Any runner will tell you there’s a difference between running and running fast—for good reason. Whether you’re a beginner to running workouts or an avid marathoner, running faster contributes to better motivation as a whole. Slow and steady may win the race, but sprinting to the finish line sure feels good. Check out our best tips for how to increase your speed as a runner.
Practice good form.
“Form can greatly affect the way you run and the speed you can maintain,” says Aaptiv trainer Rochelle Moncourtois. “Try to always relax your shoulders, relax in your strides, and gently lean forward in your form. You will notice how much lighter your legs and feet become. Relaxing in your running gait prevents you from tensing up and wasting your energy for the run itself.”
While running, look forward with a tall, relaxed posture. Let your arms swing forward and back, and as you put one foot in front of the other, strike the ground with the middle of your foot under your hip. In terms of stride, many runners also focus on running pace and proper cadence—how many times your foot hits the ground per minute—with short, quick strides. Finally, don’t forget to breathe!
One of the best ways you can increase speed as a runner involves interval work. This includes sprints, HIIT exercises, circuits, or hills on a treadmill or outside. Intervals may assist in burning fat and increasing lung and leg strength.
You can also add run/walk intervals to a regular run (sometimes known as “fartleks”), where you sprint for a specific period of time or for a minimal distance. Another option is to do true sprints, running at your max or going from 0 to 100 within a couple seconds, and then resting in between each set.
Build a strong core.
Research indicates that core work directly impacts speed and Moncourtois couldn’t agree more. “Engaging your core stops you from overusing muscles, such as pushing and pulling forward your legs.” Doing any type of ab workout, particularly planks, is the most effective way to achieve better core strength.
Fuel your body.
This one is simple: Be sure to load up on good carbs and protein in order to have enough energy for your run. Additionally, you’ll want to stay hydrated, eat healthy snacks and time your meals properly before and after each run, so you can maximize each running workout.
Add variety and don’t forget to rest.
If you want to increase your speed as a runner, it might seem like you should focus on that goal in every single run. But, you actually want to do the exact opposite. Intentionally add speed work to your exercise routine one to two days per week, and then focus on incorporating variety and rest.
“Your goals can determine how often you should be doing speed work,” explains Moncourtois. “For example, for something like an Ironman distance, you’re training for three events and a very long duration. Instead of focusing on how much faster you can get, you have to focus more on the distance. But if you’re training for something shorter, like a 5k, that allows for more time and energy to perform more days of speed work. If you’re really wanting to become faster, I recommend two days of intense speed training, one day of hill repeats, and a day where you run very slow to build endurance.”
You can practice pacing yourself by walking quickly, jogging, and sprinting within a single run. An endurance run will allow you to create a baseline of mileage while seeing strength gains. Also, remember to mix up your workouts with strength training to engage your glutes and legs, plus yoga and stretching, for increased flexibility, sharpened mobility, and improved balance and coordination. Finally, getting enough downtime—in the form of both sleep and rest days—serves as a well-known factor for optimal running as well as avoiding burnout as a whole.
Believe you can do it.
Getting faster will be uncomfortable, so you’ll need to mentally prepare for pushing yourself outside of your usual running comfort zone. However, challenging yourself is the only way to see results. Track your progress to help foster motivation, celebrate small wins, and be patient. You’ll get faster over time as long as you stay the course. If all else fails, rely on the Aaptiv community, your fellow workout buddies, and the Aaptiv trainers to help you along the way!