How to Run Faster

Runners crossing the finish line of the 2014 Boston Marathon

Many runners typically set their sights on two goals: distance and time. Whether it’s running a mile under four minutes or just finishing a mile without stopping, quantifiable goals give runners something to work toward and understandable ways to measure progress.

In this guide, we’ll look at workouts to help you improve your running speed, as well as more unconventional training methods that can help boost your pace.

Setting a personal record on your next 5K will validate your hard work. But setting that record starts with some sweat, and to run fast you have to train fast.

Group of people running across an intersection

Speed Workouts to Run Faster

Your diet of exercise should include a healthy portion of speed workouts. If you don’t know how to fill your plate, here are several staples of speed work runs to get faster:

  • Fartleks. These workouts are runs that alternate between hard and easy paces. Meaning “speed play” in Swedish, fartleks will help you build speed, develop a resistance to fatigue and teach you how to pace yourself.
  • Strides. Strides train your mind and body to pick up the pace by hitting the gas in short bursts. Increase your speed during a normal run for 20 to 30 seconds, and then back off to your normal pace for about a minute and a half. Then crank it up again. These will teach you how it feels to fly.
  • Progression runs. The magic of progression runs lies in a faster pace to finish than to start. Bump up the speed throughout your run to build fatigue resistance that carries into race day.
  • Track repeats. A track is flat, and it comes pre-measured so your distances are consistent. Track workouts can be altered to fit any training plan, too, so you can find one that sets you up to torch your race.
  • Long runs. While not exactly a speed workout, some distance runners have found that marathon training improved their short race speed.

Strength Workouts to Run Faster

Running is the best way to train for running. But strength training for runners can unlock speed you never knew you had.

  • Strong muscles absorb impact, reduce the risk of injury and produce more power with each step. The best part of strength training is that you don’t need a gym full of expensive equipment to get a solid burn—the weight of your body is enough to get a muscle-torching workout that will take your speed to the next level.
  • Start with your core. Your core muscles help stabilize the rest of your body, so it’s important to keep them in top shape. Try doing planks to work your abs, back, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings and quads.
  • Learn to squat. Squats work all the muscles in your legs and teach them to work together. Stronger legs will help you run more efficiently so you’ll feel fresher for longer.
  • Add some extra resistance. Exercise bands let you dial up the resistance when you’re working out. The stretchy bands can be used to increase the difficulty of basic exercises like squats or turn your living room into an effective total-body gym.
Man running in Karhu shoes

Get Mentally Tough to Run Faster

Running fast will push your muscles, but it will also test your mental toughness. That means to run faster you have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Mental strength is like software on a computer, Dr. Stephen P. Gonzalez, Ph.D., told Fleet Feet in an interview. Gonzalez, an assistant professor of sport psychology at the College at Brockport in New York, uses the analogy from David Epstein’s book, “The Sports Gene.”

Your body is like the computer—hardware that can be upgraded and refined to perform better. But your mind is the software that makes your body work. Without the proper software, your hardware won’t perform at optimal levels.

“I use this analogy to explain to athletes that while we put in daily physical training, we often neglect the mental training component that results in holistic preparation to succeed,” Gonzalez said. “If we want to be mentally strong, we have to run the right software program to allow our bodies to perform at their maximum capacity.”

Two runners taking a selfie with a smartphone during a run

Check Social Media to Run Faster

After churning through track workouts, fortifying your muscles and updating your body’s software, you could also get a pick-me-up from your smartphone.

Using social media could make you a faster runner. In the same way training with a group can make you a better runner, social sites let you see how your friends—and the competition—are doing. For runners, checking sites like Strava and Instagram can boost your motivation and encourage you to push harder. It’s called the social facilitation effect.

Logging your workouts on social media can keep you accountable to your followers, and seeing their workouts can persuade you to get out the door, too.

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