There’s something about the idea of trying to get faster in running that can be really overwhelming. It’s partly because most of the time, when you hear people talk about running, they’re always talking about trying to get faster. Whether it be faster to set a new PR, faster to qualify for a certain race, faster to reach a personal milestone, or faster just to show the improvements in their fitness. And sometimes we just can’t help it. It is true, that in many ways, it is the underlying goal of running, and that a lot of what we do comes back to helping us get faster. It’s also partly because there are so many terms thrown around when it comes to speedwork that it can seem like you would never get to actually run and that you spend all your time doing these speed workouts. But here’s the good news: you can still get faster without spending all of your time in tempo run mode. In fact, there are some things you can do on your every day run that don’t take a lot of time that will help you to improve your running time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you don’t have to do your tempo runs and track sessions, as well as hit the hills if you want to make significant gains time wise with your running, but if that’s not the level where you are or where you want to be, you can still improve. Here’s 7 things you can do to run faster:
- End your run with 1:1s – I finish nearly every run with either a 1:1 or a sprint (see below). For the 1:1, in about the last 10 minutes of my run, I do intervals with one minute tempo pace, one minute base pace, and repeat this for the final 10 minutes. In the end it means I did a 5 minute tempo run that day. Running 6 or 7 days a week, you add on a 30-35 minute tempo run every week. Well kind of. We are taking breaks I guess . . .
- Sprint to the finish – If you don’t want to do tempo runs for the last 10 minutes (or you forget until you are almost home), sprint to the finish! Just like you would in a race when you rounded the corner and could see the finish line 800 m down the way and you were so close, give it all you have left for the last bit of your run. Not only does this give you practice for doing this in a race, but it also helps you to see how well you are doing at pacing yourself throughout your run: if you have lots left to give and you could sprint for a long time, maybe you aren’t pushing yourself enough during your run. Alternatively, if the idea of sprinting the last 500-800m of your run seems like the hardest thing on earth, maybe you’ve gone out too hard. Fine for shorter runs, but how is that going to affect you when you want to do longer runs or races?
- Be in a rush – The next time you wake up late or leave work late and don’t get to start your run on time, don’t skip it, treat it as a chance to go real fast! Maybe even do a time trial if you feel up to it. On mornings when I am running late and need to cut 5 – 10 minutes off my run, I go harder. For me this typically looks like a pyramid style workout with tempo runs for 1 minute, rest for 30 seconds, tempo for 2 minutes, rest for 1 minutes, tempo for 3 minutes, rest for 1.5 minutes etc. up to 5 or 6 minutes and then back down again. Alternatively, I may do the 1:1 workout (see 1 above) the whole run, or I may simply do a 5 or 10 km time trial. It’s a great chance to work on your speed, still get in a workout, and you won’t be finished too late!
- Make a hilly route -Sometimes you choose a route specifically because you know it doesn’t have any hills. Some days just aren’t hill days. I get that. But don’t make that every day. Instead, choose the hilliest route you know of 1-2 days a week and start running. Training on hills means when you hit hills in a race you will be conditioned for them and you won’t lose speed. Keeping pace on hills and overtaking the people who slow down means a better finish time for you. Not to mention they do wonders for your glutes. And who ever complained about that?
- Have a fast song – I have a song on my running playlist that gets me so jazzed up and excited that it always makes me want to run faster. Now I treat it as my fast song and any time it comes on, I have to pick up the pace and run faster for the duration of the song. Not only does it get your pace up and work on your speed, but it’s a great way to boost endorphins if you are feeling a little down or not really into the run that day.
- Hit the trails – Running trails requires us to be more aware of our running and pay more attention to our surroundings. This means we pay attention to where our feet it and are always on the cued in to our run, not distracted and completely lost in our head for 10km. When it comes to running faster, this is exactly what has to happen: you have to be focused on it, aware of how fast you’re going and how fast you can/want to go and not let yourself lose focus, or you lose speed. Use trails as a way to practice this and then transfer these skills over to your speed work.
- Do more than just run – Have you increased your running mileage and just aren’t seeing any improvements? It may be that you are focusing too much on running and not enough on other training. There’s a reason elite runners do more than just running: strength training and cross training allow you to improve your running and improve your running time. Add in a couple of strength training sessions a week and do some cross training, and if you can, try to incorporate yoga into your fitness routine.
Need some more resources? Check out these:
What are some of the methods you use to run faster other than weekly speedwork? Have a great weekend!