How to Run Faster

How to Run Faster

Expert Tips to Pick Up the Pace Updated on August 10, 2022 If you've been running at a steady pace for a while, it can be all too common to hit a plateau. But there are many ways to build endurance and learn how to run faster without getting tired. As you start to push

Expert Tips to Pick Up the Pace

Updated on August 10, 2022

If you’ve been running at a steady pace for a while, it can be all too common to hit a plateau. But there are many ways to build endurance and learn how to run faster without getting tired.

As you start to push yourself a little harder, setting new performance goals for your runs can help you stay motivated by discovering how far (and how fast) you can go. Use these tips to increase your running speed during your training sessions.

Test Out a Quicker Pace

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One of the first steps to running faster is to learn what it feels like to pick up the pace. Start with short bursts of speed work and then return to your usual pace.

Keep in mind that increasing your speed might leave you more winded than usual at first, which is why it’s important to regulate your breathing.

If your muscles start to fatigue, it’s important to notice the difference between discomfort and pain. If you’re experiencing the latter, you’ll need to slow down your pace.

Running outside your comfort zone may feel uncomfortable at first, but as you start to develop mental stamina and physical endurance, you’ll get accustomed to the sensations that arise when you pick up the pace and start to anticipate (and maybe even enjoy) the experience of running faster.

To get a sense of your current pace, use this pace calculator. Input your distance and time, and watch as your pace gradually starts to improve.

Run More Often

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In many cases, increasing your weekly mileage will help to increase your overall speed. If you usually run once a week but participate in workout classes most other days of the week, you may notice improvements in your pace if you swap a few of those workout days with running days.

If your goal is to increase your running pace, you should be running at least two or three days each week.

If you’re already running more often than that, vary the distance and intensity of your workouts to avoid injury or burnout.

Work on Your Form

Proper running form can make you a more efficient runner, which will help you go faster.

Making even minor adjustments to your posture and gait helps your body move with less exertion and more ease. The result is that you have more energy available to help fuel a faster running pace.

Relax your shoulders and allow your arms to swing naturally as you run.

Count Your Strides

Counting your strides can help increase your stride turnover, which is the number of steps you take every minute you run. Doing so will help you run faster.

Run for about 30 seconds at a pace that you can sustain for three miles, and count each time your right foot hits the ground. Double the number to get your overall stride turnover rate.

Many runners target a turnover rate of about 180. This number is highly variable, but new runners generally tend to have a stride rate on the lower end. So you’ll likely get faster by simply improving your turnover rate.

Increase Stride Turnover

Start by running for 30 seconds at your current pace. Then jog for a minute to recover and run for 30 seconds again, trying to increase the count.

Focus on taking quick, light, short steps—as if you’re stepping on hot coals. Repeat five to eight times, trying to increase your rate each time. Eventually, a faster turnover rate will feel natural during your longer runs.

Develop Your Anaerobic Threshold

The anaerobic threshold is the exertion at which your body switches from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic metabolism. Your ability to maintain effort while using anaerobic systems is limited. By improving your fitness, you won’t hit this point as quickly.

Tempo runs, or runs at a slightly slower pace than you’d typically use, can help develop your anaerobic threshold, which is critical for running faster. Many fast runners schedule at least one tempo run each week.

Your tempo run pace should feel “comfortably hard,” similar to a 10K race pace. You shouldn’t be running so slow that you could carry on a conversation, but you shouldn’t be gasping for air.

How to Tempo Run

To do a tempo run, start with five to 10 minutes of running at an easy pace, then continue with 15 to 20 minutes of running at about 10 seconds slower per mile than your 10K pace (or a pace you could sustain for 6 miles). Finish with a five- to 10-minute cool-down.

Do Speed Work

Not surprisingly, speed work is one of the most effective ways to improve your pace. This is because speed exercises are designed to help you move faster. One way to do speed workouts is to practice structured intervals.

For example, run 400-meter repeats on a track. After a warm-up of five to 10 minutes, alternate between running a 400-meter lap at a 5K race pace and jogging one slow, easy recovery lap.

Start with two or three 400-meter repeats (with a recovery lap in between each one), and work your way up to five or six. If you plan to run a race, it helps to run at the specific pace that you’ll be running during your next event.

Try doing this or another speed workout once a week. Use a track or treadmill so you can accurately measure distances in your intervals.

Practice Fartleks

Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speed play.” fartleks are simple, quick bursts of speed that vary in distance.

You can use fartlek training if you don’t have access to a track or another measured space to run specific intervals. Use lamp posts or telephone poles to mark intervals if you’re running on the road.

After warming up, try sprinting for two lamp posts, then recover for two, and keep repeating the pattern until you’ve covered a mile. These speed “pick-ups” help you learn how to get comfortable running faster.

If you like to listen to music while you run, sprint for the duration of the chorus of your favorite song. If you’re running in your neighborhood, sprint past 10 mailboxes, then recover for another 10.

Incorporate Hill Training

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Running hills helps improve your running economy and efficiency, translating into faster running.

Hill repeats (repeatedly running up a hill and jogging or walking down) are a great way to help you run faster. Incorporate hill training into your running program after building an endurance base.

Once a week, start with a 10- to 15-minute warm-up of easy running. Find a hill with a moderate slope about 100 to 200 meters long. Run up the hill with a hard effort. Keep your effort consistent, and don’t let your running form fall apart. Recover by walking or jogging down the hill at an easy pace.

Start with five or six hill repeats and add one repeat to your training regimen each week, with a maximum of 10 repeats. You can also combine hill repeats with a tempo run.

Run on a Treadmill

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While most runners prefer training on the open road, you can also use a treadmill to improve your speed. In general, treadmill running is easier than running outside.

On a mechanized treadmill, the belt moves on its own underneath your feet, so less effort is required from you. Also, there are no obstacles such as wind or variations in terrain to challenge you. You can, however, set your treadmill’s incline to between 1% and 2% to simulate such elements.

One benefit of using a treadmill is that you can train yourself to turn your legs over quickly with greater ease. This will help you to transfer the skill to your outdoor runs. Also, treadmills allow you to structure interval runs and hill runs with more precision.

Let Your Body Recover

Don’t assume that running hard every day will make you faster. Rest is critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts. You may find that you run more quickly when you take at least one day off each week.

You can still participate in physical activity on your recovery days, but keep it easy and enjoyable. Your brain can benefit from a break from high-intensity activities, improving your emotional health.

Your muscles build and repair themselves during your rest days. If you run every day without taking days off, you won’t see much improvement.

Follow a Training Plan

If it feels overwhelming to think about scheduling different speed- and endurance-boosting running workouts, a simple training plan can help you stay organized and focused.

Choose a plan that targets the specific distance you want to train for. For example, if you want to run a faster 5K, use a training plan specifically designed for that distance. You’ll also find plenty of training plans for longer distances, but you should only target one race at a time, starting with shorter races first.

Although training for a half marathon or a full marathon will prepare you to go the distance of a 5K, they won’t include 5K-specific speedwork. By following a training schedule specific to a designated race, you’ll be more likely to get results.

Consider Your Weight

Runners who are overweight may improve their speed by losing weight. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to lose weight, especially if you are content with your size and your doctor has not advised you of any potential health concerns.

Consult a physician before undertaking a weight loss plan. Your doctor can help you determine how much weight you should lose, if any, and what methods are safe for you to use.

Improve Your Eating Habits

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Research shows that improving your nutrition may also help increase your running speed. Both macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) and calorie intake are important.

Be sure you are consuming enough protein to build stronger muscles and the correct number of complex carbohydrates to provide adequate fuel for challenging workouts. It’s also vital to eat the right kind of fat to maintain healthy joints.

Evaluate your caloric intake and your macronutrient balance and see how it compares to recommended intakes for a balanced diet. Eliminate foods that don’t provide good nutrition.

Consider investing in a session with a registered dietitian specializing in sports performance to ensure you are getting the macro-and micronutrients you need.

Wear Lightweight Running Gear

Some running gear adds excess bulk and weight, which could slow down your pace and hinder your performance. Invest in running gear made out of lightweight fabrics and materials. Also, consider getting a pair of lighter, faster running shoes (unless your feet benefit from additional support).

Of course, there is some gear you don’t want to run without, especially on long runs. Things such as a cell phone to call for help if you need it and water to stay hydrated on a hot day are often non-negotiable. Your health and safety are more important than improving your running time.

Stretch Regularly

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Inflexible joints can hinder a faster running pace. You’re not likely to move efficiently when your body has a limited range of motion. Tight muscles can also make you more susceptible to injury. If an injury sidelines you, your pace will probably pay the price until you recover.

Try to stretch after every run. Spending five to 10 minutes after your runs doing simple calf, hip flexor, and quadriceps stretches will help keep your body functioning optimally.

Strengthen Your Core

Believe it or not, the strength of your core muscles can affect your running pace. Stronger abdominals improve your running posture for more efficient breathing and free up your legs to work harder.

So to get faster, add core exercises to your exercise routine. Practice doing planks, and work up to being able to hold them for one minute or more. Or add abdominal curls, bicycle crunches, or basic bridges to the end of your runs.

Prioritize Sleep

Fast runners are often well-rested runners. So, one of the smartest ways to improve your running performance is to get enough shut-eye.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most healthy adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Experiment with this range to determine the best amount of sleep for you.

To maximize your sleeping time, practice smart sleep hygiene. Try to go to bed at the same time each night. Make your bedroom a device-free zone by keeping electronics in another room and decreasing the temperature slightly to get a better night’s rest.

Lift Weights

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Strength training builds stronger muscles to help improve speed and overall performance. It can also help you to reduce your risk of injury.

Try to schedule one or two short strength training workouts each week. If you don’t have access to a gym or health club, do bodyweight exercises like push-ups, lunges, or squats to build more muscle.

If you’re able, it can be beneficial to do these workouts immediately after a hard run or later the same day. Then you can fully recover on your easy days without overdoing it.

Experiment with Resistance

You can use workout tools and gadgets such as an anti-gravity treadmill, a running parachute, or speed bands for increased power and performance. Of course, these tools take some practice, and some require you to enlist a workout buddy to use them.

The bands can be attached to a stationary object or a training partner so that you have to pull away as you run forward. Some runners also attach bands to their legs and run in place against resistance to improve speed.

If you decide to try one of these options, it’s often a good idea to work with a qualified trainer who can show you how to use them properly.

Cross-Train

While running exercises are designed specifically to improve your pace, sometimes the best way to learn how to run faster is to take a short break from the sport and cross-train with other activities.

Cross-training can include spinning, CrossFit, swimming, and even soccer, all of which can help develop cardiovascular endurance. Additionally, cross-training can help to increase your flexibility and range of motion in your joints, build mental toughness, and increase your overall strength.

Cross-training also gives you a mental break from running. So once you’re ready to lace up your shoes and hit the pavement again, you’ll be able to give it your all.

Run With a Group

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Running with a group will motivate you to keep training, and many people find that they push themselves harder when they train with others. Many running groups include coached interval training workouts and other targeted programs.

You can often find a running group in your neighborhood for free. Ask about groups at your local running store, at work, or your health club.

Finish Strong

If you’re interested in racing and want to learn how to improve your race time, you can occasionally train as though you were racing. That means including a fast sprint to the finish at the end of your runs.

Picking up the pace for the last few miles of your long runs is good practice for race day conditions, and it also improves your endurance. Try picking up your pace by about 20 to 30 seconds for the last mile.

Speed Workouts

To help you learn how to run faster, incorporate speed workouts into your running schedule.

800m (Half-Mile) Repeats

  • 10-minute warm-up
  • Run 800 m at 5K race pace + 1 minute easy recovery
  • Repeat 800 m/1 minute recovery 4 more times
  • 5-minute cool-down

Mile Repeats

  • 10-minute warm-up
  • Run 1 mile at 5K race pace + 1 minute easy recovery
  • Repeat 1 mile/1 minute easy recovery 2 more times
  • 5-minute cool-down

6-Minute Repeat

This is a great option if you don’t have access to a track or treadmill (though a running watch or another timing device is required).

  • 10-minute warm-up
  • Run for 6 minutes at 5K race pace + 1 minute easy recovery
  • Repeat 6 minutes/1 minute 2 more times
  • 5-minute cool-down

A Word From Verywell

If you’re ready to build more endurance and train your body to run faster, try incorporating some of these tips into your running routine. Whether you’re fairly new to running or an experienced racer, remember that it’s important to listen to your body whenever you’re training. If any of the suggested exercises cause you pain or intense discomfort, stop immediately.

Additionally, some of these strategies may not be advisable if you have certain health or medical conditions. If this applies to you, always ask your doctor before beginning any new workout regimen.

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT

Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.

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