A common goal for a lot of runners is to be able to run faster and increase their speed.
If you run Parkrun every week, you know how good it feels when you get a PB – even if it is only by a few seconds.
It becomes a weekly competition with yourself to up your pace and increase your speed.
However, there are times where you may feel you’re stuck in a running rut.
Despite the miles you’re putting in each week, maybe you’re not seeing any improvement in your pace or speed.
What are you doing or, more importantly, what do you need to change to speed up?
Well, speed comes down to a number of factors.
You need to be testing your body in different ways in order to become a faster runner.
In this blog post I’d like to explain some of these components in the hope of helping you achieve that PB on your next run.
The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to run faster and improve your speed.
How to run faster: Try speed workouts
If you’re sticking to the same pace week in, week out, now is the time to switch up your pace.
You need to get your body used to running at an explosive pace in order to reap the benefits on the race track.
Try one of the following workouts to help improve your speed:
Interval training is alternate periods of high and low intensity running.
It helps you to improve your speed and endurance to help you run faster and more efficiently.
You can choose to do one minute or two minute intervals broken up with a light jog or walk to catch your breath and recover.
During the running interval, the idea is that you run at a very challenging pace that takes you completely out of your comfort zone.
When running at a very challenging pace, you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation whilst running.
Fartlek is defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.
This type of training differs from interval training in that it is unstructured – intensity and speed varies as the runner wishes.
The continuous nature of the exercise impacts both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
Depending on your fitness levels, you could choose to walk in between each period of running, or do a light jog.
Fartlek is as hard as you make it.
As with interval training, running at different speeds and paces helps to build speed and improve your stamina and endurance.
Tempo runs are also a great way to improve your speed. They involve steady and prolonged running at a comfortably hard pace.
Tempo running is a fine line between running and all out sprinting. The easiest way to determine a proper tempo pace is to add 24 to 30 seconds per mile to your 5k PB.
The result should be the pace you would be able to sustain for a full hour of running without needing a break.
For more information on proper pacing during your run, check out my post on how to pace your run.
Typically, tempo runs are about 20-30 minutes in length and should NOT feel like a race at any point.
At the beginning of the workout your breathing may seem labored, but as your body adjusts to the pace you should begin to feel more in control.
For more tempo running tips and tricks, see my post on tempo running.
How to run faster: Try hill repeats
Running up hills is one of the most effective ways to increase your speed and build your muscle, stamina and endurance.
Hill running uses different energy systems (lactate and creatine phosphate).
It involves more explosive movement in order to get your body up the hill.
The idea is that you run up a hill of 100-200 metres long at your 5k pace, then recover running or walking downhill.
As you approach the hill, make sure your arms are at a 90-degree angle and moving forward and back (not across your body).
Your back should be straight. You can lean very slightly forward from the hips as you run up the hill, but make sure you’re not hunched.
If you’re a beginner runner, I suggest you do 2 to 3 repeats, and 6 to 10 repeats if you’re an advanced runner.
How to run faster: Strength train
Two short strength training sessions a week can go a long way to help runners increase their speed.
Check out my complete guide to strength training for runners for more in depth information on this topic.
Strength training is not the most obvious choice for runners when trying to get faster.
It makes you a stronger, faster and more efficient runner, as well as helping you prevent injury.
Some good strength workouts for runners include: squats, forward lunges, push-ups, plank and hip bridges.
You can add weights to these to make them more challenging.
Check out my blog post on 6 simple strength exercises for runners for more tips and exercises.
How to run faster: Try resistance bands
Resistance bands are one of the best tools you can use to keep strength training.
If you no longer have access to a gym or just don’t want to go there for personal reasons, then resistance bands could be the perfect option for you.
They can target the major muscles you use while running, mainly your core, glutes and legs.
Resistance bands are also great if you are coming back from an injury.
I recently picked my top 7 resistance band exercises for runners, so check those out if you haven’t already.
How to run faster: Try HIIT
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and involves quick bursts of exercise followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.
It differs from a regular workout in that you push yourself to to 90 per cent of your personal max effort during the high intensity intervals.
It works best when you work for 40 seconds at your max effort, then rest for 20 seconds, and repeat this pattern for 5 to 10 sets.
I normally include strength exercises like burpees, squats, push ups and on the spot sprints in my HIIT workouts.
If you’re looking for more ideas on the types of exercises to include in a HIIT session, check out my post on HIIT workouts for runners.
How to run faster: Take injury prevention seriously
There’s nothing more annoying and disheartening for a runner than pain.
Pain can stop you in your tracks or it can be chronic – starting small and gradually getting worse over time.
The last thing a runner wants or needs is an injury.
But with a good injury prevention strategy you can learn to stop injuries happening in the first place.
A good injury prevention strategy is essential for any runner looking to feel good and run strong week in, week out.