How To Improve Your Running Speed

marathon runners

Once you’ve built enough endurance to call yourself a runner, you may want to turn your attention to a new goal—running faster.

If this resonates with you, then you’re in the right place.

In this article, I’ll share with my best tips on how to increase your speed as a runner. These tips will help pick up the pace to reach your top running speed.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

Interval Running

Whether you’re looking to finish your 3-miler a little faster or shave minutes off your marathon, the fastest way to boost your running speed to simply practice running faster. That’s why interval training is key.

Interval training refers to working out in periods (or intervals) of high and low intensity to build speed and endurance. You, basically, run for as fast as you can for a set period, aiming to bring your heart rate up and fatigue your muscles.  Then jog or walk for a set period, letting your muscles cool down.

The intensity and length of each period depend on your fitness skill and training goals.

This training method is useful for sprinters, middle-distance, and endurance runners alike. Not only does interval training improve your speed and power, but it also increases your athletic performance and stamina. It also burns a lot of calories in less time.

If you’re a beginner, start with shorter intervals at moderate effort. The more advanced runner can design their interval workouts to meet their own specific racing goals.

If you want to improve your 5K time, for example, you can do 400m repeats at a track. Following the warm-up, alternate between running a 400m lap at 80 percent of your maximum speed and jogging one easy recovery lap.

Start with three or four 400m repeats, and try to work your way up to six or seven.

Hill Reps

Want to take your interval workouts to the next level? Then try hill training.

Tackling the hills builds both leg strength and aerobic capacity, while the downhill sections improve leg stiffness and running economy.

For this reason, hill reps are considered to be the most efficient form of speed work for runners. They’re also some of the most specific forms of strength training.

Try to do at least one hill workout a week.

Begin by finding a hill with a mild slope that’s roughly 150 to 200 meters long. Make sure the hill is long enough to accommodate for 30 to 60 seconds of effort, but not too challenging that it forces you to stop midway.

woman hill running

Start the session with a warm-up. Ideally, you should run at an easy to mild pace for 10 to 15 minutes. Next, run up the slope as fast as you can until you reach the top, then walk or jog back down to recover. Maintain a steady effort level, and don’t let your running form go south.

Finish your session with 10 minutes of easy running on a flat surface as a cool-down. Start with four to five hill reps and add one rep each week, aiming to reach a maximum of 10 to 12 repeats.

Proper Technique

To move fast, you also need to move with efficiency. One of the best ways to increase efficiency is to improve your running form.

Good technique can shave valuable seconds or even minutes off your finish time and runs. Making small tweaks to your gait and posture helps your body move more efficiently, which gives you more energy to fuel a faster pace.

Good form not only helps run faster (and further), it also reduces the risks of discomfort and injury. It makes you look smooth, too.

To give your pace the push it deserves does the following:

  • Keep your strides relaxed. This helps you avoid tensing up in your running gait and wasting valuable energy.
  • Strike the ground with your mid-foot. Focus on short, quick strides.
  • Swing your arms forward and back –and not side to Sid—at a 90-degree angle.
  • Avoid looking down at your feet or turning your head to assess your competition. This only wastes precious time.
  • Keep gazing ahead—roughly 15 to 20 meters in the distance
  • Keep your posture upright with the back flat and the head up, so the chin is parallel to the ground.
  • Make yourself six inches taller when speeding up.

Strength Train

There’s no question that the best way to improve as a runner is to run more. After all, practice makes perfect; the more you run, the better you’ll get.

However, pounding the pavement is only one piece of the puzzle if you’re truly committing to a well-rounded running program.

Cross-training works. Strength training can help you build strong muscles that will help give your pace the push it needs and improve your overall performance.

man using squat rack

When you have strong muscles, especially your glutes and quads, you’ll be able to tap into more force and power on the road.

Strength training may also improve your running economy—the energy needed to keep a consistent running pace, according to research.

What’s more?

Having a strong core can also help you improve and maintain running form, especially as you start to fatigue. This translates into greater running efficiency, therefore, more speed.

Try to incorporate at least two 45- to 60-minute strength sessions into your weekly routine. If you can’t afford a gym membership or don’t have access to one, no problem. You can do bodyweight exercises, like walking lunges, squats, push-ups, pull-ups and planks to build more muscle.

To make the most out of your strength sessions, focus on muscle groups on various days. This also helps you organize your strength training each week.  By doing so, you can strategically schedule an upper body and lower body day to give your body proper time to fully recover.

Do Plyometric

Also known as explosive training, plyometric consists of high-speed, high-velocity, and explosive movements. The exercises are usually performed with speed and explosiveness, which makes the muscles extension contraction sequence fast and powerful.

guy doing plyometric jumps on stairs

Check out the finding of this research published in the European Journal of Sport Science. The researchers divided the experiment subjects into two groups. Group I did plyo training by performing exercises such as bounds, squat jumps, and hurled hops before runs. Group II (the control group) just ran.

In the end, the plyo group improved their VO2 max, step length, and maximum speed more than those who just ran.

How to add it?

I’d recommend adding a plyo workout to your routine at least once a week. But only do so once you’re in pretty good shape.

Try doing just five to ten minutes of jumping exercises after finishing an easy run a couple of times a week. You can also add a few plyometric drills to your strength training workouts.

Remember to perform the plyo exercises on a soft surface, like a gymnastic mat, track, or grass. Make sure to spend a little time as possible on the ground between the jumps and bounds and hops and whatever.

Start with two sessions a week of three sets of 12 to 15 reps with full recovery between sets.

Some of the best plyo moves for improving running speed include:

  • Jumping squats
  • Skipping drills
  • Box jumps
  • Jump roping
  • Jumping lunges
  • High knee sprints
  • Burpees

Conclusion

There you have it. The above training guidelines cover some of the best measures you can take right now to improve your running speed. You just need to put them into practice ASAP and keep doing it for the long haul. The rest is just details, as the saying goes.

Please feel free to leave your questions and comments in the section below.

Thank you for dropping by.

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