How To Improve Your Running Speed
Using these simple training techniques
Running at the same pace or running the same distance for a while can have detrimental effects on your fitness motivation. The best way to fire up your enthusiasm is to set yourself new targets or even better sign up to a race. In my experience goals are much more likely to be achieved if there is a looming deadline.
How can you improve your running speed? There are many ways you can get faster by using several different training techniques and importantly scheduling a routine that is consistent and progressive.
In principle, the best way to improve your running speed is to practice increasing your running speed! The human body adapts specifically to the imposed demands we place upon it.
Finding your current fitness level
Let’s take it back a step first. If you want to progress you need to know your starting point. Start with a fitness test to establish your current fitness baseline. Note where your weakness are – speed or hill training? Once you know the areas that need work you can start to build your personal running programme.
Create a specific goal
It’s great to want to see and feel progression but what does that mean to you? If you want to get faster – what pace does that mean and for what distance. Do you want to get faster at sprints, short distances or endurance.
How to measure your fitness level:
- 12 minute cooper test. Perform a good warm up then run as fast as you can for 12 minutes and take note of the distance covered.
- 5km race pace run. Start with a good warm up and make sure you have a 5km distance set up or 5km route in mind. Time how long it takes you to run 5km.
Once you know where your current fitness and speed level is you can now set goals and measure your progression.
Lets look at specific speed work training examples:
- Intervals. Probably the best known training technique for the majority. Intervals are short, intense bursts of speed with rest between. Run the same distance repeatedly with rests in between. Simple to progress by increasing your speed/distance or time.
- Fartlek. This is a Swedish term for “speed play” Great for longer distance runs you simply play around with short intense bursts, to longer 3 minute faster runs with recovery intervals. Play with different interval times, speeds and distances. There are no rules!
- Hill Running. Improve leg strength and conditioning with hill runs. You could have an entire session based around hill running intervals – varying speed, distance and inclines. Or another way is to add a hill running section into your longer runs which will also work to improve overall endurance.
- Tempo Running. Similar to interval running but with longer intervals. Try a faster run for 5-10 minutes at a pace where you cannot hold a conversation and bring the tempo back down again for recovery. This is great for improving your lactate threshold which in turn with boost endurance and speed.
It’s not necessary to use all of the above examples in your training plan but a mix of 2 or 3 could be beneficial.
How To Structure Your Weekly Training Programme
Lets say you create a 12 week training programme, weeks 1-4 could incorporate interval and hill running sessions with progressions being made over the 4 weeks. Weeks 5-8 to incorporate Fartlek training during longer distances and weeks 8-12 could involve tempo runs and pyramid style intervals.
The key is to start with training sessions that are both challenging but achievable making small progressions such as increased time/distance or speed each week. If you know where your weakness’s are and what your specific goal is then creating your own personal training programme is going to be fun and rewarding. PRO TIP: Log each workout, take notes – what felt easy, what was hard and of course note down all speeds and distances that were achieved.
Are your muscles in tip top condition ?
The importance of muscle recovery cannot be overstated. If your muscles are in poor condition then movement patterns with be restricted therefore increasing the effort needed to perform the exercise and resulting in potential injury.
A good stretch down routine is essential. Schedule in stretch routines in between workouts and compliment your stretch routine with foam rolling. For those not in the know – Foam rolling targets sore spots and soft-tissue trigger points in your muscles with self-myofascial release.
Basically using a foam roller is a way of giving yourself a sports massage. There are many benefits such as reducing pain and muscle soreness, increasing blood flow and oxygen to the tissue, helping the natural healing process. It also helps with flexibility. When foam rolling and stretching is consistently performed together it can help lengthen your muscles.
For more information on how to improve your running speed read my article about the benefits of strength and conditioning for runners HERE. Look out for my up coming articles on why having a solid core is important for efficient running.