow-twitch muscle fibers, allowing them increased endurance to go the distance (and then some).

GET FASTER WITH SPEED DRILLS

So, how to fire up those fast-twitch muscle fibers? You can enhance your agility and maximize your speed through this series of easy-to-do drills.

First, find a stretch of track, road, or grass that is close to 20 meters long - about five car lengths or just short of the length of a swimming pool. This will be your "runway" on which you'll perform all of the drills. For best results, do at least three links of each with a 30-second break in between.

HIGH KNEES. Just like it sounds, this move involves driving your knees up high as you run, which increases your leg turnover. Start off with a few steps of an easy jog. Then pick up the pace as you pick up your knees, lifting them high with each step. Drive your arms to match the pace of your stride, and try to maintain perfect posture all the way down the runway.

BUTT-KICKERS. This move kicks your butt, literally, with each stride you take. Start down the runway in a jog, concentrating on moving as quickly as you can while getting your lower leg to swing up behind you so your heel bounces off your glutes.

SKIPS. Remember how you used to skip around as a kid? This is a similar move, but with more precision. First, stand tall and put your weight on the balls of your feet. Then, skip using an exaggerated arm motion to propel yourself up and forward, which will help improve your coordination and push-off power.

SPRINTS. Nothing wakes up those dormant fast-twitch fibers better than a good ol' fashioned sprint. For this drill, simply take off down the runway as fast as you can, stretching out your legs in front of you and pumping your arms to match your speedy stride.

For maximum results, try these twice a week after an endurance-based workout, like a slower jog or an elliptical session. And note that you should only add these moves to your fitness routine if you're already able to run 20 to 30 minutes without stopping; otherwise you may be inviting unwanted injuries.

For more ways to get fast and fit, check out these stories!

Interval training gets results

Three ways to get fit with your kids

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