It’s a question we hear all the time: How do I run faster? It can be easier to focus on building endurance, since you can just tack on a few minutes to your long distance runs and watch your miles build up. But to build speed and run faster, you have to take a different approach. One that requires spending some time pushing the limits of comfort.
In order to run faster, you need to work faster! That might mean running at faster speeds, but you can also simulate the demands of speedwork through other means, such as explosive strength movements. Building some strong habits outside the gym will also help you pick up your pace. You’ll get a taste of those today.
So, we’ve got seven strategies lined up to help you put on the speed—three workouts and four tips. The workouts don’t require any equipment, so you can do them anywhere in just a few minutes each. The running tips take a holistic approach to your training, helping you keep the big picture in mind even when you’re not working out.
With that said, let’s get to it!
Four Tips To Get You Primed For Speedwork
1. Lose Weight
This is a tricky one to include on this list. We know that runners come in all shapes and sizes. But there’s no denying that when you have less weight to move, the more easily you can move it. Maybe that means losing just a couple of pounds, or maybe you set your goal to losing five to ten pounds. Whatever amount you choose, it will have an effect on your running speed.
The most common rule of thumb is that for every pound you lose, you could gain about 1% in speed. Which doesn’t sound like much, does it? But if you’re chasing personal records or just want to see what your body and training are capable of, then swapping out a couple snacks for more fruits and veggies just might be worth it.
For a beginner’s guide to weight loss, check out this comprehensive post for all the details.
2. Focus on Core Strength
If you’re learning how to run faster, you might not think to look at your core as an area of potential improvement. After all, it’s your feet that will get you from point A to point B quickly. But, taking a look at your midsection just might result in cranking out a little more oomph in your speed training.
Your core muscles are responsible for stabilizing your spine during activity. Not only do they keep you upright, but they also help prevent excessive rotation while running. The contralateral movement—one arm forward and the opposite leg backward—would normally have you twisting side to side. The movement of your upper body and legs helps blunt that rotation, and your core fills in the gaps. It keeps you stable and moving forward, instead of wasting energy in rotation.
A strong core can also help relieve your hips and prevent fatigue. The deep core muscles should work in tandem with your hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings to bring your leg forward and out in each stride. The more efficiently you can move your feet, the better your running economy and the faster you’ll be able to move.
3. Optimize Your Breathing
If you’ve ever done any speedwork, you know just how quickly your breath and heart rate can spike to an uncomfortable level. You’ll even get a chance to practice that uncomfortable feeling in the exercises we’ve got coming up in this article.
Ease that transition by practicing your breathing before you even get on the road or into the workout. Learn how to avoid shallow chest breathing and instead fill your lungs with belly breathing and you’ll bring more air into your body with every breath. More air equals more oxygen getting to your muscles.
Jump over to this article to get a full explanation of belly breathing and a few drills to try out!
4. Clean Up Your Diet
Just how spry do you feel after a less-than-healthy meal versus after a fresh, colorful plate? Probably not so great. If you’re looking into how to run faster, one of the easiest ways to start is by cleaning up your eating.
Take an honest look at your eating habits. Are you staying hydrated throughout the day, or just chugging water right before you hit the road? Is your daily vegetable serving limited to pale iceberg lettuce or are you getting in dark, leafy greens frequently? While kale on its own won’t make you faster, it will give you a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All of which will help you feel better, recover faster, and maybe lose a little weight as you increase your fiber intake.
What you eat while on the run is certainly important. But remember that you spend a lot more time eating while not running, giving you many more opportunities to make important changes. Whole grain carbs, plentiful fruit and vegetable intake, and limited junk food will all contribute to you feeling your best for your next workout or race day. To learn more about how to optimize your running through diet, check out this post!
Three Workouts To Prime Your Body To Run Faster
5. Practice Intensity With A Plyometic Workout
One way we like to build up intensity outside of a run is to use strength training. It’s like an introduction to the stress of breathing and working harder from the safety of your living room. Or a park, or wherever you choose to do this workout.
You’ll be combining bodyweight exercises–burpees with squat jumps. The workout is only four minutes long, so it’s a short amount of time to practice working intensely. Remember that the goal is to push but not injure, so don’t sacrifice good form for speed or density. You don’t get credit for sloppy form!
- Start with your feet hip width apart, standing tall, toes straight ahead.
- Hinge your hips back to place your hands on the ground in front of your feet.
- Now either step or jump your feet back to a straight arm plank.
- From here, do a “controlled crash” to the ground–chest and hips laid flat on the ground.
- Now snake your chest up, leaving the knees on the ground.
- Once the chest is off the ground, snap the hips to reverse the arch and bring the feet back into your hands, just under your hips.
- Now, stand up.
- Raise your arms overhead and hop.
- That’s one burpee.
- *If that is not sustainable for more than a few reps, ditch the “fake push-up”. Simply step or jump out to the plank and immediately bring feet back in to stand.
- You’re going to do as many QUALITY burpees as you can in 20 seconds.
- Then, rest for ten seconds and catch your breath. If you’re just starting out and need a little more time, take an extra ten seconds.
- Time to go again! Do as many QUALITY squat jumps as you can in 20 seconds.
- Rest for ten seconds.
- Continue for four minutes total.
The Squat Jump
Now we’re ready to fire up the glutes and hamstrings with squat jumps. Here’s what the squat jump looks like:
- Stand tall, with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- With your toes pointing straight ahead, sit the hips back, and bend your knees slightly.
- Make sure your knees are pressed out laterally, meaning they don’t cave in.
- As you sit into the squat, bring your arms in front of you.
- Once your hips are as parallel to the ground as they can be, squeeze your butt and press it down towards your heels.
- From the depth of your squat, you’re going to throw your arms back behind you.
- At the same time, press your hips forward into full extension as your legs straighten.
- The momentum from the arms will help elevate you into a slight hop.
- Immediately from the landing of the hop, you’ll find your next squat position with the arms back in front.
- That’s one squat jump.
- Complete 20 seconds of squat jumps with ten seconds of rest in between sets for a total of four minutes.
Throw this into your training plan twice a week for strong leg muscles and awesome results!
6. Train Your Hips To Increase Power Output
Our hip are the gas pedal for our running. The more we use them, the more power (and speed) we can generate! The hips not only help keep your hips stable but they also help your glutes to fire and propel you forward. With a stable pelvis you’ll be putting your spine in a strong and safe position to avoid the low back pain that is so common among runners. Injury prevention and speed training all in one!
The Box Jump
The box jump is essentially a plyometric squat jump up to a higher surface. Here’s what it looks like:
- Start off standing tall.
- Next, drop into the squat the same way you do for the squat jumps, EXCEPT your arms will swing behind you.
- You’ll START to come out of the bottom the same way, EXCEPT your arms will now come forward.
- As your feet are about to leave the ground for the jump, you’ll squeeze your core and tuck your knees up to your chest.
- Your legs will bend up in front of you and your feet will flex.
- This is your leverage for getting up to a higher surface.
- As you land, try to sink straight into the bottom position of the squat.
- Now, press out of your heels, squeeze your butt, and stand tall.
- Safely step down to the ground one foot down at a time.
- That’s one box jump.
A few things to be mindful of–especially if you’re brand new to these:
- Most gyms have multiple box heights. Don’t be afraid to play around to find the right height for you, even if that means starting low.
- If you’re outside and using a curb or other makeshift concrete raised surface, practice a few step-ups first to ensure you’ll clear it.
- Be confident. The higher and stronger you bring your knees up, the more success you will have.
Here’s a drill you can mix into your training:
1) Perform 5-10 box jumps.
2) Now, run 200-400 meters. It can be down the block, once around a track, or something similar.
3) Do another 5-10 box jumps.
4) Run 200-400 meters again.
5) Repeat for 3-5 rounds total.
This drill is awesome for increasing that hip strength and directly applying it to your running. Try throwing it into your training program once a week!
7. Run Faster To Get Faster
The last of our running exercises to get faster! Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish, where the concept was born. By using different types of speed work and interval training on your runs you’ll practice finding different “running gears.” By avoiding always running at the same pace, especially on those longer distances, you’ll get better at pushing through performance plateaus.
The Fartlek technique for runners is nothing short of EFFECTIVE. Try this out on your next run:
- You will pick sections of your run to “push it” on. You make the rules.
- Pick something that you’ll encounter a number of times over your course: stairs, a telephone pole, a hill.
- Each time you get to whatever you chose, you have to run faster for the entirety of that obstacle. We’re not all-out sprinting here, but it should be about 70-80% of your max speed.
- If you picked hills, you need to kick it into the next gear until you’re at the top of the hill. This strategy will net you two birds with one stone: speed and hill training!
- You can then return to a slower pace until you hit the next hill or obstacle
- Throw in five to ten lunges in between each loop to weave in some strength training
- You can do this on the treadmill by randomly throwing in sections of a faster pace. Try to pick up the speed during commercials, for example, and recover until the next one.
This is an awesome way to make running faster fun and interesting!
Mix And Match!
Using some or all of these strategies in your training schedule to see great results in your running performance. For even more tips and tricks, check out this post to learn more about your warm ups and cool downs, the importance of a strong mental game, and how to spend your rest days.
Now that you’re at the finish line, take a minute to download our app and find a workout to boost your running pace. Audio workouts, follow along videos, help from the coaches and more all await you in the app!