Articles in Category: Training and Performance

How to Run Faster

Written by Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD. on Wednesday, 23 September 2015. Posted in Training and Performance

How to Run Faster

By Don Williams

B.Sc., M.Chiro., ICSSD., PG Dip. NMS Rehabilitation,

Cert. DNS.   Memb: CAA, FICS, CEA.


At this time of year, many people are trying to get in shape to look good on their holidays or just generally coming out of their winter slumber.


I always get a good laughing watching the hibernating bears starting to hit the esplanade in the morning for a jog, walk or in some cases some other movement activity which needs to be seen to be appreciated, but does not necessarily fall into the above categories.


Many people are trying to improve their running speed, and the evolution and growth of the parkrun groups around Brisbane is testament to an improvement in the public sentiment about improving health and fitness.


We do speak to a lot of people about their running and for many a desire or goal to be able to run faster and at the basic level, this is just human nature.


There are a number of factors which can play a roll in increasing your speed, or in fact hindering your ability to increase your speed. The aim of this article is to help you identify and address some of these issues.


Footwear Choice

At the most basic level, correct footwear is important. This is even more important if you get, foot, ankle, knee, hip or back pain when you run. There are a range of different runners to suit different foot types and also different events, choosing a shoe that suits you and your intended sport is always very important. Correct footwear choice will usually save you money and prevent frustration long term from injuries.

 If you are not sure if your shoes suit, maybe book in and have your gait assessed on the treadmill and we can point you in the right direction.


Gait Mechanics

Secondly, gait mechanics. The mechanics of the gait cycle (walking and running mechanics) are really quite complex, so I will keep this section brief and untechnical. Essentially, when we walk, as our leg swings out in front, the heel of the foot strikes the ground (creating a deceleration or slowing moment), then we pull through with the foot into weight-bearing and then the heel lifts, the other heel strikes the ground and we push off with the toes. As people progress into jogging, the mechanics change a little, with one of the big differences being that only one foot is on the ground at any point in time. For slow jogging, this works fine, however, if you want to run fast (probably around 4 minutes 30 seconds per kilometre or faster) we need to improve our gait mechanics to minimise the deceleration phase, so that the foot is travelling backwards when the heel strikes the ground. This is a fascinating area and one which is rich in opportunities to improve. If you have never had your technique assessed, do it. This may have a dramatic impact on your speed and overall enjoyment.


Cardiovascular issues and Muscular Endurance

People often think of fitness as a cardiovascular issue. Certainly this is a major component, however, muscular endurance also plays a roll.

To break this down, the cardiovascular system is the heart, lunges and blood vessels and essentially, this system extracts oxygen from the air and transports it to the muscles, and returns the waste products back to the lunges etc. Improving fitness in this area improves the ability or efficiency of our bodies to do this effectively.

Muscular endurance describes the ability of the muscles to contract repeated during an exercise.

Both of these systems will adapt and improve with training. The muscular endurance ability tends to be a little more sport specific and will adapt most effectively to the training you are doing, as in , riding a bike won’t improve your running performance as much as running training will.

Cardiovascular fitness is a little less sport specific and generally, a range of cross training activities can all have a positive impact on your aerobic conditioning.


The efficiency and effectiveness of these systems will evidently have a significant impact on your running speed and training can be made much more effective or targeted by understanding what your thresholds are for aerobic capacity, allowing you to train more effectively to increase these thresholds. If you would like to know more about your cardiovascular and muscular endurance, we have a range of testing options to directly test and assess these systems and can then provide you with targets for your training.



Obviously, injuries can slow us down. Common injuries in runners are calf and Achilles injuries, hamstring strains and tears and low back strains. Knee and hip issues also play a roll.

Many of these injuries can be controlled or prevented by correct footwear choice, effective training strategies and evolving or increasing your training and distance over a period of time.

If you have injuries, address them early and resolve them before returning to training and racing. Mismanagement of injuries can be a major contributor to long term disability and whether you enjoy your running over the long term or retire early, hurt.


Training techniques

Lastly, training techniques and the type of training you do can greatly increase your speed.

Often runners will plod along at the same pace every time they run. Their body adapts to the speed and load that they place on it so it essentially “gets used to” that pace.

For these people, altering training to help the body adapt to faster speed when running can be effective. Think of this as training to increase leg speed.

Certainly, it can be much easier to quantify this type of training if you use a running computer or watch. There are a variety of products available on the market, Suunto, Polar and Garmin certainly make some great products which allow you to assess your speed, distance, time, heart rate and more advanced models even look at stride counter, stride distance…and the list goes on.

At Institute of Sports and Spines, we carry the Garmin Forerunner watches, which are and excellent product and the different models will fairly much meet the needs of even the most discerning runner.

I am a BIG fan of using technology to improve training specificity and effectiveness. I cannot stress this enough.

By using a computer, you can accurately measure your speed and time for 1km, 5km, 10 km etc, you can look at your running pace per kilometre, which then gives you the ability to target improvements in speed and time over a given distance so you can gauge your progress.


Simple Drills to try

Obviously it is great to do some time trials of the distance and time you want to improve so you know where you are at, then, set some realistic goals of what you want to achieve and in what time frame. For these drills, lets assume you can run 5km at a 6 minute per kilometre pace. Giving a total time of 30 minutes (perfect for those parkrunners in our midst).


Speed intervals.

Try running for 1 minute at 5minutes per kilometre pace, then run for 2 minutes at a recovery pace of 6 minutes per kilometre, continue for the duration of 5 kilometers.


Distance intervals.

Trial your next run at 5 minutes 45 seconds for 1 kilometer, then do a recovery kilometre at your usual pace. Repeat this to have completed 5 km with 3 at the fast pace and 2 at recovery. You will have knocked 45 seconds off your 5km time.


Strength intervals.

Hills are great for this. Find a hill near home, try and run your normal 5km pace when running up a medium incline. This is not great for leg speed but will increase your strength.


Speed pyramids.

Trial this on a 400m track or keep a close eye on your computer. This is punishing, but at the same time, can be very good for getting used to running faster. It will help with cardiovascular conditioning, muscular endurance, leg speed and mental conditioning.


Run 400m comfortably.

Sprint 100m then coast for 300m. Stop and Rest 1 minute.

Sprint 200m then coast for 200m, Stop and  Rest 1 minute.

Sprint 300m then coast for  100m, Stop and Rest 1 minute.

Sprint 400m, Stop and Rest 1 minute.


Then do the drill in reverse back to the start.


Hopefully these ideas and concepts will give you a start point if you are trying to get faster this summer. As always, if you have any concerns or issues, get them checked out before you embark on intense training sessions and if you need any assistance with gait patterns, performance testing or injuries, let us know and the team will be more than happy to help.


Happy running!

Myth Busters: It's Important to Stretch before Exercise

on Thursday, 14 February 2019. Posted in Newsletters, General Health, Sporting Injuries, Ergonomics, Training and Performance

Myth Busters: It's Important to Stretch before Exercise

For many years it was believed that performing static stretches before exercising reduced your risk of injury. However research has shown that this is not the case.


Static stretching is a method of stretching where you gradually lengthen your muscles and tendons by holding your body in a certain position for approximately 30 seconds. An example of this might be a hamstring stretch (see below). This type of stretching is useful in improving flexibility and muscle function.


Stretch 1 

A study completed in Norway that had over 1000 participants found that there was little to no reduction in injury risk when stretching was performed before exercise. Research has shown that performing a warm up made up of dynamic stretches can increase body awareness, strength and neuromuscular control which reduces the risk of injury.

Stretch 2  Stretch 3

Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching where you gradually lengthen muscles and tendons and also warm them up by moving your joint through a range of motion similar to the activity you are about to perform. For example if you are about to go for a walk/run/cycle performing leg swings can be beneficial (see below).


Static stretching is still important to perform after you exercise. This can help in easing muscle soreness caused by Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which can occur 24-48 hours after an exercise session. It is a good idea to perform these stretches in your cool down, focusing on the areas of your body that you worked most.


So if you’ve been doing static stretches as part of your warm up at the gym or on the field maybe swap it for some dynamic stretches and save the static stretches for your cool down.


If you would like to learn or know more about what stretches are most beneficial for you as an individual get in contact with Emily our Exercise Physiologist here at Institute of Sports and Spines!



Written by Emily Holzberger

Qualifications: B. ExSS Majoring in Clinical ExPhys.   


Resource: ABC Health and Wellbeing, 2014


Preventing Injuries

Written by Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD. on Monday, 04 April 2016. Posted in Training and Performance

Preventing Injuries

By Don Williams

B.Sc., M.Chiro., ICSSD., PG Dip. NMS Rehabilitation Cert DNS. Memb: FICS, CEA


Injuries among the general population are relatively common. In consideration of back pain alone, around 80% of society will suffer back pain at some point in their lives. If we look at the entire body, I would wager that no-one goes through their life without an injury of some sort.


Certainly athletes, from an injury perspective, are no different. It would be difficult to find an elite athlete that hasn’t had an injury at some point in their career. At any given athletic meet, it would be reasonable to assume that a large proportion of the competing athletes would be carrying an injury of some sort.


So, why does this happen?


Really, injuries are multifactorial.

In a perfect world, all athletes (and the greater population at large) would:

  • have a perfect diet;
  • have a great sleeping routine;
  • manage their stress exceedingly well;
  • limit (or hopefully completely eliminate) smoking, drinking and recreational drugs;
  • have great genetics;
  • ensure training load is optimised to ensure they are preparing for their target meets/events;
  • ensure motor patterns are perfect, and their technique is unquestionably perfect;
  • get regular massage/soft tissue work;
  • visit their chiropractor or physiotherapist regularly;
  • be completely on top of any other health issues/concerns with their GP to ensure they are performing perfectly all year round


Hands up everyone who can tick all those boxes!


At first glance there is an overwhelming list of things to consider; however, it need not be that intimidating or daunting.


Athletes need support and direction to have a successful career. Great athletes ensure they seek out, and take on board the best advice and resources to give them the support they need. Certainly, as a start point for young athletes, having great mentors who have been there and done that is a great place to start. Build your support network of professionals who can help you manage the elements which come together to give you a platform on which to base your performance and achievements.


Simple starting points are to develop routines which ensure you:

  • have adequate sleep and rest
  • utilise your support network to ensure that you have good advice in regards to your diet and training load (preferably from qualified dieticians/nutritionists and from technique and strength and conditioning coaches)
  • have regular massage/soft tissue work, from a “gun” masseur who has experience/expertise in working with athletes
  • keep your equipment/shoes/clothing in top condition


So now you have covered the basics but what about overuse injuries and trauma?


Analysis of great athletes who have had great sporting careers generally reveals natural ability and skill and low, or well managed injury levels.

I like to use the example of Roger Federer. He is such a fantastic athlete to watch. His technique is awesome; however, what is most fascinating to watch is his optimised movement mechanics. Whenever Roger hits a ball, he looks effortless and in control. If you start to analyse this from a technical perspective, we would call this optimised movement mechanics or optimal joint centration. His limbs and joints are in the optimal position when he strikes the ball and moves around the court.

Juxtapose this with early footage of Rafael Nadal. Certainly not taking anything away from Rafael, he is an incredible player; however, earlier in his career he was plagued with injuries and when you watch his body positioning and joint mechanics, they could be considered sub optimal.

If you contrast footage from early in his career and later in his career you will see differences. In the later footage, he looks more fluid while simultaneously his injury levels dropped. His movement mechanics has been addressed and improved.


This is one area that we see as a gold mine for athletes to address. Most athletes look for the big accident/crash/fall that caused their injury, and while this is often the case, most injuries occur as a result of more repetitive micro-trauma.  Suboptimal patterns, which when repeated over and over, slowly traumatise the tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons or bone) until something finally gives.

The big traumas are often hard to predict and usually more difficult to manage from an injury prevention perspective.


At Institute of Sports and Spines, we love communication from coaches in regards to issues, injuries and problems that are arising with their athletes. We can then assess the movement patterns the athlete is using, identify less than optimal biomechanics and then work with the athlete and coach to address these issues and develop a plan to get the athlete functioning optimally, which gives them the best possible chance of performing at their best.


It is critical to understand that while technique varies considerably from sport to sport. Optimal movement mechanics do not. Any sport or movement pattern can be broken down to the component parts, hence identifying the requirements of the body to produce that movement pattern in an optimised pattern.


Injuries still can and do happen, and when they do, reassessing and re-optimising the patterns in the rehabilitation program are equally important.


From my perspective, optimising movement mechanics and technique early in an athlete’s career should be paramount. This increases the potential for a long and successful career while minimising the likelihood of injuries.