Whether you just took up running or already prepping for your first marathon, at some point, you’re going to look for ways to increase your running speed.
Of course, you can just try to push yourself to run faster, but there’s more to it than that.
While it’s not (yet) possible to improve your running speed overnight, there are many measures you can take to drastically boost your running speed.
In this article, I’ll unravel five ways to improving your running speed.
Let’s get started.
A form of high-intensity interval training, interval running combines short, high-intensity bursts of running, with slow, recovery phases, repeated during the session. It not only burns mad calories (and who doesn’t want that) but also increases aerobic capacity.
Think of interval running as a series of peaks and valley, where you go as hard as possible at the peaks, then slow it down and recovery at the valleys. So if you’re performing 400m track reps, you’re running at maximum speed for the entire distance, then you jog or slow down during the recovery part.
Here’s a typical interval running workout structure.
Start with a 10-minute dynamic warm-up to get your body ready. Once you’re warmed up, pick up your speed to your max level for 30 to 60 seconds.
Take a break for one to two minutes, then repeat the work and recovery intervals for 15 to 20 minutes – or as needed for your chosen workout length.
Finish your session with a cool-down jog at an easy effort for 5 to 10 minutes.
The additional resistance of charging up the incline places a greater demand on your muscles and cardiovascular system than running on flat terrain. That’s why tackling hills is one of the best training tactics to help you build explosive strength and speed.
Don’t take my word for it. Research conducted at Auckland University revealed that participants increased their speed by about two percent because of improved leg strength from hill training.
Here’s what you stand to gain from adding hill reps to your workout plan:
- Improved technique.
- Reduced impact on your muscles, joints, ligaments, and connective tissues.
- Promoted economical form.
- Increased stride power.
- Stronger muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and other connective tissue.
Here’s how to include hill reps to your workout routine.
Start by looking for a hill that’s roughly 150 to 200 metres long. Make sure the incline is challenging but not so steep that you won’t be able to keep good form throughout.
Next, warm up for 10 to 15 minutes a flat surface, then run up the hill as fast as you can with good technique. Jog down for recovery and repeat the cycle for 15 to 20 minutes.
Pace and form matter. Try to climb up the hill at roughly your 5K pace. Keep your arms at about 90 degrees angle moving forward and back, not side to side. Engage your core and take long and powerful strides.
Improve Running Cadence
A common mistake many make when trying to pick up the pace is taking the longest stride possible. They assume they’d cover more ground by doing so but usually end up striking the ground heel first, creating a braking effect on every footstrike. This not only hinders running speed but may also increase injury risk.
Instead, focus on faster and shorter foot turnover – Enter running cadence, which refers to the number of steps you take in a minute of running. Research shows that a faster cadence may improve running economy, lessen injury risk, and result in faster running.
To determine it, count how many times your right foot hits the ground in one minute and double to get your total cadence. Beginner runners usually have a leg turnover of between 160 to 170 steps per minute.
To improve your cadence, add five percent to your current number then give it four to six weeks for your body to get used to your new turnover.
Add Speed Drills
To push your speed work to the next level, add speed drills to your training programme.
Here’s what speed drills can accomplish for you in a nutshell:
- Strengthens not only the muscle but also the exact joints and ligament needed for a faster pace.
- Improves communication between your brain and legs, which, in turn, enhances efficiency.
- Improves balance, agility, and coordination – keys skills for achieving athletic prowess.
So what are some good speed drills for runners? Add the following:
Feel free to incorporate these drills into your warm-up routine or as a part of your cross-training workouts:
- High knees;
- Single-Leg Stand up;
- Single Leg Step Up;
- Backward running;
- High Skips; and
- Running Arms.
Form is key when performing these drills. That’s why you should do them under the guidance of a certified running coach who can assess your movement and give you feedback on how you’re doing.
If it’s not the case, then, at the very least, ask your running partner or a friend to observe you or film you so you can see for yourself whether you’re doing them properly.
There you have it. Increasing your running speed is just a matter of practice and time. The rest is just details.
What about you? Do you have any favourite speedwork strategies you’d like to share with us? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep Training Strong.
About the author: David Dack is an established fitness blogger and running expert. When he’s not training for his next marathon, he’s doing research and trying to help as many people as possible to share his fitness philosophy. Check his blog Runners Blueprint for more info.