How can I get Faster at Running?

Getting faster at running is something lots of runners want to achieve. And there are several reasons why running faster may just be a good idea.

Running faster doesn’t necessarily mean running more or adding more pounding to your knees and hips. In fact there are ways to run faster when you aren’t even running.

Longer Strides More Efficient

One reason that running faster may actually be better for you is because when you run faster you run with a longer stride that turns over faster and with more efficiency. Running faster with an efficient stride means your legs hit the ground less often and your joints have less potential for damage.

Beginning runners should first have a base number of miles that they can achieve easily before they attempt to increase their speed and do speed work.

Runners should be running between 20 and 25 miles each week before integrating running exercises that will increase their speed.

However, there is one exercise that can be incorporated from the beginning that helps runners to learn how to take longer strides without working on turnover.

Plyometric Running Exercise

Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes used a 40-foot long ramp installed near the football field at a 25-degree angle to help his players learn how to run downhill with an efficient stride. This is a plyometric exercise that will help to develop muscular power by generating a large amount of force quickly.

Runners who want to improve their speed are well served by incorporating interval training after they have a good base mileage. Interval training and fartlek training are very similar. There are times when these terms are used interchangeably but they are different.

Interval training is based on doing speed sprints in an organized and planned fashion. For instance there is a ladder workout where the athlete does sprints on the track at distances of 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800 and finishing with 400. The athlete will jog and cool down between each of the sprints.

Speed Play

Fartlek is the Swedish word for speed play. When an athlete does a fartlek run it is often best done with two or three running partners.

The group will do a strong warm up jog of a mile together and then the lead runner will do a sprint of undetermined length with the rest following.
After the sprint is completed the lead runner drops to the back of the pack and the pack does a cool down jog. The new lead runner will then do another sprint of undetermined length and the cycle repeats until the runners have come to the agreed finishing point.

The point behind a fartlek run is speed play. The runners are playing at speed sprints and having fun, which is what running is all about anyway.

Whether you are doing interval or fartlek speed work don’t schedule more than one speed session per week to decrease your risk of injury.

Your body requires this time to recover while you are still running other distances. If you schedule one speed work session and one long distance session you have only one or two more days to get in a quality run without risking injury to your legs and hips.

woman running outdoors with motion blur

Upper Body Work

During your week also incorporate upper body weight work to increase your upper arm strength. This helps you to move along faster and pump your upper body in tandem with your lower body. Good oblique abdominal muscles will also help to move your body along faster.

Each time you activate your lower legs you also activate the oblique muscles on the same side. Want to run faster? Then don’t forget to strengthen your abs.

How can you get faster at running when you’re not even running?

Did you know there is one specific exercise that runners use to improve the strength of their legs and their balance and that will also help them to run faster. That exercise is the lunge.

The lunge, performed correctly, will improve the strength of the quadriceps and gluteal muscles, both needed for a good strong running stride and good turnover of the legs.

Done correctly the lunge can be done using very little space in an apartment or home. Standing up with your feet together concentrate on your balance.

Start with your right foot and move it forward, dropping your body so the knee on the front leg is at 90 degrees. Hold this for 2-3 seconds, stand up and bring the front leg back.

It is important that your weight is placed in the heel of the foot and not your toes. You should feel the muscles in your buttocks (gluteal muscles) working to stabilize your body and your quadriceps to hold your body up.

Do 1 set of 10 on each leg the first time and be prepared for your legs to hurt the next day. You can gradually increase to doing 3 sets of 10 on each leg. It is very important to keep your weight in your heel so you are using the right muscles and you protect your knee joint.

Unfortunately runners must do the work to get faster and just reading about interval training or fartleks, or lunges won’t the difference in your stride until you actually take action.

For more information:

Active: How to Run a Faster Marathon

Art of Running Faster, The

McMillan Running: Start Slow – Finish Fast

Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach

Military.com: PFT Run Workouts

Greatist: 25 Ways to Run Faster Now

Runners World: Speed Dial

Competitor: How Fast Should You Run