Do you want to run faster? Do you have a time goal for your next race?
Here are 7 things you can do to run faster:
1. Run More
Yes, it can be that simple. To run faster, you need to run more. Perhaps you need to run more often or run further. If you are stuck running at the same pace and don’t seem to be improving, you need to take it up a notch. And that could simply mean running more.
“To improve your running, just run.” – Unknown –
2. Listen to Music
Dr. Costa Karageorghis and his colleagues at the Brunel University have studied the effects of music on exercise performance, including running. Listening to upbeat music can increase brain and heart activity, leading to faster and longer duration with less perceived effort. This can translate to a 15% increase in overall performance. Matching the beat of the music to the intensity of the workout has the best effect.
So, put together an energizing playlist and go run. But be sure to be safe and only use one earbud so you can hear your surroundings. You want to be aware of approaching cars, people and dogs.
3. Make a Plan
To run faster, you should plan to do speed training one to two days per week. Don’t over do it. Speed training is tiring and should push the body a little harder than it has gone before. You don’t want to run hard all the time. That is just a recipe for injury. Balance your harder runs with easier runs or rest days throughout the week.
As we all know, getting our runs in during a busy week can be difficult. If we make a plan, write it out and tell someone our plans, we are more likely to stick with it.
“Research recently conducted by Matthews shows that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals ” – Strategies for Achieving Goals, Dominican University in California; Dr. Gail Matthews –
4. Use Proper Form
Be sure to check in with your form as you run, especially if you are getting tired. Good form means your body can run efficiently. So, every movement you make propels you forward. Don’t waste energy on movements that won’t contribute to your running economy.
” Running economy (RE) is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running, and is determined by measuring the steady-state consumption of oxygen (VO˙ 2) and the respiratory exchange ratio. “
– Saunders, et al. Sports Med 2004; 34 (7): 465-485 –
That definition makes it perfectly clear now, right? Well, don’t worry if you don’t understand. Running economy is usually measured in the laboratory on a treadmill using complicated algorithms. The good news is, unless you are an elite runner, you don’t need to worry much about the specifics of running economy. The big take away here is that you should attempt to run efficiently by using proper form.
Avoid excessive body movements, keep your posture so that you can breathe maximally and let gravity help move you forward.
- look forward
- lean slightly forward to carry the majority of your body weight over your shoes, not your hips
- stride length does not matter as long as you are running comfortably
- your upper body should be relaxed, including shoulders, arms and hands
- keep your shoulders back to open up your chest, don’t slouch
- arms at a 90 degree angle and swing forward and back (not side to side or across your body
- keep your knees low
- your foot should land under your knee, ideally with the ball of your foot hitting pavement first
If all this seems overly complicated, just run. Pick one or two things from the list to focus on until you have mastered it. Then pick one or two more things. Everyone runs slightly differently. It is what makes us unique. And that is completely okay.
5. Speed Workouts
As I have already said, to run faster, you need to run more and plan for some speed workouts. It is also true that to run faster, you need to train faster. There are several fun and challenging techniques you can do to achieve this.
When doing these speed workouts, do them at your current level of fitness. Don’t go all out, or you may get injured. You should have a base level of running fitness before attempting them. If you are just starting out running, just run and read our article on how to start running. Don’t worry about increasing your speed too quickly in the beginning. It will come as you keep running.
Fartleks is a Swedish word meaning “speed play”. They are as much fun to do as they are to say and were included in our post about how to make running fun. Fartleks are a fun way to increase your speed during training. The idea is that you pick a random interval and run fast during this interval. Once the interval of fast running is over, you resume your comfortable pace until the next interval. Some runners will use lamp posts as interval markers. You could use car colors too. For example, you could run fast when you see a red car, then slow down again when the next yellow car goes by. Fartleks can also help pass the time on longer solo runs.
Tempo runs are sometimes referred to as anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold runs. During these workouts sustain a faster pace for a set amount of time. These training runs work best for longer distance races of 10 miles or more. There is less benefit to a tempo run for shorter races. The idea is that you do a warm up at a slow easy pace, then run at a pace of about 25 to 30 minutes per mile slower than your 5 km race pace. You should run at this pace for at least 20 minutes.
Hill training is a form of resistance training. But it can also make you faster. By strengthening your legs, you have more power to move you forward. Hill repeats are also a great aerobic workout, making your heart stronger. And conquering a tough hill repeatedly gives you added mental stamina.
To do hill repeats, warm up for at least a mile. Choose a hill that has about a 10 – 15 % grade. Too steep of a hill won’t let you get into a rhythm and too easy of a hill provides less benefit. Look straight ahead, not at your feet. Run up the hill at a 5 km pace effort. Slowly run or walk back down the hill. If you have never done hill repeats, start with about 3 and add one each week until you are doing about 10 – 12 repeats.
” It’s a hill. Get over it. ” – Unknown –
There are many different track workouts. Every trainer has their favorite, it seems. Basically track workouts are exactly that, sprint workouts on a track. They are best done on a 400 meter track, but can usually be modified for other tracks or even the treadmill.
My favorite track workout, and the one that got my husband his Boston qualifying time, is one developed by Bart Yasso. The Yasso 800’s are used to predict marathon finishing times. For example, if you want to run a marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes, then you should be able to run 800 meters in 3 minutes and 30 seconds ten times.
To do a Yasso 800 workout, start with a 1 mile warm up. Then run 800 meters in mintes:seconds for your desired marathon finishing time in hours:minutes. Rest or do a slow run for 90 seconds, then go fast again. Repeat this up to 10 times. Cool down with a slow run for about 1 mile again.
Yassos work for half marathon times too, just half the distance. So, if you want to run a half marathon in 2 hours, then run 400 meters (half of 800) in 2 minutes.
If you have never done a Yasso workout, then start with about 3 repeats and add one each week until you are running 10 repeats. They are very tiring. You should plan to rest on the following day.
6. Resistance Training
Hill repeats are essentially a form of resistance training. Building your muscles gives you more power to run faster. Working out with weights in a gym or even just strength training with your own body weight can also help you run faster.
8 body weight strength exercises that you can do anywhere are:
- planks – for core, back and shoulders
- crunches – for core
- squats – for glutes, quads, and hamstrings
- lunges – for hips, glutes and quads
- laying leg raises – for core, back and quads
- wall sit – for quads, glutes and calves
- heel raises – for calves and shins (help prevent shin splints too)
- box jumps – for glutes, quads and hamstrings (these are fun to do)
” I consider my refusal to run today as resistance training. ” – Unknown –
Stretching after a run not only helps prevent injury, but it can also help you run faster on your next runs. Stretches help improve your flexibility, so can put that spring back in your step. Another benefit to stretching is improving your running form, which we have already seen helps us to run faster. Stretching also helps increase range of motion and open up your stride.
Avoid doing static stretches before a run. Dynamic stretching incorporates movement into stretching and should be used before a run. Static stretches can be used after running, when your muscles are already warm. If you want to use static stretches before runs, do a warm up first so that you can more safely stretch.
Watch for more posts on stretching, strength training and yoga for runners coming in the near future to pinkribbonrunner.com.
Do you have a favorite speed workout? Tell us about it in the comments below.