It’s a question we hear all the time: How do I run faster? It can be easier to focus on building endurance since you can just tack on a few minutes to your long-distance runs and watch your miles build up. But to build speed and run faster, you have to take a different approach. One that requires spending some time pushing the limits of comfort.
In order to run faster, you need to work faster! That might mean running at faster speeds, but you can also simulate the demands of speedwork through other means, such as explosive strength movements. Building some strong habits outside the gym will also help you pick up your pace. You’ll get a taste of those today.
So, we’ve got 11 strategies lined up to help you put on the speed—3 workouts and 8 tips. This training goes above and beyond tempo runs and longer runs—it incorporates cross-training, running technique, speed workouts, recovery, and more. The workouts don’t require any equipment, so you can do them anywhere in just a few minutes each. The running tips take a holistic approach to your training, helping you keep the big picture in mind even when you’re not working out.
With that said, let’s get to it!
This is a tricky one to include on this list. We know that runners come in all shapes and sizes. But there’s no denying that when you have less weight to move, the more easily you can move it. Maybe that means losing just a couple of pounds, or maybe you set your goal to losing five to ten pounds. Whatever amount you choose, it will have an effect on your running speed.
The most common rule of thumb is that for every pound you lose, you could gain about 1% in speed. Which doesn’t sound like much, does it? But if you’re chasing personal records or just want to see what your body and training are capable of, then swapping out a couple of snacks for more fruits and veggies just might be worth it.
If you’re learning how to run faster, you might not think to look at your core as an area of potential improvement. After all, it’s your feet that will get you from point A to point B quickly. But, taking a look at your midsection just might result in cranking out a little more oomph in your speed training.
Your core muscles are responsible for stabilizing your spine during activity. Not only do they keep you upright, but they also help prevent excessive rotation while running. The contralateral movement—one arm forward and the opposite leg backward—would normally have you twisting side to side. The movement of your upper body and legs helps blunt that rotation, and your core fills in the gaps. It keeps you stable and moving forward, instead of wasting energy in rotation.
A strong core can also help relieve your hips and prevent fatigue. The deep core muscles should work in tandem with your hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings to bring your leg forward and out in each stride. The more efficiently you can move your feet, the better your running economy and the faster you’ll be able to move.
If you’ve ever done any speedwork, you know just how quickly your breath and heart rate can spike to an uncomfortable level. You’ll even get a chance to practice that uncomfortable feeling in the exercises we’ve got coming up in this article.
Ease that transition by practicing your breathing before you even get on the road or into the workout. Learn how to avoid shallow chest breathing and instead fill your lungs with belly breathing and you’ll bring more air into your body with every breath. More air equals more oxygen getting to your muscles.
Just how spry do you feel after a less-than-healthy meal versus after a fresh, colorful plate? Probably not so great. If you’re looking into how to run faster, one of the easiest ways to start is by cleaning up your eating.
Take an honest look at your eating habits. Are you staying hydrated throughout the day, or just chugging water right before you hit the road? Is your daily vegetable serving limited to pale iceberg lettuce or are you getting in dark, leafy greens frequently? While kale on its own won’t make you faster, it will give you a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All of which will help you feel better, recover faster, and maybe lose a little weight as you increase your fiber intake.
What you eat while on the run is certainly important. But remember that you spend a lot more time eating while not running, giving you many more opportunities to make important changes. Whole-grain carbs, plentiful fruit and vegetable intake, and limited junk food will all contribute to you feeling your best for your next workout or race day. To learn more about how to optimize your running through diet, check out this post!
As with any run or hard effort, your body needs to warm up before asking it to run faster. There is a reason that the first rep of interval workouts sometimes feels the most difficult, and that is that your body needs to adapt to the increased effort by delivering more oxygen to your muscles.
With the proper warm-up, all of your muscles will be firing and ready to work on some faster running. If it takes you 10-15 minutes to feel loose and ready to go at the beginning of your workout, you most likely need to put in a little more prep work before your big effort. But if you do take the time to warm up before your run you’ll be that much more prepared for your workout.
Running at top speed requires a full-body effort. When your body gets tired, your form begins to fall apart, making your stride less efficient and slowing you down. Focusing on running with proper form will help you run faster and also prevent injury.
Proper running form goes all the way from your head to your toes. Your body should be aligned and your posture should be tall for an efficient stride. Your hips and shoulders should be working in conjunction to help you relax and allow all other parts to fall into place.
Once your body is aligned and activated, running faster will be easier and less likely to cause injury. Incorporate these running form drills into a warm-up or during a stride-out session.
To run at top speed, your body needs to be loose. Rolling out on a foam roller and stretching each muscle daily will prevent soreness and injury.
Focus on opening up your hips to allow for increased stride length. Speed is a combination of stride length x stride rate, so by opening up the hips, you are more capable of reaching top speed.
As always, sleep, hydration, and nutrition all play a role in keeping your body happy, healthy, and primed to improve running speed.
Mental toughness plays a big role in running at speeds that are uncomfortable. When your legs feel heavy and the pace is uncomfortable it is easy to let negative thoughts creep in. Doubting your ability and wanting to back off the pace is tempting, but you often have more in the tank than you think and can run faster than you think possible.
Just as you need to build your physical strength to run faster, you also need to build mental strength. Mental toughness can be developed through the workouts and long runs in your training. Use these higher intensity runs as an opportunity to train your mind to learn how to run faster.
One way we like to build up intensity outside of a run is to use strength training. It’s like an introduction to the stress of breathing and working harder from the safety of your living room. Or a park, or wherever you choose to do this workout.
You’ll be combining bodyweight exercises–burpees with squat jumps. The workout is only four minutes long, so it’s a short amount of time to practice working intensely. Remember that the goal is to push but not injure, so don’t sacrifice good running form for speed or density. You don’t get credit for sloppy running technique!
Now we’re ready to fire up the glutes and hamstrings with squat jumps. Here’s what the squat jump looks like:
Throw this into your training plan twice a week for strong leg muscles and awesome results!
Our hips are the gas pedal for our running. The more we use them, the more power (and speed) we can generate! The hips not only help keep your hips stable but they also help your glutes to fire and propel you forward. With a stable pelvis, you’ll be putting your spine in a strong and safe position to avoid the low back pain that is so common among runners. Injury prevention and speed training all in one!
The box jump is essentially a plyometric squat jump up to a higher surface. Here’s what it looks like:
A few things to be mindful of–especially if you’re brand new to these:
Here’s a drill you can mix into your training:
1) Perform 5-10 box jumps.
2) Now, run 200-400 meters. It can be down the block, once around a track, or something similar.
3) Do another 5-10 box jumps.
4) Run 200-400 meters again.
5) Repeat for 3-5 rounds total.
This drill is awesome for increasing that hip strength and directly applying it to your running. Try throwing it into your training program once a week!
The last of our running exercises to get faster! Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish, where the concept was born. By using different types of speed work and interval training on your runs you’ll practice finding different “running gears.” By avoiding always running at the same pace, especially on those longer distances, you’ll get better at pushing through performance plateaus.
The Fartlek technique for runners is nothing short of EFFECTIVE. Try this out on your next run:
This is an awesome way to make running faster fun and interesting!
When you push your body to its limit, it reacts physiologically in defense response to the discomfort of running fast. These reactions can come in the form of oxygen deficit, inefficient muscle-fiber recruitment, a build-up of lactic acid, a feeling that your legs are on fire (!!!) and effort overload for your brain.
Though these are natural reactions for your body, there are ways to train the body and mind to handle the discomfort of reaching new speeds and adapting to harder efforts.
Improving your speed is not as simple as just running faster. There are many small changes that can be implemented into your training to run faster.
Use some or all of these strategies in your training schedule to see great results in your 5K pace and longer distance race times—from cross-country to long-distance running.
Now that you’re at the finish line, take a minute to download our app and find a workout to boost your running pace. Audio workouts, follow-along videos, help from the coaches, and more tips on how to run faster all await you in the app!