Increasing your running speed should be a priority, whether you just signed up for your first 5K or are looking to improve your marathon time.
I’ve always wanted to become a faster runner. So, I did what most recreational runners (who don’t know better usually) do: I kept running for more miles and miles. Nonetheless, I wasn’t getting any faster, and I got really frustrated.
But, once I started doing some of the stuff shared below, my running speed improved almost within weeks. It goes to show you how much a change in training approach can have on athletic ability!
Today’s post will give you some creative training guidelines to help improve your running speed without having to log more miles. The training strategies I’m providing aren’t going to turn you into the next Flash, but based on my own experience, they can surely add more spring to your foot strike, and that’s a good thing if you ask me.
When it’s done the right way, weight lifting strengthens key muscle groups for faster, more injury-free running. The stronger your leg muscles are, the more force they can generate and absorb. Runners also need strong upper bodies to maintain proper form and mechanics.
Don’t know where to start?
Check these five posts:
Want the good stuff? Add the following exercises to your training arsenal:
Interval training is the most satisfying way to work on your speed. It involves alternating intervals of high and low intensity while running to build both speed and endurance. It also burns some mad calories in less time too.
Opt for a 2:1 ratio where you sprint for 30 meters, jog for 60, sprint 30, jog 60, and so on.
During the work interval, run at maximum speed. Then during recovery walk or jog slowly, letting your heart rate and muscles cool down.
You are not doing interval training right if you don’t exhaust your muscles, which is what’s known as going into the anaerobic zone- the point at which you’re panting for air.
After a thorough the dynamic warm-up, alternate running one 100-meter at your maximum speed and jogging for 200-meter.
Start with six or eight repeats (with a recovery period in between each), and try to work your way to do more reps.
Speed drills are another strategy you can use to improve your running time. These improve running form, increase coordination, and boost running cadence—vital elements of speed.
There are plenty of speed drills you can add to your training program. Here are some of my favorites:
Note: If you’re serious about drill training, then check out The Running WOD Bible by P Selter. You can get it from Amazon for $10 by clicking here.
The 10 Run-Till-You-Drop Commandments by Megan White is another treasure trove on speed boosting tactics. Get it here for $10.
Head for the Hills
Want to take your interval training to the next level? Hit the hills.
Pounding the incline helps build strength in your quads, hamstrings, and calves. This, in turn, will increase your endurance and the ability to run faster on smooth and flat surfaces.
Why so effective?
Hill training provides you with a lot of intensity with less impact on your joints than you’d experience when pounding flat terrain.
Here’s how to proceed on your next (or first) hill workout.
Begin by locating a reasonably steep hill that’s about 50 to 100 meters long. You don’t have to find the steepest hill around—as long it’s challenging, you’re good to go.
Then, following a thorough warm-up on a flat surface, run up the hill as fast as you can then jog slowly back. Repeat several times, depending on your conditioning and training goals. This could be anywhere from six times for a newbie to a dozen for an experienced runner.
Stick to a pace that allows you to get over the hill without panting for air or doubling over because of fatigue.
Keep in mind that running a hill is a skillset in itself (that’s why I ‘ve covered proper hill training technique in this previous post).
When broken down to its most basic elements, running is really just a form of jumping from one foot to the other. Fortunately, there’s an entire whole training program that makes the most of this fact. It’s called plyometric or explosive training.
Plyometrics has plenty to offer, and it’s a form of exercise you should seriously consider adding to your regimen. Research shows that explosive power movements can significantly increase endurance, agility, and speed.
What’s more? Plyo training requires little time. You can do a few plyo moves after an easy run or add 10 to 15 minutes of jump exercises to your regular strength workouts. Either way works – it’s totally up to you.
Here are the five plyometric exercises I recommend:
For more explosive exercises and workouts, High-Powered Plyometrics is a great source. You can find it here.
One important note: make sure you’re working out with the right gear and equipment — especially a steady jump box. I discovered The Wood Plyo Box while doing CrossFit, and it’s my favorite. You can get it here. Yes, it’s a bit expensive, but it’s a good long-term investment.
Increase your Running Cadence
The fastest runners in the world have a lot in common. They train like crazy, are well-built; they also take more steps per minute than the average, slow, runner.
Also known as stride turnover, running cadence refers to the number of steps a runner takes during a minute, and, as seen a previous post, is key for increasing speed and improving technique.
Research shows that the fastest and most efficient runners in the world have a cadence of roughly 180 steps per minute. These runners also keep their feet close to the ground with short, light, and fast quick steps.
To determine your current number, run for one minute while counting the number of times your right foot strikes the ground, then multiply it by two.
To increase it, focus on taking fast, short, and light steps—as if you’re stepping on hot coals. It should feel like playing hot potato with their feet.
For the full guide to increasing running cadence, check my post here.
Not all steps for improving running speed are running steps. Your cross-training program—AKA your non-running workouts—matter too. One of the best of these is rope jumping.
Jumping rope is a challenging and effective way to boost your running speed and strengthen your main running muscles without putting too much impact on your joints.
The rope mainly targets your quads, glutes, and calves—primary running muscles—as well as your chest, back, triceps, and shoulders as they assist in continuously turning the rope.
Not only jumping rope improves overall endurance and breathing technique, but it can also improve your focus and coordination.
To take this classic workout to the next level, increase the duration and intensity of your jump rope exercise, building it up to 20 to 30 minutes.
You can also play with your feet for more challenge. Try alternating feet, jumping on one foot, or jumping on your heels.
Lucky for you, I’ve already shared an excellent jump rope workout specifically designed for runners. You can check it out here.
Get The Right Form
Another vital key to running faster—at any pace or speed—is to run more efficiently. When you’re running more efficiently, you’ll be able to cover more distance more quickly without feeling as tired since you’ll be using less energy.
Guess what’s the key to doing that? Of course, it’s proper running form.
So what’s the correct technique? The primary cues to focus on include:
Here are a few hints:
- Run tall. Keep your upper body tall yet relaxed. Try to make yourself six inches taller when speeding up. Imagine a string holding you up.
- Make sure your feet land under your center of gravity. Aim to hit the ground with the middle of your foot under your hip.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed, with the arms swinging back and forth at low 90-degree angles.
- Keep your hands gently clenched. Imagine you’re holding a delicate butterfly in your palms without crashing it.
- Keep your posture upright with the back straight and the head up, so your chin is parallel to the ground.
- Focus on moving forward, not side to side. Allow for no wasted movement. All of your energy should be focused on propelling you forward.
Go one step further and give the Pose Method a shot. One of the best sources, maybe the only book you’ll ever need on the subject, is “The Running Revolution” by Nicholas Romanov. Here is the link to buy it.
Research published by the American College of Sports Medicine revealed that losing weight (fat, not muscle) can help runners improve running times—cutting roughly two seconds off a mile for each pound lost.
For example, a 15-pound weight loss should cut about 80 to 90 seconds of 5K race time.
The more weight you carry, the more effort you expend to run from point A to point B, thus, the less power you have overall.
Don’t believe me?
Try running while strapping on a 25-pound backpack then tell me how you feel. You’ll, sooner than later, realize how hard it is to achieve, let alone maintain, speed.
Now picture how much easier it would be if you were many pounds lighter.
A boost in running speed comes from practice and consistency. This means hitting the pavement multiple times per week for numerous consecutive months to accumulate endurance, stamina, and strength.
There are no shortcuts. Silver bullets don’t exist in the real world.
If you keep moving forward, you’ll sooner or later, reach it—as long as it’s realistic of course.
As a rule of thumb, aim for three to four running session per week. When you start to add extra runs to your weekly plan, do so slowly—speed follows endurance.
Make one of these sessions your long run where you aim to cover more miles than on any other runs that week.
Here’s a typical weekly running plan for increasing speed:
Interval Run – 8 X 4oom at 80 to 90 percent of maximum speed.
Upper Body Strength Workout
30-Minute Uphill Workout
Lower Body Strength Routine
4 X 800m at 90 percent of maximum speed
Rest Day or Cross-train
New to Running? Start Here…
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By doing interval workouts, increasing cadence, working on technique, losing weight, running hills, and incorporating consistency, you’ll be able to take your running speed to an entirely new level.
Now the ball is in your court. Do you have any other tips to share? If so, then feel free to do so in the comments section below.
I hope my guidelines for increasing running speed will help you become faster than you ever thought possible.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep running strong.