It’s one thing to go for a run. It’s another thing entirely to run fast. But if picking up the pace in your running is something you’re looking to do, you’ve come to the right place.
First things first, though: Experts recommend picking up the pace only after you can comfortably run up to five or six miles. Once you can conquer that type of mileage, your body is better able — and ready! — to focus on speed and your cardiovascular fitness.
If you’re still tapping out after a 5K, keep training for distance. If you’re comfortable finishing six-milers and feel like you’re ready to step it up, here are several ways to run a faster mile.
Run More Hills
Want to build leg and lung strength?
Run more hills.
Whether you incorporate more hills into your regular running route or want to take on hill repeats, uphill workouts can help you get stronger and faster while improving your running form at the same time.
Running on an upward incline naturally forces your foot to find a forefoot strike, your knees to lift, and your arms to pump harder in order to propel yourself forward — all things that can help improve your form on a level surface. By engaging your entire lower body and pushing it against gravity, you’ll build strength in record time.
Uphill running also ensures that you get more out of a workout than sticking to a flat course. Since you’ll be working harder than you would be if you were on level ground, your heart rate will skyrocket faster, giving your cardiovascular system a boost, and giving you the training stimulus you need to get quicker.
For hill repeats, find a hill or variety of hills with a moderate incline that takes roughly 20 to 60 seconds to climb from start to finish. Don’t burn yourself out on the ascent. Instead, keep your pace even going up and coming back down.
As you push uphill, keep your body relaxed. On your descent, avoid slacking off and compromising your form or leaning back and relying too much on your quads, which can put you at risk for injury. As you continue to get stronger, add more challenging hills with varying elevations and lengths.
Work on Your Core
While you may think that increasing your speed can only come from a track workout or actually running, improving your core strength can actually be a huge payoff when it comes to speeding up. A stronger core allows individuals to tap into more force and speed while on a run.
The good news? This is super easy to do.
Just 15 minutes of core work (think: crunches, planks, etc.) several days a week can help speed up your run.
“Fartlek” is admittedly a funny word, but it actually is Swedish for “speed play.” Basically, it means alternating your speed — from jogs to sprints, to jogs to sprints, and so on — to gradually build up speed and endurance.
Fartleks can be done on the track, the treadmill, or even on the road. All you need is some motivation and a reliable stopwatch.
For this workout, you’ll alternate between a fast-paced run and recovery intervals.
The length and speed of these intervals are up to you, but try running at a 5K race pace for one minute during your speed surges, and relaxing back into a slower pace for six to seven minutes during recovery.
This mix of fast-to-slow stretches can increase your aerobic capacity, improving your ability to maintain a speedier pace. Try incorporating a fartlek run into your training schedule once a week.
Try a Track Workout
Find a flat, fast, and traffic-free course at a local track for effective speed workouts.
This kind of workout prepares your body to run faster for short periods of time, which can ultimately increase your speed. Since many beginner races start out too fast, this type of workout teaches runners to build on their speed, rather than waste it all at the onset of the run.
You can find a variety of speed workouts online, but one workout that can increase your speed on a 400-meter track is jogging the curves of the track very slowly, while picking up your pace for the straights. As you get stronger, feel free to pick up the pace.
Another track workout you can do is referred to as, “The Even Steven.” During this workout, you’ll run three laps around the track, increasing your speed with every loop. This type of workout helps to build endurance, while pushing yourself gradually.
Find Your Stride
Elite runners often run short sprints before a race. These short sprints are called “striders” or “strides,” and are a series of comfortable sprints, usually between 80 to 150 meters, that can help improve your acceleration technique and activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers.
After a few of these workouts, a faster stride will feel more natural and take less effort.
Want to Pick up the Pace?
Now that you’re armed with the right knowledge and training tips to run faster, get out there and hit the road! Just don’t forget your stopwatch to record your decreasing times.