Updated: May 1, 2020
Once you’ve been running for a while, it’s easy to settle in and think that you’ve hit your peak. You’ve found a pace that feels comfortable and assume that this is as fast as you will ever run. The thought of trying to increase your running speed feels a bit pointless.
It feels hard to run any faster.
However, many runners are surprised to discover that once they start putting in the work and training to get faster, increasing their running speed feels almost natural.
Learning how to run faster is something that most of us wish we could accomplish. Whether we run to win races or simply to stay in shape, it’s natural to want to improve.
So how do you run faster and improve speed?
Luckily, the secret to running faster is so secret at all. With a few simple training strategies and techniques, you’ll be able to increase your running speed in no time.
One of the best parts about running is that it lets us compete against ourselves. In doing so, the possibilities are endless. After finally hitting that PR we’ve been dreaming of, we can still continue to improve our running speed.
Learning a few strategies to increase your running speed will help you continue to get faster over time, and starting accomplishing those big goals.
6 Secrets to Running Faster: How to Increase Running Speed
1. Complete most runs at an easy pace.
It sounds really counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to increase your running speed is to actually slow down your pace for the majority of your runs.
Slowing down is key to speeding up.
Many runners are surprised to find that their “easy pace” is actually too fast. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of running every single mile at the same pace, but this can often cause our fitness to plateau.
Force yourself to maintain an easy, relaxed pace during each run that does not include speed work. An easy pace usually involves running nearly 60 – 90 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. This easy pace provides your body with variety during training and helps prevent overtraining by allowing time to recover each week.
2. Incorporate fast intervals and tempo miles.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in order to run faster, you have to do just that: run faster. However, the key here is knowing when to push yourself and when to take it easy during training.
Speed workouts are a crucial component of any training plan, and play a pivotal role in helping improve running speed.
Increasing running speed involves various workouts.
You should aim to include at least one speed workout each week (no more than two) that involves a variety of different intervals. Try fast, short intervals, such as 400 or 800 meters, longer sprints like mile repeats, hill workouts, fartleks, and race pace miles during long runs.
During training, make sure that your shorter intervals are all completed faster than your goal race pace. Mixing things up helps your body increase fitness quickly and give you plenty of confidence heading into race day.
3. Take your fueling seriously.
Sometimes it feels like you’re putting in all the work – doing the workouts, taking time to recover and fitting in strength training – and yet still aren’t seeing any results. If you feel like you have physically put in the effort during training but can’t seem to make progress, it might be a sign that your fueling is off.
Running faster requires sufficient fuel.
Many runners fail to fuel properly before long runs when they assume that anything is better than nothing. Or, many runners fuel well before and during their runs, but fail to refuel after hard workouts. Even still, some runners just fuel their bodies with junk throughout the day, leaving them feeling sluggish and tired during every workout.
If you’re serious about increasing your running speed, take the time to adjust your diet and fueling strategy. Make sure you are eating plenty of protein and healthy fats throughout the week, stocking up on fast-acting carbs before and during long runs, and refueling with a mix of protein and sugar afterwards.
4. Focus on cadence and form.
One less common, yet still incredibly beneficial, tactic for running faster is to perfect your cadence and running form.
A lot of the time, we expend more energy than we need to during a run without even realizing it. Swinging your arms unnecessarily or taking large strides can slow you down quickly.
Take smaller steps while increasing pace.
Adjusting your stride by shortening in promotes a mid-foot strike and faster cadence, both of which can prevent running injuries and help you expend as little energy as possible on the run. In addition, taking the time to evaluate your running form will help you make adjustments to run as efficiently as possible.
Fixing your cadence and form will help you savor every bit of energy you need for those hard workouts and fast miles on race day.
5. Make time for strength training.
No matter how much effort you put in to increasing your running pace, it won’t be possible to run faster unless you have the physical strength to do so.
Running faster involves more strength and energy, which require strong, healthy muscles on the run. Incorporating regular strength training is not only a good idea for all runners, but it is essential when you are trying to increase your speed.
Improving running speed requires strength.
Make a point to include at least one strength training workout each week. Spend time performing bodyweight and weighted exercises to increase strength throughout your entire body – including muscles other than your legs.
A strong body will help you nail those fast intervals, tough sprints and hard workouts, so you can run faster in no time.
6. Practice negative splits and fast finish runs.
One of the best ways to train your body to run faster is to practice running faster when you are at your weakest. More often than not, this involves increasing your pace at the end of a run or after the miles start to add up.
It’s easy to take off at the beginning of a run, but much more challenging to maintain that fast pace after many miles of wear and tear.
Try aiming for negative splits during your next easy run, and include some fast finishes in your long runs. Run fast on tired legs helps practice fast turnover when your muscles are most vulnerable – making it feel much easier when you are fresh and energized on race day.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: training your body to run faster involves work. You won’t be able to increase your running speed without making a few changes to your training.
However, most runners are surprised to find that once they get started, running faster and improving their speed is much more natural than they expected. After months or years of telling themselves that this is as fast as they can get, they are surprised to find that with the right type of training, increasing their pace feels rather natural.
If you’re serious about getting a PR at your next race, take some time to create a training plan that will help you get there. Tweak your fuel strategy, get started with strength training, and mix up your pace each week. Before you know it, the possibilities will be limitless.
More tips to increase running speed:
- The 3 Best Running Workouts to Increase Your Speed
- 7 Training Strategies to Achieve Your Next Race Goal
- What Speed Means to Me: Inspiration for All the “Slow Runners”