Increase Your Running Speed
If you’ve recently taken up running – or been doing it for a while – and are still being lapped by others even though you’re racing at your personal best, then don’t get disheartened. While you may not quite get to Usain Bolt levels, you can learn to build your speed.
To help you improve your running technique and build the strength, stamina and endurance to smash your PB, we’ve put together our 10 great tips to increase your running speed. So, get set to lace up those running sneakers and take a giant leap in picking up your pace.
1. Develop Your Basic Technique
If you don’t get your running technique nailed from the start, you are always going to be on the back foot when it comes to any speed ambitions. To get the running basics right, you need to run with your upper body tall and nicely relaxed. As you move, strike the ground with your mid-foot landing on the ground just under your hip and your arms swinging backwards and forwards at a low angle to your body. And don’t forget your feet – by arching your toes up towards your shins as you run so less of your foot hits the ground, you can create a quicker stride.
2. Check Out Your Shoes
What you put on your feet will make all the difference to your running. Running shoes are getting increasingly lighter and are being designed to mimic the natural movement of your foot as you move, helping to improve your pace and stride.
So, if you feel your sneakers are weighing you down, now’s the time to trade up if you want to get some speed on. With a wide choice of specialist trail running shoes for men and trail running shoes for women, you can be sure you are getting the right sports footwear for your body type and running style.
3. Get Progressive
Having a plan is essential if you want to see an increase in your running speed. The simplest way is to increase your mileage each week – aim to do one progressively longer run each week– and also work on gradually upping your speed and reducing your time for every run (long or short) you do. This way you can measure your progress as well as build your running endurance.
Another good measure of progress is to think like a pro and count your steps. This means getting to know your own stride turnover (ie. the rate of steps you take) whatever your pace. Known as cadence, it offers a good way to measure your progress – the shorter your stride length and the quicker your stride rate, the faster and more efficient your run. The fastest pro runners have a cadence of around 180 steps per minute. To find your starter cadence number, run for one minute, counting the number of times your right foot hits the ground and multiply by two. Now make it your goal to improve it!
4. Switch It Up
Don’t keep each running session the same but switch it up, not only to keep yourself motivated but to also increase your chances of improving your Personal Best! Interval training while out on the track or road is a good way to get the results you are looking for.
Alternate periods of high intensity (sprinting) and low intensity (slowerpace) to build up your speed and endurance. You can really test yourself by running each sprint burst a little faster than the last, just make sure you allow yourself recovery time in-between. Then, when you are ready, progress to the ‘Fartlek’ – Swedish for ‘speed play’. Each Fartlek (sprint burst) should be a different duration (say 20 seconds or two minutes) but run in a random rather than progressive order.
5. Work Out Your Core
If building core strength is still on your ‘to do list’, then now’s the time to make it a priority. Not only do strong core muscles help to protect and support your back but they can also take your running speed up a notch.
Toned core muscles, especially the lower abs, back and glutes, create stability and balance in your running position, meaning your technique becomes more efficient. A solid core also means you can generate more force and speed each time you push off from the ground. So, if your core is more flimsy than fine-tuned, you need to get to work. Adding in just 10-15 minutes of core work in your gym session should get you some speedy results.
6. Focus On Your Breathing
We do it without thinking but when it comes to breathing during a fast run, you can run out of steam if you don’t get it just right. As well as your aerobic fitness and stamina, how you breathe when you run at speed is something you need to work on.
Learning to breathe while running will take a little practice but for sustaining your faster pace, it’s worth the effort. Those in the know advice using both your nose and mouth while inhaling and exhaling to get the maximum amount of oxygen into your lungs…and into your muscles. And keep your breathing rhythmical and steady to maintain your running pace.
7. Look Ahead
This simple tip is so effective for a fast pace – keep your eyes (and your focus) ahead of you! Particularly if you’re in race (and that includes the local charity 10k), it’s too easy to get distracted by what’s going on around you, or even the road passing under your running shoes. Looking anywhere other than straight ahead of you can also put you off your balance or stride. So, once you’ve locked into your pace and established the rhythm, keep it going by focusing around 10 – 20 meters in front of you and keep your eyes on the prize!
8. Embrace Strength Training
Running around like a whippet is only going to get you so far, you also need strong, lean muscles that are going to power you through to those race times you are aiming for. So, as part of your training plan for a faster pace, you need to head to the weights rack.
We’re not suggesting bulking up here but a couple of strength training sessions – ideally in the form of lifting weights and resistance training – each week can build the muscle your body needs to keep you balanced in motion and increase your propulsion. Free-weights, squats, planks, push-ups and other strength-training exercises will help to increase the running force you create, develop lean mass to store energy-boosting glycogen and build fibers in your muscles that help you run faster and harder…for longer.
9. Build Your Endurance
Sprints are all well and good, but to sustain a decent pace over a longer distance you need to build your endurance. Working on stamina in your legs so they don’t run out of juice is one thing, you also need to build your body’s energy efficiency so that all that strength training and running technique doesn’t go to waste once you hit the track. Steady progression when it comes to building endurance is key so aim to run for a longer distance once a week or add a second run to one of your training days. Being able to comfortably run for longer will also develop your aerobic capacity, resulting in a more efficient cardiovascular system when the fast-paced heat is on.
10. Listen To Your Body
Pushing yourself beyond your limits will eventually catch up with you and your body will be the first to let you know. Have a training plan and stick to it but also listen to what your body is telling you as you crank up the pace.
Always warm up and cool down after every run or training session and aim for incremental gains in your speed rather than a total turbo charge. Build in sufficient recovery time after every run and make sure you get enough rest. Otherwise your body will put you in an enforced slow down, with aches, strains and potential injury relegating you to spectator status come race day.