Introduction: How to Run Faster

Whether you want faster race time or just want to show off to your friends, there are a number of steps you can take in becoming a faster runner, these include; improving your form, cross training, proper recovery and speed training exercises. These techniques will be discussed in the following instructable.

Step 1: Running Form and Posture

Most runners have there own unique running style that is comfortable for them, but it is important to have proper form. Poor form wastes energy and detracts from your performance, it can also lead to injury. Running with proper form insures that the energy you put in translates to faster running and greater endurance.

Posture

You should have a relaxed, upright stance. Your back should be straight, head up and your shoulders should be relaxed and not up around your ears. Don't lean forward this puts too much weight on your legs leading to injury.

Arms

Arm swing helps keep rhythm and propels for forward. Your shoulders should be loose, arms close to your body, and up between your waist and chest. (They should not swing across your body -left to right). Hands should be cupped loosely, don't make a fist, this creates tension and wastes energy. Also don't carry things, like water bottles, MP3 players etc. this detracts from proper arm swinging.

Your arms should swing up and down bending at the elbow, less movement forward and back from your shoulders. Your arm swing should be synchronized with the opposite leg (left arm up right knee up).

Foot strike

Beginner and intermediate runners have a hell-ball( of foot) foot strike. Meaning you land on your heel roll forward and push off from the ball of your foot. Since there is a lot of extra padding on the heel of running shoes this makes sense. However some elite runners land on the midfoot or forefoot then heel then pushing off again from the forefoot. This creates a faster foot strike, hence faster stride frequency.

Stride

To maintain proper form with regards to your stride; the lead foot should stretch forward, swing down and make contact with the ground under your hip(your centre of gravity). If it is too far forward (overstriding) it could lead to injury.

Stride length and frequency

These are two major factors you can change to increase your running speed. Stride length can be increased by lifting your leg higher and pushing off harder with your rear foot. There are a number of training exercises you can do to increases stride frequency, these will be detailed in the next step.

Step 2: Speed Training

Intervals
The best place to do interval training is on a track and field track if you don't have access to one measure off the distance on your training route (use sites like http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ to measure route distances). Start by doing a 5-10 minute warm-up run then do one lap (400m or 1/4 mile) at race pace and do one slow easy lap to recover. Increase to 2 laps fast then one recovery lap, then 3 fast, and gradually over training sessions working up to 5 to 6 laps at race pace and one recovery lap.

Fartlek (it's Swedish for "speed play)
This exercise is similar to interval training but it is more spontaneous and can be a lot of fun when done with a group. Run a 5-10 minute warm up, then pick a landmark, such as a telephone pole and run fast to the landmark, then slow down to recovery pace, then pick another landmark, choose landmarks about 50 yards to 1/4 mile away. You can also use time intervals instead of landmarks too, for example run fast for 2 minutes, the two minutes slow to recover, then repeat.

Hills
Long hills- try to find a hill that is not too steep and about 400m (1/4mile ) in length. Do a 5-10 minute warm up first then run up the hill at close to race pace the jog down slowly. Repeat this 3-4 times.

Short hills-try to find a hill that is steeper and about 100-200 yards, again run up at near race pace (or as best you can) and jog down slowly. Repeat 4-5 times.

Hills are a great way of increasing leg strength.

Tempo run
Do a 5-10 minute warm up run then run for 20 minutes at near race pace then 5-10 minutes at a slower recovery pace. This exercise helps you run hard for long periods.

A note about pace, if your not sure what your race pace is, think of it as running "comfortably hard."

Training with a heart rate monitor can help you gauge your pace. First find out your maximum heart rate(mhr) which is roughly 220 -your age (so if you are 30 your mhr 190).

- Your race pace is `95-100% of your mhr ( this is the pace to use for interval and fartleks)
- Tempo runs and hill training - 85-90%mhr
- Slow, recovery pace is about 65-75% mhr

Step 3: Cross Training

Cross training is good for total body fitness, it can prevents muscle imbalance, increases aerobic fitness and increase flexibility which can make you a better runner.

Try cycling, swimming, cross country skying, stair climbing, soccer, basketball and walking. Do this 1-2 days a week.

Also include strength training. Strength training is important in helping you become a faster runner. Work on arms, legs and core muscles. Do this at least once a week. Here are a few example exercises to try.

legs
lunges
squats
calf raise

arms
push ups
curls
tricep extensions

core musles
crunches
the plank (yoga pose)
try some pilates exercises

Step 4: Recovery

Post workout nutrition
I've noticed that some days I'm running like a gazelle, and other days I feel like I'm slogging through mud. What's the difference?

Post-workout nutrition is important in recovery and can improve your performance the next time you run. The more glycogen stored in your muscles the more fuel it has to get you moving. After running refuel your muscles with carbohydrates, there is a 15-60 minute window in which to do this. At this time the enzymes that convert carbohydrates (glucose) to glycogen(stored muscle fuel) are most active. Also include proteins, try for a 4:1 carbs. to protein ratio, since together they increases the insulin response. Protein is also good after a workout since it helps repair muscles.

Within 15 minutes of your workout/run try to take in about 50 grams of carbohydrates, fruit drinks or sport drinks (even cola) are easiest to consume after a workout. Within the next hour try for another 50-100 grams of carbohydrates. Try smoothies with protein powder, cereal, breads, etc.

Cool down and stretching
After you are done with your run or workout allow your heart rate and your breathing to return to normal, don't stop abruptly and lie down on the couch (as tempting as that may be.) Once you have cooled down a bit you will need to stretch. This increases flexibility and prevents stiffness and soreness after exercise.

Rehydrate
Stay hydrated before during and after a run. Here is a suggested intake amount:
  • before -8-16oz, 5-15 minutes prior
  • during -4-8oz every 20 minutes
  • after -6-16oz
If you are running for over an hour consider a sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost when sweating, especially in hot weather.

Also practice drinking from paper cups during a race while still moving, try to get as much in your mouth as possible and not down the front of your shirt. It is not as easy as it sounds.

Rest
Give your body a chance to rest. If you are training 3 days a week, cross training 2 or more days, have one day to rest of just do a light activity like stretching or some gentle yoga. Also spread out your running days so you don't do them back to back.

Step 5: Other Tips

Setting goals
Setting a goal is the first step in achieving it. Just saying you want to run faster isn't enough, set a race finish time that you want to achieve so that you give yourself something to aim for.

Pace bands
Pace bands are great tool during a race to make sure you are on track to achieve your desired finish time. These band show split times for every other mile or kilometer. There are a number of websites that have these. RW's Pace Band or Pace bands
Just enter the race distance and desired finish time and it will list the split times. Print it, cut it out, apply clear tape on both sides, then wear it around your wrist beside you watch.

Friendly competition
Run with a friend or with a running group that runs a bit faster than you. This can keep you motivated and make you push yourself to run faster. Look at the gym, community centres, or even running shoe stores (like the Running Room) for postings for running clubs/groups that you can join.

Shoes
Having a good pair of shoes goes a long way in preventing injury. Go to a specialty running store, bring your old pair, and the staff should be able to get you a pair that suits you, especially if you overpronate(foot rolls inward) or oversupinate(foot rolls outward). Remember too, that you will need to replace our shoes after about 500 miles.

Running journal
Using a running journal is a great way of tracking your mileage, times and progress as you improve your speed. It also lets you add comments about how your runs went, how you felt etc.

Music
Music is a great motivator, pick something with a great beat and a fast tempo to get you going.

Most importantly have fun


Reference
  • Glover,B.(1996). The Runners Handbook. New York: the Penguin Group

Comments

author
Visit_Homemadegymstuff (author)2010-11-14

Another option would be to harness the power of gravity and learn to run "POSE" style... According to prof. Nicholas Romanov running often is practiced but hardly ever taught. And here's another interesting point - how many other 'animals', apart from humans, walk/run and allow their heels to contact the ground?

author
Annatar2 (author)2010-09-12

Instead of fartlek runs which can be tricky in places without obvious landmarks at roughly equal distance there's always 60-120's (or 30-60's if you're just starting). You can do these in the gym on the treadmill which has a setting for interval training, or with a cheap stop watch around the neighborhood. Start off by jogging (or walking briskly if you're just starting out) for 120 seconds. When that 120 seconds is up run as hard and fast as you can for 60 seconds. Its key to really push yourself for those 60 seconds. When that time is up go back to jogging for 120 seconds. Repeat for about 20 minutes, longer as you get better at it.

This is actually the way the US army recommends increasing running times and from someone who has gone from a 16:00 two mile to a 13:00 I can tell you it definatly works. As you get better at it you can do things like swap your rest interval with your run interval so you're running for 120 seconds and jogging for 60.

author
ChrysN (author)Annatar22010-09-12

Thanks, that's great advice.

author
Neovenetar (author)2010-08-08

haha look at the cat, it's a funny cat. :P this really helps though, espicially the bit about forefoot running.

author
ChrysN (author)Neovenetar2010-08-08

Thanks, my cat likes to use my yoga mat to sharpen his claws.

author
Musicman41 (author)2009-08-31

My favorite fartlek is a 3-2-1. 3 minutes fast, 3 minutes recover, 2 min fast, 2 min recovery, 1 min fast, 1 min recovery, repeat for 3-4 miles.

author
ChrysN (author)Musicman412009-08-31

That sounds like a good one, I'll try it!

author
StarBlades (author)2009-07-29

WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA thats central park! thats in burnaby, BC. i can almost see my house. its close to the edge of the picture

author
StarBlades (author)StarBlades2009-07-29

oh i can see my grandpas cemetary too, on the bottom of the pic haha should i start singing 'Its a small world after all'? wow what are the chances.. someone can recognize a picture of a park taken by a satellite lol

author
ChrysN (author)StarBlades2009-07-29

Cool, maybe you've seen me run by!

author
StarBlades (author)ChrysN2009-07-29

i dont know what you look like lol. i bike around central a lot, but mainly the south side.

author
julesa (author)2009-07-16

Good instructable! I would only add one thing -- you didn't mention anything about long slow distance runs. Some sprint-oriented athletes will find adding a longer slow distance run to their weekly routine can push them past a fitness plateau, and develop new strength and endurance that can eventually result in an increased top speed.

author
ChrysN (author)julesa2009-07-16

Thanks for the tip, that's great!

author
bengerszewski (author)2008-10-15

I have the same shoes as you! or had... good instrucable. always helps to be faster, especially when your running from the cops... jk

author

but you don't need to run faster than the cops, you just need to run faster than your friends!

author
ChrysN (author)mothflavour22008-10-16

LOL, that's a good point!

author
theshowdowndude (author)ChrysN2009-03-14

not if they are bad friends and they sell out ur hiding plae bcause u got away...

author

too true, too true

author
Torread0912 (author)2008-10-14

Pretty good instructable, but I wouldn't drink straight gatorade. It can give you minor cramps, and water is generally better for you. I reccomend mixing a glass of water with about a fifth of a glass gatorade. It may taste like crap, but it is better for you.

author
ChrysN (author)Torread09122008-10-15

Thanks, that's a good suggestion.

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