Training to Become A Faster Runner
Whatever your goals as a runner, at some point you might find yourself saying: ‘I want to get faster!’ Find out how to get faster at running shorter and longer distances by implementing tried and tested speedwork techniques into your training plan. Better your best with our tips for training to run faster and see your speed improve in no time.
SMALL CHANGES = BIG IMPACT
It’s often the tiniest changes that can make a big impact on your running performance. Make positive improvements to your speed by focusing on the gradual build-up and how the small modifications you make will in time lead to that faster finish. Don’t get discouraged by fixating on the stopwatch immediately. Address common issues runners face and identify if there are any areas of your form or technique that could be slowing you down. Give yourself time to implement new strategies and in the long run, the reward will show.
Whether you’re training for that ultimate sub-4-hour marathon or aiming to smoke a shorter distance at a pace faster than your previous finish, the key to gaining speed is an alternating routine of sprinting with jogging.
One of the most effective forms of speed training is known by the Swedish as fartlek - meaning “speed play” - not whatever else came to mind. Fartlek is great for runners new to speed workouts as the format isn’t meant to be rigid and is instead a method you customise to your needs. Don’t psych yourself out - just 20 minutes once a week is all you need to dedicate in the beginning to become faster.
Try starting by increasing your speed between two points on your next run (power poles work well), or finding a target in the distance (a bus stop for example) and picking up your speed until you reach it. Over time you can increase the distance you run at a higher speed and decrease the rest or jogging in between as your body adapts to the faster pace.
SPEED, DISTANCE AND ENERGY
If you want to increase your running speed, the first thing to think about is the distance.
On one level, running is about storing and burning energy. Comparing a marathon to a 5 km race, your body needs a different energy strategy. A 5 km race is about how fast your body can burn energy to sustain the high pace. In a marathon, on the other hand, what counts is how much energy you can store and conserve over the longer distance.
So how do you train to run faster?
How to run a faster 5k or 10k? Interval training is a great speed builder. This will condition your body to burn energy faster and build your cardio-respiratory fitness. Here are two variants you could try in your training:
- Intervals: Alternating 1 km fast-paced running with 2-5 minutes of slow jogging.
- Fast runs: Practice speed training at one consistent speed above your comfort level.
How to improve marathon time? Focus on fast-paced endurance runs. This will increase your speed endurance and condition your body to be efficient in storing and burning energy. Here are some you could try:
- Progressive runs: Starting at a moderate pace, increasing to a hard pace and again to a very hard pace.
- Fast runs: One consistent speed above your comfort level. Depending on your plan, the distance can be increased over time.
STRENGTH SUPPORTS SPEED
Explosive movements needed for improved velocity, and sprinting with power, are reliant upon muscle force. Exercises like weighted lunges, dumbbell pistol squats, sled pushes, deadlifts, and even box jumps are all great examples to incorporate into your routine. It only takes 20 minutes, a few times a week, to feel enormous benefit. An added bonus, strength training aids not only in gaining speed but also in keeping fatigue at bay.
Just 15 minutes of core workouts a few days a week have shown to benefit speed. A strong core assists with endurance levels and can enhance running economy - the science behind oxygen and energy factors at play within your body that contribute to maintaining speed. The goal of an efficient running economy is to use less energy during a given distance. This, in turn, helps store that extra boost in a power reserve for when you most need it.
Whatever training plan you adopt, remember to rest at least once a week, especially when you can feel your body needs it. Make sure to stretch only after warming up or at the end of your run when your muscles are warm and better able to adapt to the benefits of stretching.
This will help you prevent injuries and make sure you’re fit to stay on top of your training. Hip flexor stretches are especially beneficial for increasing flexibility which leads to a better stride.
Be sure to regularly take a step back and tune in to what your body needs. It’s easy to get caught up in pushing yourself too hard but this can ultimately have a negative impact on your goal.
If you use an online tool like Runkeeper there are specific plans designed to help you build up your speed. Just enter your goal and Runkeeper will give you a training plan designed to help you get there. It includes all the runs as well as rest days to help you stay on top of your training and minimise the risk of injury so you’re ready for the race.
Lastly, consider incorporating running drills into your routine which will benefit your speed, power, and strength.
For serious speed training, you may want to think about an extra pair of shoes, specifically designed for fast running. Keep in mind that professional runners have a whole range of shoes to wear for different training types and distances and that your feet will thank you for the added variety in footwear.
For faster running, check out a wide selection of running shoes: