The following content is a part of our STRONG & FAST functional training program collaboration and video series led by Olympic athlete Ryan Hall. Tune in all month long for exclusive training, nutrition, and lifestyle content courtesy of Ryan Hall to help make you unbreakable.
Ask any athlete or elite coach and they’ll tell you that having both strength and speed is an unbreakable combination. If you’ve got them both, you’ve got a huge competitive advantage in any athletic endeavor, especially in a Spartan race or DEKA event. However, when it comes to building both, there’s an art to it. Who better to tap for the know-how on getting it done than former long-distance runner and two-time Olympian Ryan Hall?
During Ryan’s running career, he captured a U.S. record for the fastest marathon by an American. Post-retirement, Ryan shifted his focus to strength training, packed on 50 pounds of muscle, and can now deadlift over 500 pounds. He’s strong and he’s fast. But how? Here’s what he says.
How to Get Strong and Fast
1. Cycle Your Training
The rule of specificity states that if you want to improve in a specific area — like getting stronger or becoming a faster runner — you need to focus on the priority. According to Ryan, it’s difficult to maximize strength and speed at same time.
“You’ve got to cycle your training,” he says.
So, when it’s time to get as big and strong as possible, he’ll strength train for months with virtually no running or cardio, then shift the cycle when he’s ready to get faster again. Check out his STRONG & FAST workout program for one way to do it.
2. Hone In on How You Eat
If you need to train a specific way for your goals, the same goes for eating. According to Ryan, if you want to get bigger and stronger, you need to be in a calorie surplus.
“I’ve never had an experience when I was getting stronger in a caloric deficit,” he says.
Simply put: Make sure you’re eating enough. The same goes for training to get faster: Ryan says the calories still need to be high to fuel your runs.
“When I was running professionally, I was eating every three hours just because I always knew I needed food to be coming in to continually optimize my recovery,” he explains.
However, the type of food and the macronutrient profile of those foods might be a bit different. For example, instead of skewing higher on the protein during strength phases, skew higher in carbohydrates during run-focused training.
3. Sleep Like a Rock
All high-performers know that quality sleep is a non-negotiable.
“If you're not sleeping enough, you can’t get better at things because that’s when you recover, grow, and improve,” Ryan says.
During his professional running career, he would block off two hours every day from 1 to 3 p.m. and nap, and then he would sleep another eight or nine hours at night to make sure he was always at his best. These days, Ryan doesn’t require as much sleep, but he is still diligent about getting a minimum of eight high-quality hours. If your sleep is weak, try Ryan’s deep sleep hacks here.
4. Be Consistent
The tough truth is: Strength and speed takes time. Ryan’s first mile run was 5:32 when he was in seventh grade. Eventually he got to 4:45 mile pace for a 2:04:58 marathon, but it took him 15 years to get there. When it came to strength, his deadlift started around 150 pounds and he built up to 530 pounds, but that took several years, he says.
“It's not this sexy, cool answer that most people want to hear, but it's honestly the most truthful thing I could think to tell anyone who's [aspiring] to get better at anything,” he explains.