A question I get all the time is – How do I run faster?
As runners we all want to run faster. It’s in our blood to want to continue to improve. This is a great characteristic to have as it helps keep us fit and healthy even as we get older. So what does it take to improve, to break through a plateau, to run FAST!
I’ve broken my answer to this burning question down into four key areas which I list below in order of importance:
1 – Consistency
If you do not have consistency in your running you won’t have anything to build on. What I mean by consistency is lacing up the shoes and going for a run at least a few days a week and doing this every week. The more days we can spend running the stronger our base is to build upon. If we run one week and not the next it’s hard for our body to adapt and retain any physiological benefits, let alone build on them. Think of it like dieting. You eat really well for 2 weeks and start to see the number on the scale go down. Then you make poor food choices for 2 weeks and gain the weight back again. We need to be consistent to see improvements. When we see the improvements, that it when we must continue to build onto what we’ve gained.
2 – Effort
Being consistent builds the foundation for us build upon. Once you are able to create a schedule or routine that you can maintain and execute consistently, then you can start to add effort. Effort is more than just effort while we are out there on a run. Effort is – eating nutritiously, getting proper rest, doing warm ups and warm downs. This entails making healthiful choices that fuel your body’s efforts. That’s just one side of the coin. The other side is actually putting effort into our training. Are you willing to get uncomfortable as you push the pace? This is where the physical side of effort comes into play. If we have the ability to push ourselves a little harder or a little faster – that is the effort that pays off and helps us get faster.
3 – Speed work
You have built your base and are running consistently. Now you’ve added some harder efforts in those runs and are eating and sleeping to fuel your training. The next step is adding speed work. Don’t run away! Speed work doesn’t have to be daunting. This looks different for everyone.
The most basic form of speed work is to add a few strides at the end of some of your runs. Strides are a pick up in your pace for about 100 meters followed by a jogging recovery. You can repeat this 4-8 times. If you think about it, these pick ups are like running a 400 or 800 meter interval but are more manageable.
Fartlek training is another more basic and fun way to include speed work. Fartlek stands for “speed play”. This entails running at a pace you choose, for a distance or time you choose. Many runners will find an object to run to like a telephone pole. mailbox, or tree. Then they run at a speed of their choice until they reach the selected object.
Ultimately you can change pace, distance, and time to create your own speed workout.
4 – Get a coach
Securing a professional coach to help you get faster isn’t on everyone’s radar, nor is it necessary. But will a coach help you get faster? – I think so! I am a coach but I am also an athlete. I am also a coach – with a coach. So what would a coach do for you? The benefits of hiring a coach are different for everyone.
They create a plan for you based on your life schedule (work, family, etc.) and what goals you have. The plan they create is one that should be manageable for you to execute and is not overwhelming but fits your needs and is focused on your goals. They create a plan for you to follow which naturally helps with the 3 previous topics – consistency, effort, and speed work. They organize it into a thoughtful and strategic way using their expertise to help you get faster and reach your goals injury free!
For some a coach keeps them motivated and on track. For others it takes the guesswork out of what workouts they should be doing to reach their goals. As students of the sport there is a lot we can learn from a coach. We can learn when to push and when to hold back, how to recover, how to grow stronger physically and sometimes more important – mentally.
The list is endless.
My final words to you on the most simplistic way to get faster is to take a look at when you are running and make it a schedule for yourself if it isn’t already. Know that you on certain days you rise and run, for some maybe this is 3 or 4 days a weeks for others it could be 6 or 7. Either way, you know when your run days are and you stay the path and be consistent. This establishes the base for which you can build upon. From there any added effort or pace work will help. The amount, the pace, the distance and the depth of the effort you put in – determines what you will get out of it.