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How to Become a Faster Runner

Go From Tortoise to Hare With These Running Tips

A friend asked me to go for a run the other day, and I agreed with the disclaimer that I was pretty poky in the speed department. I was surprised that I wasn't as slow as I thought. I've been working on my pace, and I guess what I've been doing has been effective. Try these tips on your runs to give your running pace a little kick in the pants.

  • Don't fear the hills. Running uphill is much harder than running on a flat surface since you're working against gravity. Moving on an incline strengthens the same muscles you use for sprinting, so it's the perfect way to make you a faster runner. It also increases your body's endurance, which you'll need when picking up the pace. Find a neighborhood or woodsy trail that has natural hills, or use the treadmill and pump up the incline.
  • Do sprinting intervals. If you want to become a faster runner, you have to practice running fast. Sprinting intervals are great because they last only a short amount of time, so they're easy to start incorporating into your runs. The easiest way to do intervals is by time. Keep an eye on your watch and run at a basic pace for three minutes, then sprint for 30 seconds. Or if you have access to a track, sprint the straights and run the curves. There are lots of ways to incorporate interval training into your plan, and if you make intervals part of your regular workouts, you'll quickly notice a difference in your strength and endurance. Before adding sprints into your running workouts, make sure you have a solid cardio base. Remember, your fast pace doesn't need to be an all-out sprint, but a faster pace than your usual.
  • Start doing tempo runs. If you're not familiar with this running term, it means running slightly faster than your normal, comfortable pace for a steady period of time. These types of runs will push your physical threshold and teach your body how to metabolize oxygen more efficiently. If you're new to tempo runs, start out with eight to 10 minutes, and build up to 20 or 40 minutes. You're not sprinting the entire time, just moving slightly faster than your basic pace. Here are tips for tackling your first tempo run.

Keep reading for more speed-building tips.

  • Practice negative splits. This technique involves running the second half of a run at a faster pace than the first half. It seems like it might make your total time slower, but conserving your energy in the beginning and allowing your muscles to warm up will actually help you comfortably increase your pace on the second half of your workout, so you end up with a faster overall time. Inspire negative splits by running an out-and-back run, where you run comfortably to a destination, and then start running faster once you head back home.
  • Mix up the surface you run on. If you're used to chugging along on flat terrain, head for the trails, track, or sand to challenge your muscles in different ways. This type of training will make you a stronger, more efficient runner.
  • Rest is important too. Running hard must be balanced with time off to allow your muscles a chance to recover, which will make you stronger and help prevent injury.

Keep in mind that it's normal to feel a little uncomfortable when running faster. Expect to breathe heavy and feel your leg muscles burning. As you continue your training, running faster will become easier, but always listen to your body and slow down if it becomes too intense.

Image Source: Thinkstock
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sheena sheena 4 years
I definately believe in intervals as a way to help improve speed! I went from running an uncomfortable 10min/mile pace for a grueling half-hour, to a comfortable 7:30min/mile pace for 90min in about a year and a half. I focused on running intervals and neg. splits for my runs and added spinning to cross train, and weight circuits (and rest days of course!)
stilllearning2b stilllearning2b 4 years
I love these tips!  Intervals have really improved my speed; when I do sprints once or twice a week, I shave about 10 seconds per mile off my usual time.  I also incorporate trail runs (uneven surface and hills, hills, hills); these make a "normal" run feel easy.
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