Strategies to Help You Run Faster

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runfasterRunners are a competitive breed.

Something deep inside drives us to set new personal records. Many of our listeners have asked me about how to improve their race times.

So without further ado, let’s talk about running faster!

The body has an uncanny ability to adapt to the demands you put on it. Train at the same pace day after day, week after week, year after year, and that’s the kind of running your body will adapt to.

But if you break out of that comfort zone with a little speed work now and then, the body will learn to deal with the new demands. The heart will get stronger, the cardiovascular system more efficient, the muscles better able to function at full force. That will translate into greater strength, faster times, and easier daily runs. And you’ll just plain feel better.

Here are some quick reminders before implementing speed work:

  1. Have a solid running base
  2. Find the right course and pay attention to the surface
  3. Warm up, stretch, and start slowly
  4. Focus on form
  5. Try to keep it fun
  6. Take a rest day
  7. Expect a little discomfort

With that said, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of improving your speed.

Strategies to Help You Run Faster

  • Try Interval Workouts
    Find a track and warm up for 5 to 10 minutes. Then take a lap at your 5k pace (the pace you maintain if you were to run 3 miles). For example, if it takes you 24 minutes to run three miles then your 5k pace is 8 minutes. Next, take a lap at an easier pace. This is called the recovery lap. Then run at your 5k pace again. Repeat these intervals . . . you get the point.
  • Do a Tempo Run Once a Week
    The good thing about tempo runs is that they increase your anaerobic threashold. Your anaerobic threashold is the point at which your muscles tap into your fuel reserves thereby increasing your stamina. Start your run with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running, then continue with 15 to 20 minutes of running at a pace that feels “comfortably hard” or an effort of 8 on a scale of 1-10. Finish with a cool down run of 10 minutes.
  • Incorporate Hill Training
    Hill training makes your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads all work harder which in turn will make you faster. Your upper body will also get stronger as you drive your arms and work harder to stay upright. Make sure you run hard up the hill but take it slower on the way down. 🙂
  • Lose Weight
    Yeah, I know this is easier said then done. But consider this . . . a one pound weight loss will make you 2 seconds per mile faster (10 pounds= 1 minute shaved off your 5k time). Plus you will look better in your running shorts! Here is my weight loss philosophy in a nutshell:

    Run regularly, add some weight training to build muscle, focus on more quality foods, and challenge yourself. I could write a whole book on this subjuct. Maybe some day I will!

  • Try the Fartlek!
    Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play”. It is simply sprinting and jogging off and on during a run. Just pick a point and sprint to it. You may want to Fartlek between two telephone poles along your route or you can Fartlek to a song on your playlist. It is entirely up to you!

Try one of these strategies this week. Stick with it and I believe you will improve your time. Good Luck!

Also Mentioned in This Episode

The Yasso 800s a handy way to calculate your marathon finishing time before race day and implement some cool interval workouts.

12 Responses to Strategies to Help You Run Faster

  1. Trevor July 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    So . . . what do you think?

  2. Shafiq Khan July 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    Cool Podcast … I’d be interested to know more about the Yasoo 800 strategy.


  3. Danielle July 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    This is great! Exactly what I wanted. I want get in to the 4:30 range for the Long Beach Marathon, and hopefully this will help me get there. For my first marathon last year, I focused mostly on increasing my mileage, but I think now I’ll also incorporate harder, faster runs in my training plan.

  4. Angie July 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    Thanks Shafiq. I’ll definitely be incorporating the Yasso 800s into my next marathon training endeavor too.

    I’m glad this was helpful to you Danielle. Keep up the great work and I know you’ll meet your goal.

  5. Robert Milne July 23, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    Cool. I’ve been incorporating a hill and stair climb for a few months but have only just started “Fartlek” (stupid name). It seems to have helped me shed a couple of pounds over the last couple of weeks.

  6. Angie July 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Sounds like you’re doing the right thing Robert. Adding speed intervals can help “shock” the body out of its same old routine. Keep up the great work!

  7. Jonathan July 29, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Thanks for your podcast. I found running in my 30s after never being able to run a mile before that, and ran two half marathons in ’07 and ’08. However, after a cross-country move last year, I had been having trouble establishing a routine that involved running.

    I found your podcast right before a road trip last week. The beginning segment of this episode, where you talk about food and how running makes your body crave a healthier lifestyle, really motivated me to get running again. I remember that feeling exactly, and hearing you talk about it made me want to get it back!

    It’s been less than a week, but I’ve been getting back out there, and it feels great. It’s a little frustrating that I can’t go the distances I did when I was well-trained, but I know that it’s just a matter of patience and time. Thanks for the inspirational podcast!

  8. Angie July 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    I’m glad that you’re enjoying the podcast Jonathan. It’s wonderful to hear that you’re resuming your running journey. Keep up the good work and you’ll be feeling better and back to the long distances.

  9. marvin August 9, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    Hi angie and trevor!

    i’m marvin and i live in the philippines. running is in a boom right now in the country and i am happy a lot of people here are into it. i found you podcast very informative in all aspects of running especially for newbie runners and for elites as well. i have been working on improving my time for a couple of weeks and your suggestions are indeed very helpful. before, i simply run to get my body accustomed to long run. Now, i have included some speed training on my routines.

    more power.


  10. Angie August 18, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Thanks Marvin! I’m glad that you’re enjoying the podcast and have found ways to incorporate speed work into your training. Keep up the great work!

  11. Renauld January 28, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    I’m Renauld from Belgium…somewhere in Europe 😉
    I find the podcast so good that I’m catching up on the old episodes. And I was surprised to hear on this one: ” you can Fartlek to a song on your playlist”.
    Knowing that songs are typically 2:30, 3 min long. That does not match with what I know about fartlek, which is give it all for 15-20-30 sec.
    Anyway, thank to you, I decided to go for the 26.2 and brought two friends in the loop.
    Keep going because…you keep me going.

    • Angie January 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      Hi Renauld. It’s great to have you in the MTA community. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the podcast and have decided to take on the marathon challenge!

      The beauty of using the fartlek to improve your speed is that it’s a very flexible workout. You simply increase your pace as much as you want for as long as you desire before returning to your normal running pace. If you were to run at full speed you’d probably only be able to sustain that for 15-30 seconds. However, if you decided to simple increase your pace a little you could sustain it for longer (like the length of a song).

      All the best as you pursue your running goals!

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