How to Become a Faster Runner

Natalie Cecconi
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Change Up Your Pace

One way to run faster is to change the way you run. I’m a huge fan of interval training. It’s an excellent way to increase speed and build muscle.

If you’ve been running in one gear for some time now, consider changing things up. Here are some tips for becoming a faster runner:

Run intervals: Instead of practicing the same run again and again, include blocks of running sprints in your workout. Intense interval training can help you catapult your speed and endurance. You can start with 100 to 400-meter maximum intensity intervals. You can add a few sets of those to your regular routine. Increase the intensity and number of reps as you progress.

Speed up your run: Instead of varying the intensity of your routine, try varying the speed of your run. If you always walk or jog the first half mile of your run and then do a sprint for the last mile, try sprinting the first quarter mile of the run and then walk or jog for the rest. You can also substitute a sprint for the last half mile of your run. Try to include some intervals where you run faster than normal.

Strengthen Your Core (and Body in General)

As a lot of other sports, running also is a bit a repetition of the same body movement. For a runner, that movement is basically a few repeated up and down movements of the body (don’t try to picture it, you’re better off).

Core muscles provide the support for the spine and also help maintain good posture. The more even your body weight is distributed (i.e. not placed too much on the toes), the less energy you need to expend.

So make sure that you include regular core training in your workout routine.

Doing Just a Little Bit More Each Run

You don’t change from a sluggish runner to an elite runner overnight.

Yes, you read that right: overnight.

Unless you are in the 1% of people who are genetically gifted to become great runners …then that might be a different story altogether… the odds of you becoming faster is in your favor of improving gradually over time.

The key to becoming a faster runner is working smart (not hard) … it’s all about intentionally adding small amounts of additional quality training to your current weekly running schedule. By consistently adding these small progressive enhancements, in time you will add up a lot of training quality and be able to achieve great things.

Don’t Forget Hills

If hill sprints are too hard for you or you cannot find any hills, you can also do hill sprints in your neighborhood. Find a good hill with a nice running surface, start from the bottom, and sprint up to the top. Try to run as fast as you can, and then come back down. After running up the whole hill, sprint back down. By doing this multiple times, you’ll be getting an amazing cardio workout.

Speed work is one of the foundations of just about any distance runner’s program. It builds your speed and the capability to sustain it over long distances.

So you need to do this aspect of your running regularly for speed to be part of your long-term fitness.

If you are just starting out running, or if it’s been a while, start with 3 or 4 sessions of speed work per week.

You don’t have to do speed workouts on back-to-back days. Just make sure you’re getting them in a week.

If you do 2 intervals per day, that is also fine, but if you can handle just one, then that is better than nothing.

Your intervals should take between 50% and 75% of your race-specific threshold speed.

Focus on Eating Well

If you improve your diet, you will most likely become a faster runner. This is because you will be getting more and better nutrients from your food.

Studies have shown that for health and fitness, it is more important to eat healthily than to focus on exercising. Thus, good food habits will give you the most gains in your running.

The most important thing is to eat a balanced diet. Try to include different types of food in your diet and the different food groups. One way to balance your diet is to eat 3 meals a day and 2-3 healthy snacks.

Fresh fruit and vegetables and lean proteins are great for your body. Also, pay attention to what you drink. Soda and alcohol are harmful and should be avoided, as they can add unwanted weight.

Every meal should include good carbohydrates (fresh fruit/vegetables, pasta, whole grains and bread,…) to get the right sugar level for energy.

To help you get started, here are a few good base recipes for home-made energy bars or energy balls. As for your daily snacks, trail mix or a handful of nuts works really well.

A healthy diet is important to keep your weight in check, which is equally important for a faster running.

The best way to get into the healthy eating habit is to make fast and nutritious foods available to you at all times.

Stay Hydrated

The best running advice I can give is to stay hydrated.

Dehydration is one of the main enemies of every runner. It could rob you of energy and make you slower.

One of the easiest ways to hydrate is to take running water with you. But what about when you don’t have a water bottle on hand?

Drinking water is something that rarely goes out of style. It never falls out of fashion. Drinking plenty of water is not just good for you, it also gets you in a good mood, makes you look younger and suppresses your appetite.

Make it a habit to drink plenty of water on a daily basis. If you're out on a run, remember to carry water with you.

Never run more than 2 hours without drinking a single glass of water. And if you're running for more than 3 hours, then be sure to replenish your water supply every hour.

Always keep your water out of the sun and make your water bottles easily accessible. I often drink a good amount of water during my run and still feel like I need more, so make sure you drink until your thirst is quenched.

In addition to drinking water, you should also keep your skin hydrated all year round, but especially in the summer.

Take the Time to Stretch, Use Good Form, and Rest

Do you have a method to your running madness? Chances are you have nothing more than a blue-print. It’s always best to have some structured training.

By that I mean, have a plan.

Each workout should be balanced out and you should have some kind of goal for each day of training. And if there are some days you don’t want to train, schedule some rest days instead.

Here are four big tips that will help you run faster.

Establishing a solid foundation is the first step to learning how to become a faster runner and proper stretching is at the core of that goal.

It’s important to do a light, ten minute warmup of brisk walking or easy jogging before running to get the blood flowing. This brings more oxygen into your muscles and creates more elasticity in the tendons and ligaments.

Stretching after your warmup is also essential. This helps lubricate the joints and produce more synovial fluid, which helps keep your knees, hips, and ankles feeling healthy. Aside from the warmup and cool down, it’s a good idea to stretch for ten to twelve minutes everyday.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is one of the most overlooked elements in most athletes training.

The first thing I ask my athletes is how much sleep have they been getting? Then I ask if they have been consistent with their sleep schedule.

The body does not like change. It likes to maintain a sense of balance. So, if an athlete has been averaging 6 hours of sleep per night for 6 weeks and then changes to 7 hours of sleep per night for 3 weeks, the athlete’s body will most likely develop an imbalance in the amount of recovery time the body needs.

In the case of an athlete, the body will start to accumulate more fatigue and decrease the amount of work it can do.

So when you plan your workouts and your training schedule, keep in mind the amount of sleep you are getting. Your body needs to be rested so it can do the work that you are asking it to do.

If you find that you are averaging 6 hours of sleep per night, you might need to increase your training schedule to allow for extra recovery time.

To maintain a normal sleep pattern, be consistent with getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

You may need to adjust your alarm clock to get enough sleep, but it’s worth it for your body.

Below is a great video that shows you some ways to incorporate running into your day to make it more fun.

Have a Specific Goal

The goal that you have should be specific. For example, don’t make a goal to just lose weight. Make it more specific and say that you want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months by running.

Then break that down even more to say that you will run 5 miles every week, for 6 days in a row.

Then break it down even more and say that you will run 5 kms on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and half a mile on Wednesday.

You might want to keep a log to track your progress and make further goals.

Finish Strong

The last 200 meters of a timed running event are the most important part of any race. This is where competitors make up for any mistakes they made in the early parts of the race, and where the best runners separate themselves from the pack.

So yes, you can definitely determine the winner of a race based on how well they finish.

They say that a race is won in the last 20 meters, but sometimes an individual will win by taking only a step further than all the others in the last 50 meters.

Finishing is the result of preparation and physical conditioning. If you want to run faster at the end of a race, you need to train to run faster at the end of each race.

So you started the race with a specific goal in mind, but what is the best way to elevate your speed?

Before the race even begins, many elite runners will warm up by running faster than their winning pace. This helps their heart and muscles get into the right rhythm for maximum speed.

Some like to do more serious warm up exercises like squats, lunges, and light weight training. Others do shorter sprints in the final minute.

Some even do a post-warm up exercise which consists of a short sprint followed by a pause.

Mix up your warm up routine, practice your goal time, and don’t forget to relax and enjoy the race.