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4 Ways to Quicken Your Pace

Posted 4/15/2016 by UHBlog

Is an injury slowing down your speed drills? We can help.

4 Ways to Quicken Your Pace

Athletes and weekend warriors are driven to win. For most of you, that means accelerating faster and covering more ground quicker – skills that can make the difference between finishing first and coming in last.

“We live in a society where faster is better in sports,” says senior physical therapist Yazmin Torres. “It’s that internal motivation that propels you to achieve your personal record, whether you want to qualify for a race like the Boston Marathon or be the basketball defender who steals the ball.”

According to Torres, becoming faster in any given sport involves focusing on the fundamentals, putting in the time on drills and monitoring your progress. She offers four ways you can quicken your pace:

  1. Start with the basics – Before addressing speed, assess where you are on the fundamentals. For instance, do you use good running form? Are there any issues caused by how you currently run that could affect your speed?
    “If you don’t have the basics and you try to advance, you’re more prone to injuries,” she says. “It’s like a house. You want to make sure the foundation is strong and has good form. You don’t want the walls crumbling down around you.”
  2. Address your body’s mechanics – If your body alignment is off or your step length is inefficient, you’ll slow yourself down, Torres says.
    To check your body’s position, ask a friend to videotape you while you run. However, unless you’re trained to know what to look for, you may want to invest in a few personal training sessions with a certified running specialist.
    “That’s where a physical therapist can help,” Torres says. “We can make sure you’re not wasting all your energy trying to pull yourself forward or backward. We can tell if a pre-existing injury is causing you problems, or if the way you move can lead to an injury.”
  3. Train your muscles to work differently – When you increase your speed, your running mechanics change and different muscle fibers are activated. Of the two types of muscle fibers in your body, type I (a slow-twitch muscle fiber) is activated during events such as distance running. Type II – your fast-twitch muscles – are used for explosive motions like sprinting.
    “You have to train these muscle fibers to become more efficient, and to handle the speed and/or acceleration needed for your particular sport,” she says.
    “When you increase your speed, that’s typically when we see injuries,” Torres says. “Your body’s muscles are being used in different ways. As you become faster, the hip and foot placement changes,”
    By incorporating flexibility, strength and balance exercises that are designed for your sport, you can ward off injuries.
  4. Practice sports-specific drills – During personal training, Torres begins by first assessing how a patient walks, then watches how she runs on a treadmill. She does this to make sure the person isn’t setting himself up for a running injury.
    The types of drills Torres uses with her clients include:
    • Speed drills to help you travel further with each step
    • Plyometrics to increase leg strength
    • Ballistic exercises to develop explosiveness and power

“The important thing is to follow a program that is individualized and addresses your needs and goals,” she says. “If you see one of our physical therapists, our end goal is to get you to where you want to be.”

Yazmin Torres, PT, DPT, is a senior physical therapist at University Hospitals Sports Rehabilitation at Mandel Jewish Community Center. You can request an appointment with Torres or any University Hospitals health care provider online.

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