If you want to run faster, it’s not enough to simply lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement. You’ll need to incorporate training techniques like tempo runs, fartleks, and hill repeats into your weekly routine to improve your pace.
Luckily, this article has a few tips that can help you do just that!
1. Warm up.
If you’re hoping to run very fast, your body needs to be warmed up to be able to respond. A proper warmup will increase performance and reduce injury risk, according to SELF.
Start with a walk or light jog for five to 10 minutes. This will get your heart rate up and encourage circulation.
Stretching is also important. Try doing some hip flexor stretches. Stand up straight and bring one knee up to your chest, then switch to the other leg. Repeat this several times. This will loosen up your hips, quads, and ankles.
Other running warmups to consider include doing a few rounds of short sprints or a simple fartlek drill. Both of these will increase blood flow and activate the muscles you’re going to be using during your faster runs.
For a more intense warmup, try butt kicks. Stand in a wide stance and step forward with your right leg, sinking into a lunge as you bend your knee. Repeat ten times. This will strengthen the gluteal muscles and help you become a more stable runner, while also increasing blood flow.
Whether you’re a newbie who just strapped on your first pair of running sneakers or a seasoned, PR-ing pro, there’s always room to get a little faster. To do that, you need the strength, speed and endurance to run longer and harder.
While you don’t want to skip out on your weekly speed work, it’s important not to push too hard, either. “Some signs that you’re going too fast include achy legs, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbances,” says Corkum.
Aim for three high-intensity sessions a week, and make sure you’re incorporating a day of recovery in between. “Not only will this help prevent injury, but it will also allow you to maintain the intensity of your training,” he adds.
This joint-friendly exercise builds muscle in your glutes and hamstrings to make you a more powerful runner. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and then lift one leg off the floor, flexing it to straighten and lower down to a 90-degree angle, then return to the starting position. Do 12 to 15 reps.
Running at top speed requires a lot of power from the core and hips, as well as the legs. Strengthening these muscles can help protect the joints from injury.
A great way to build power is to do fartlek workouts (Swedish for “speed play.”). During your next run, alternate periods of slow and fast running. For example, you could sprint for two lamp posts, then recover by running slowly until you reach the next one. This is a fun, easy and effective way to add in short bursts of speed to your training, and it also doubles as hill work!
Another excellent strength exercise for runners is a simple bodyweight drill called box jumps. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your back leg straight out behind you, then hop onto a step. As you rise up to a standing position, pull your knees towards your chest and push off to perform a jump. Then, return to a standing position and repeat the movement. This exercise builds hip strength and improves running form by focusing on maintaining a proper posture.
At some point in their running journey, most runners go from wanting to complete a distance to being focused on getting faster. But how do you increase your pace? The answer is speedwork.
Training at a faster pace increases your aerobic capacity by maximally activating your slow-twitch muscle fibers, according to research published in the journal Physiological Reports. It’s a critical component for becoming a more efficient runner and ultimately running faster across all distances.
When first incorporating speedwork into your routine, start with tempo runs and strides, which are moderate-paced efforts that gradually get more difficult throughout the workout. Always warm up for 10-15 minutes before a speed session, and be sure to listen to your body as you push yourself.
Avoid running at high speeds on surfaces that have jagged sidewalk edges, curbs, or traffic (it can cause jarring shock to your muscles and joints). Instead, find a path with wide shoulders or a road without traffic where you can safely push yourself at speed. Another way to work up to faster running is through fartlek sessions, which are short bursts of fast running with full recovery. Examples include sprinting to two lamp posts, then recovering as you slow down to a recovery pace.
Running faster puts more stress on your musculoskeletal system, so recovery is essential for progress. That means getting enough sleep, fueling your body with the right foods, and taking it easy on your easy days so you can really push hard when you’re training.
To improve your running speed, try adding in hill sprints. You can do them on a treadmill by picking up the pace during commercials, or in nature by jogging up hills for the last mile of your long runs. These short bursts of effort increase power in your stride, helping you run faster.
It’s also important to cool down after each run, a practice known as “post-exercise recovery.” This consists of a brisk jog or slow walk for about half a mile or 10 minutes. This allows your heart rate and breathing to return to normal, helps your body temperature drop, and flushes metabolic waste. If you don’t do this, you could end up stiffening your legs and back as the day progresses, which can affect your next run.