5 Ways to Improve Running Speed

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5 Ways to Improve Running Speed- Sunrise Running Company- Modesto, CA

Improve Your Running Speed

You have been running for some time now and have grown more comfortable running in the local 5k and 10k races. Now you are wondering if you can improve your running speed? The answer is YES, you can!

Whatever your running goal, you can benefit from incorporating these simple speed workouts into your routine.

A reminder first, though…if you are new to running, it is best to be running consistently (3-4 times a week) for at least three months before starting any speed workouts. Building a base of endurance and fitness first will be the best way to avoid burnout and injuries related to progressing too quickly.

Now onto the workouts for faster times…

1. Strides

All runners can benefit from doing strides. These short bouts of harder efforts improve running efficiency, speed, flexibility, and coordination. Strides can be anywhere from 50 to 150 meters in length and are done at a nearly all-out effort without sacrificing proper running form.

If you are new to strides, then try adding them into your running routine once per week. Strides can be done after any easy-paced run or incorporated into your warm-up routine. Do not do strides at the end of a hard workout or long-running session. Generally, the effort from these types of workouts will leave you fatigued and struggling to maintain form.

You can do strides anywhere, but two of my favorite styles of strides for experienced runners are ins-and-outs and strides in a grass field.

Ins-and-Outs are done on a track. Start out running the curve at an easy pace. When you reach the straightaway, build your pace to an all-out effort (maintaining good form). At the beginning of the next curve, slow your pace down until you reach the next straightaway. Repeat this lap around the track of hard and easy efforts for a total of 2-4 laps.

Strides in a grass field are a good way to feel more of a connection between your feet and the ground. This connection can help you feel how your body is propelled forward when running fast and improve running efficiency. Complete 6 to 8 strides of 50 to 150 meters in length and remain focused on proper form during each one.

2. Hill Running

Adding hill running to your routine is a great way to improve running speed, efficiency, endurance, and strength. All of those benefits from hill workouts will lead to faster running. When you do hill running, it’s important to remember that it is not just the act of running up. Sure, going uphill is where you will develop lactate threshold/aerobic capacity and strength. But, running downhill also plays an important role in developing strength, leg stability, and running efficiency.

There are various ways you can incorporate hill running into your routine. You can do a weekly route with rolling hills, run intervals, or repeats uphill and downhill, or toss in a few 10-15 second hill repeats at the end of an easy run.

If you choose to run a route that has rolling hills, make sure you look at its elevation profile before setting out. If you are new to running elevation, you don’t want to tackle the most challenging and longest hill route to start. Resources such as Strava and MapMyRun will allow you to create and view various routes in your area so you can best plan your hill run.

For hill intervals or repeats, you will want to warm up with an easy run for 10-15 minutes first. Then, find a hill that is 100-200 meters long with a decent but not too steep of an incline. Run up the hill at a hard effort – you will want to push yourself and run at an effort that allows you to focus on proper running form. Once you reach the top, turn around and jog back down easily for recovery. Ideally, when you hit the bottom of the hill, you want to run right back up again. However, for the first few times of adding this type of workout to your routine, you can take an extra 30-60 seconds of standing rest, if needed.

The total number of hill repeats you do depends on your experience and fitness level. Beginner runners should start with 2-4 repeats, and over a period of several weeks, add additional repeats till you reach a 6-10 repeat total. Experienced runners can start with 6-8 repeats and work their way up to 10-12 repeats over several weeks.

3. Fartleks

Fartlek running is when you alternate periods of faster running with periods of slower running. This workout can be fun to get started with speed training because Fartleks are not structured as traditional track workouts or tempo runs. Your efforts on the hard and easy periods are more on how you feel than a specific pace, allowing you to more comfortable adjust to faster running.

To add Fartlek Running to your routine, first, you need to warm up at an easy pace for 10-15 minutes, then mix in short periods of faster-paced running. A faster running pace can be measured over a specific distance (200-400 meters) or over a period of time (30-90 seconds). The great part about Fartleks is that the intervals can vary over the course of the workout. When you have completed a short period of fast running, slow back down to an easy pace until you feel that you have fully recovered and your breathing is under control. Once you feel ready to go again, start the next short period of fast running.

A great example of varying the bouts of hard running during a Fartlek Run is as follows…

  • Warm-up 10 to 15 minutes
  • Run hard for 30-seconds, followed by 30-seconds easy
  • Run hard for 60-seconds, followed by 60-seconds easy
  • Run hard for 90-seconds, followed by 90-seconds easy
  • Run hard for 60-seconds, followed by 60-seconds easy
  • Run hard for 30-seconds, followed by 30-seconds easy
  • Continue with this up-down-ladder approach for the duration of your run.
  • Cool down for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Strengthen Your Core

Experienced runners will tell you that one of the most important components to their continued success is their work outside of running. Just like running hills, strides, and Fartlek Runs, improving running speed comes from maintaining proper running form. Doing core strengthening exercises is critical to maintaining and improving that form. A strong core reduces energy wasted through excessive movements and takes the pressure off of key running joints.

You don’t have to make time available specifically for core exercises. Complete crunches, planks, push-ups, and other core exercises three times per week while you watch TV. That’s pretty simple. And you will be improving your running speed while you’re watching your favorite shows!

5. Fast Finish Runs

If you’ve built up a base of endurance and fitness running mostly at the same pace, adding in fast finish runs maybe just enough variety to improve running speed. Picking up the pace the last few miles of your long runs is good practice for any race distance. You find gains in endurance from these runs and mental toughness to keep pushing when fatigued.

Try adding in fast finish runs as part of your long run every other week. When you reach the last 10-30% of your long run, increase the pace by 15 to 30 seconds per mile.

For more detailed ideas on improving running speed, read these related articles:

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