After running at a consistent pace for a long period of time, it’s natural to wonder what you need to do to learn how to run faster. There are many ways to safely increase your endurance, strength, and mindset to contribute to a quicker pace.
Depending on what you want to achieve–completing a race, lowering your mile time, wanting to get into better shape, etc.–you’ll need to set goals before you can establish an approach to training. Start by timing yourself so that you know what your starting point is. If you want to run a faster mile, take your original time, compare it with your goal time, and calculate the pace you’ll need to run in order to meet it.
Setting a realistic, clear goal gives you a solid foundation to build a training program on. It doesn’t have to be a professionally crafted program; you can likely continue what you’re already doing with a few small tweaks. Running faster requires work in a variety of different areas, though, as explored in the running faster tips listed below.
If you love running, it might not be very appealing to spend time lifting weights. Strength training is necessary for runners who are serious about getting faster or learning how to be a faster sprinter, though. As your legs become stronger, they can generate more power and propel your body at a faster rate. Working on strengthening your core and upper body, meanwhile, can contribute to decreasing fatigue and improving your form.
You don’t have to be a serious weightlifter to become a faster runner. You can do bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, or lunges to get stronger.
Running fast is a key component of lowering your time. It sounds obvious, but you must add speed work into your training program like interval training and tempo runs at various levels of speed and effort.
Interval training consists of putting forth your maximum effort followed by a recovery period. You might sprint for 30 seconds and slow down to a jog for 60 seconds, repeating this eight times. Tempo runs put you just outside of your comfort zone by having you run at a pace that is slightly faster than you’re used to. Your breathing will be audible, but you shouldn’t be gasping for breath.
As you run and train more frequently, your body’s need for certain nutrients and fluids increases. Maintaining a correct diet will help your endurance and strength during physical activity and will help your body recover afterward.
Keep these tips in mind as you plan your diet:
- Eat plenty of carbohydrates. Carbs should comprise 50–70% of your diet and will fuel your body as you train.
- Eat a lot of protein. Protein will help you build muscle and repair muscle tissue as you lift weights.
- Drink plenty of water and sports drinks. You need to replenish the fluids that you lose when you sweat. Taking in a lot of fluid will also help prevent muscle cramps and dehydration.
You must build endurance in order to build speed. “Long” means different things to different runners; someone training for a 5K might consider four miles to be a long run, while someone training for a marathon might consider 20 miles to be a long run. Regardless, go on one long run every week to boost speed, endurance, mental strength, and resiliency.
Pacing doesn’t just refer to how quickly you can run a mile. It also covers how you move through your entire period of training. You might see results in just a few weeks, or you might only see results much later.
Don’t overwork yourself! If you try to do too much before your body is prepared for it, you may injure yourself or burn out. Avoid increasing your weekly mileage too quickly, and don’t try difficult workouts if you’re inexperienced. In general, you should up your weekly mileage by 10% and incorporate one or two speed-work sessions every week when you begin training.
As you train, be sure to plan for rest and recovery days in between harder running days. Resting gives time for the microscopic muscle tears that happen on runs or during strength training to heal. Rest also helps your body store fuel as it prepares for your next workout.
A big part of recovery is getting enough sleep. Make your nighttime rest a priority! Studies show that not getting enough sleep can throw a wrench in your athletic performance.
Sample Program for Training to Run Faster
- Monday: Strength training
- Tuesday: Speed work
- Wednesday: Active recovery
- Thursday: Tempo run
- Friday: Active recovery
- Saturday: Long run
- Sunday: Rest
Note that there are two suggested “active recovery” sessions in this sample program. These should consist of easy or moderate non-running exercises. You can do anything, like stretching, yoga, Pilates, or resistance training. You should switch up what you do on active recovery days to target different parts of your body.
Listen to Your Body
As you train to become a faster runner, pay attention to what your body is telling you. There’s no shame in taking an extra rest day or cutting a run short if you feel like your body needs a break. It’s more important to be consistent in the long term than to follow a training schedule exactly.