How to Run Faster in 8 Steps
If you are an Olympic athlete looking at blogs to learn how to run faster, this isn’t the place for you. Simply Fit & Clean is for regular people wanting to live fit and eat clean while living normal lives with jobs and kids and classes. If you are a mom or a college student or a really cool uncle who wants to sign up for a 5k with your niece and you want some tips for how to run faster, this is the place for you.
I’ve done some research and compiled a list of 8 things you can do to cut time off your marathon or mile.
1) Get Those Miles In
It is very, very difficult to get better at something you don’t do. While I know there is value in visualization, there’s only so much thinking you can do. You have to build your base. Don’t try to push too hard for speed until you can run 5 to 6 miles comfortably. Running 18 miles/week is shown to reduce your risk of running-related injuries (which definitely cramp your speed.)
2) Track Your Time
How fast do you run? What’s your mile time? 5k? 10k? You can’t improve your time if you don’t know your time. How? I have used a Garmin GPS watch in the past when training for a half marathon, but now I’ve opted for MapMyRun for the convenience. I already have my phone with me, and it tells me mile splits as I go.
3) Perfect Your Form
There is copious data to suggest that working on the mechanics of your running stride will increase speed and reduce injury. Runner’s World suggests short, quick strides, relaxed hands, knee alignment so the foot strikes right under the knee rather than in front, pushing off the ground behind your stride, and elbows bent at 90 degrees or less. I find it helps to have someone video you from the side, front, and back while you run either outside or on a treadmill. To relax your hands while bending your elbows, imagine you’re running with raw eggs that need to be cradled but not crushed.
4) Fartleks/Interval/Tempo Runs
Yes, fartlek is a real word. Fartleks are the mixing of fast and slow paces. Think of anytime you’ve said “Let’s race to that tree” and slow down after getting there. Interval workouts are HIIT style, meaning a warm up, pushing beyond the red line of what you think you can handle, then a cool down. Tempo runs are a sort of hybrid of the two. Warmup, push a little faster but not beyond the red line, then cool down. A 2014 study found significant improvement in speed and coordination in runners who participated in these types of drills. This type of work can be taxing, but it really is a critical answer to how to run faster.
5) Turn it Up
Listening to motivational or fast music has been shown to improve running speed. The motivation is great for feeing amped up and ready to dig a little deeper. A nice side benefit is that you can pick a song with a great tempo to set a cadence. If I’m listening to the podcast or going without tunes, I try to think of Hey Ya by Outkast to get the right tempo in my head.
As you work on maintaining a good cadence, your breathing should be matched to your pace. If you’re running a long, measured run and are running so hard you can’t catch your breath, slow down until you get your breathing under control. (The heavier breathing is okay when you’re doing intervals.) Take deep breaths and maximize the amount of oxygen you’re delivering to your muscles as you go. Try breathing in patterns, like 2 beats inhale 2 beats exhale.
Want to know how to run faster? Do stuff other than running! It may seem counter-intuitive, but there are some muscles that just won’t improve by running alone. These imbalances can lead to injuries and inefficiencies. Just six weeks of core training can improve your running time and performance.
8) Eat Beets
No, this is not a joke. Nitrates are good for runners but only when consumed in the form of plants. Scientists tested runners doing a 5k after consuming either baked beetroot, cranberry relish, or a placebo. The beetroot runners were 5% faster! This is slightly troublesome to me as I think beets taste like dust bunnies, so I suppose I’ll just be 5% slower than I could be.