- Why is speed important, along with distance and strength?
- Tips on how to become a faster runner
- What are the best breathing techniques for running?
- What are the best speed workouts for running?
- Can shoes improve your speed while running?
Running Essentials: How To Become A Faster Runner
Aspiring and professional runners always have their eyes on the prize, and the only way to achieve this prize is to be fast—to be one of the best runners in the field. This is given to every type of runner since the more you run and join races, the more you want to be better. After all, only one contender will become a champion at the finish line.
Becoming a faster runner requires a lot of hard work and commitment. You can start your journey by following our given tips and learning about different running facts proven by studies on this guide.
Why Every Runner Should Focus On Speed, Distance, and Strength
Learning how to become a faster runner is not the only way to be the best runner on the field. There’s no denying that speed is an essential factor, but speed can only be achieved with the right strength at the right distance.
Beginner runners are often confused about what they should improve on and how to set their goals. Advanced and professional runners believe that distance should be the base before building up speed. In fact, according to renowned professional coach and a graduate of Science & Management of Health & Fitness Nick Anderson in his conversation with The Guardian, “the way to build endurance for a greater distance is to run further.”
While we aim to help you become a faster runner through our tips, which will be discussed later on, don’t forget about your strength and endurance as you improve your speed. Your endurance, determination, and stamina to run further will help your body adjust to different speed training techniques.
Tips on How to Become a Faster Runner
If you’re a beginner runner or an advanced runner with competition coming up, speed is surely your number one priority to beat your competitors and improve your overall performance. Given this, your goal should be to run faster with less effort. And here are surefire ways to do that.
Start With a Proper Running Form
To avoid injury and improve your body’s performance while running, aim to nail the perfect form every time you train and run—especially when you’re just starting as a beginner runner. Pay attention to your body and posture.
The proper running form requires you to keep your head, chest, and back upright. Aim to maintain your focus on the ground 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. This will prevent you from falling or tripping. But while you abide by this position, relax as much as possible. Staying relaxed is crucial to lessen pressure through the joints of the body. Your upper body should remain stable throughout the running session or race.
For the hands, the best position is anywhere above your waist. Avoid balling your fist or swinging your hands up to your chest. Instead, keep your hands in a position near your hips and keep them as relaxed as possible.
For the ankles and feet, aim to nail a position that will prevent you from doing an awkward landing. Keep your angle at a 10-degree bend (more or less), then slightly lean forward on your ankle. Your feet should be in a position where you can easily conjure up your next step in a balanced manner.
The right posture and position can not only improve your performance; tweaks in your form can make a big difference in preventing injury, build efficiency, and increase flexibility. Many studies have already proven the effect of proper posture on runners.
One study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health proved that running techniques, particularly proper form, are an important component of running economy and performance. The researchers of the study then advise coaches and runners to be attentive to the “specific aspects of stride parameters and lower limb angles in part to optimize pelvis movement, and ultimately enhance performance.”
Improve Your Breathing Techniques
Most runners, especially beginners, find it challenging to find the perfect breathing rhythm that can complement their running methods, techniques, and objectives. As such, focus on maintaining an effective breathing technique to help your body run faster and farther without experiencing fatigue or shortness of breath.
Depending on what makes you comfortable, here are some breathing techniques and exercises you can try to help you run faster and farther without losing momentum:
- Deep Belly Breathing – Assess your normal breathing rhythm by lying down on your back, putting one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, and taking a few deep breaths. Repeat these deep long breaths ten times. This technique helps increase your maximum oxygen intake.
- Do Nose Breathing – Spend a few moments of your running sessions breathing through your nose and your nose only. You can start by closing your mouth and taking a minimum of 8 breaths using your nose. If you’re uncomfortable with nose breathing, you can adjust your pace and effort level while running until you feel comfortable, then increase the use of nose breathing techniques to 20 to 30 minutes during your running sessions.
- Match Your Breathing With Your Running – Finally, when you have the proper breathing rhythm and have mastered the art of nose breathing, the final goal is to simply match all these techniques to your running. Inhale and exhale with each foot strike at a moderate to high-intensity pace.
Incorporate Strength Training
The only way you can push your body to run faster and longer is to become physically and mentally strong. To do this, make sure you incorporate strength training into all your running sessions and exercises. A study published in the Journal in Sports Medicine proved that strength training has positive effects on the physiological determinants of middle and long-distance running performance, explaining that adding strength training to a running session 2 to 3 times a week improved performance in time trials by 3% to 5% in those running around one to two miles and 2% to 4% in those running around three to six miles.
A strong core produces a strong and fast runner, so start by adapting bodyweight movements, such as squats, push-ups, and lunges. Then, gradually increase your capacity and training level by doing weight training two to three times a week on non-consecutive days. Lift a variety of weights, starting with dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells. Make sure you spend equal amounts of time and effort in improving your upper and lower body strength.
Experiment on Interval Training
Interval training is a type of running session where you alternate between periods of short, intense running and less intense recovery. “This type of training is very effective and efficient to improve the physical components. The process of improving athletes’ achievement relates to the process of improving the physical components,” explained one study published by the Journal of Physics in 2018.
A simple example for beginner runners who want to try interval training is adding short bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks, then gradually increasing the workout level following the same formula of alternating the intensity.
The variations depend on what type of athlete you are. The principles of interval training are the same for everyone. However, you can take this type of training to different levels. You can definitely change the length and speed of each high-intensity interval based on your situation or how you particularly feel on a certain day.
Practice Speed Play or “Fartlek”
Fartlek is a Swedish term that means “continuous training with interval training”. Here, you’ll combine interval training with the principles of running and speed play training. While fartleks are kind of similar to interval training, they require less effort and a slower pace over continuous training. The goal is to alternate between speed and recovery runs.
Fartlek is the next training method you can adapt after you experiment on interval training. Fartlek can be structured or unstructured. The latter requires equal minutes of hard effort and easy exercising. In contrast, unstructured requires a training portion of high-intensity running and then allotting as much time as you need to catch your breath while walking or lightly running. It’s best to try both methods to find which type of speed play training works for you.
Go for Speed Workouts Focusing On Strides, Tempo, and Sprints
The most intense speed training climaxes with speed-focused workouts, a staple training for all types of runners—beginner, intermediate, and professional. These workouts are crucial to becoming a faster and stronger runner. Here are the three main types of training that focus on improving strides, tempo, and sprints:
- Strides Running – Adopt running methods where you accelerate during straight sections and run at an easy pace on curves. Aim to do this multiple times, preferably with four complete laps, around a track. If you can’t train on tracks, find a safe road or trail where you can sprint for nearly half a minute and run or walk at a slower pace multiple times.
- Tempo Runs – Here, you can follow a set distance or time at a tempo pace. For example, you can use a pace 20 to 40 seconds slower than your usual pace during 5k or 10k races and at about 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
- Ladder Workouts – These types of workout routines mainly focus on your finishing speeds when running, so the aim is to maximize your speed and make your sprint more effective. Ladder workouts are only advisable for runners who have been training regularly for months because of their demanding routines.
Get the Right Shoes
Beginner runners sometimes ask if shoes could actually make them run faster. The answer is yes. An experiment and study conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, in partnership with footwear giant Nike, revealed that the right pair of shoes with the right set of features could reduce the energy cost consumed by running by 2.8% on average. This process can then ultimately improve a race time by several minutes. The experiment put into test the Nike Vaporfly 4% with the Adidas Adios Boost and the Nike Zoom Streak, three of the most popular shoes today for elite marathon runners. Nike Vaporfly 4% increased stride length of participating runners by two centimeters, courtesy of its higher heel height.
The study focused on three types of shoes from giant brands, but that doesn’t mean that you should only buy and wear Nike Vaporfly 4%. It’s best to research different types of running shoes and their features to find the best pair that can improve your running speed based on your running levels and goals.
Rest and Recover After Training
You can only maintain your proper form and the right running speed if you allot time for rest and recovery, which are always part of any athletic training. Give your body the proper time to adjust after heavy workouts so that you can apply your techniques and pace on your next training. As much as possible, allow yourself to have a day off from running per week.
Be Consistent and Motivated With a Training Plan
In the long run, the key to perfecting your running technique and ultimately improving your speed is staying consistent with a training plan that works for you. All the tips on our list are helpful and proven by studies, but make sure to adapt methods that you think positively change your speed, strength, and endurance. Your training plan, of course, may change depending on your goals and level of training as a runner. Just make sure to stay organized and committed while following a specific plan.
Despite speed being a crucial factor in winning a race or being a good runner, still remember that a fast runner is not always the best runner. Listen to your body while training, and don’t forget to pay attention to other crucial factors, such as power, strength, and endurance. You need to balance and match them with your speed to run faster and farther and ultimately reach the finish line.