Whether you’re looking to increase your running speed for an upcoming marathon or simply to satisfy your personal goals, incorporating a few small changes into your running routine allows for big results. Paying attention to your body and your breath with every stride is key to becoming a faster, more efficient runner.
Vary Your Training
Running the same route and pace every day allows your body to get comfortable with the routine -- and forward progress tends to plateau. Ditch the routine and vary your running distance, route, pace and terrain. The constant change challenges your body to adapt to new conditions and you will eventually become a more effective runner.
Follow a Plan
Steve Smith, a military fitness trainer and author, recommends interval training to increase speed on the Military.com website. Smith suggests developing a training program based on your running pace goal. In interval training, you’ll run varying distances at your goal pace, while walking or jogging in between each interval. Interval training allows your body to slowly adapt to an increased running speed.
Fuel Your Body
Proper nutrition provides the fuel your body needs to complete a run. With inadequate fuel, your body gets slower and less efficient. Choose a small carbohydrate-rich snack before you begin, such as a banana or a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter. During your run, take a small sip of water at least every 10 minutes to stay hydrated. If your run lasts longer than 60 to 75 minutes, consume an additional carbohydrate-rich energy source.
Use Proper Form
Using proper running form is a key element in becoming a faster, more efficient runner. Keep your head, shoulders and hips in alignment, with your body angled forward. Maintain a relaxed upper body to conserve energy. Land every foot strike under the body -- not in front of it.
Don’t Land on Your Heels
Landing on your heels puts your body’s center of gravity behind you. As a result, your body requires a stronger push -- and more energy -- to propel itself forward with each stride. Conserve energy by landing on your midfoot or forefoot. This running technique keeps the center of gravity near the front of your body, helping you run faster and fatigue slower.
Explode off the Ground
To increase your speed, aim to spend less time on the ground with each foot strike. Attempt to explode off the ground each time your foot hits the pavement. Incorporating a plyometric routine into your weekly workout helps develop these explosive movements. After a few weeks of training, your muscles learn to react faster -- ultimately increasing your speed.
Although you should explode off the ground, avoid bouncing into the air. With each explosion, aim for horizontal movement instead of vertical movement. Propelling your body forward -- rather than up into the air -- lets you reach your destination faster.
Increase Your Stride Rate
The number of strides you take during one full minute equals your stride rate. If you are able to increase your stride rate, you will ultimately get to the finish line faster. Aim for a stride rate of 90 to 95 strides per minute.
Focus on Your Breathing
As you fatigue, you might find yourself taking quick, shallow breaths. Unfortunately, this only exhausts you faster. Instead, take deep inhalations and exhalations to allow for proper oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.
Don’t allow negative thoughts to crowd your mind during a run. If you keep telling yourself that you can run faster, you will eventually be able to meet your goal. Find the motivation that works for you -- whether it’s a running buddy, a good music playlist or challenging your hubby to a speed competition.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.