5 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Faster

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Are you a one-pace pony?  Do you do all of your training runs at the same old slowish pace?  And have you, without success, been trying for years to beat a PB that you clocked almost a decade ago?  Well, the good news is that it  is possible to get faster.  With a little determination and some clever training, most seasoned runners in their prime can run faster times.  The bad news is, however, that it will take hard work and dedication to get results.  So are you up for the challenge?  If so, here are five sure-fire ways to help you up your game and get faster.

5 Sure-fire ways to get faster.
Do regular tempo runs

A tempo run can be loosely defined as a threshold run at a comfortably hard pace.  And although, if done correctly, this is one of the toughest running workouts you’ll ever do, the benefits are ample.  For starters, regular tempo running improves your metabolic fitness – something that is crucial to running faster times.  But how does this all work?  Well, consistent tempo running increases your lactate threshold, or, simply put, the body’s ability to deal with the by-products of metabolism.  This results in less acidic muscles for longer, which means that you can also keep running at a faster pace for longer.

But how fast should your tempo run be?  You can use one of these two simple methods to make sure that you’re running at the right pace: 1) An effort level of eight on a scale of one to ten, and/or b) The talk test: You should be able to utter short, two-to-three word sentences, but a full on conversation should be impossible.  And for how long should you keep this tempo up?  Well, it depends on the type of event you’re training for.  Generally speaking, efforts of 20 to 90 minutes in the correct proportion to goal race pace should do the trick (you can find a more detailed read on specific tempo runs to do for specific race distances here).

And although all of this might sound like Physiology 101, you will soon see the results in practice.  So give it a go.  You definitely won’t be disappointed.


5 Sure-fire ways to get faster.

Shed those extra pounds

Has habitual late-night snacking on sugary and empty-caloric foods left you with a beer gut that’s cramping your running style?  Then it’s time to get serious about nutrition and properly fueling your body.  And no, we’re not advocating going on some crazy fad diet.  Simply swap the junk for wholesome, nutritious options, watch your portion sizes and cut out the mindless grazing.

Shedding excess pounds can speed you up by an average of two seconds per mile for every pound lost.  So if you’re overweight (check with your physician if you’re falling in this category) and you’re serious about getting faster, start paying attention to your fueling.  A serious eating habit overhaul might be just what you need to reach your healthy weight and start clocking some respectable times.

5 Sure-fire ways to get faster.
IMG_20150125_100454” by Gabriel Porras is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Join a (faster) running group

Do you prefer flying solo?  While running is the ideal way to get in some much-needed me-time, joining a group of (faster) runners for a weekly time trial may not be such a bad idea.  First off, a weekly time test may be just what you need to push yourself a little harder pace-wise.  And, secondly, nothing is more motivating than a faster club mate that you just can’t seem to beat.

So lace up those running shoes and let your club mates help you reach new heights.

5 Sure-fire ways to get faster.

Don’t over-train

We runners are a stubborn lot.  Because despite knowing better, we often opt to increase our mileage and up our number of weekly runs when we hit a plateau and our bodies are actually begging for a rest.  Don’t.  Learn to listen to your body and respect what it has to say.  If you’re running seven days a week and you’re stuck on a performance plateau, the chances are that you need to back off just a little bit.  Take a rest day (or two!) and allow your body the opportunity to rest and rebuild itself.

Sluggishness, over-tiredness and irritability are all possible signs of overtraining.  And adding more miles or higher-paced workouts to an already overtrained body will just cause frustration and might even lead to injury.  So make sure that you schedule enough rest days into your training program, and use them well.  Your body (and running times!) will thank you.

Improve your stride turnover

And lastly, did you know that something as simple as the number of steps you take per minute of running can contribute to your efficiency and speed as a runner?  It’s true.  Stride turnover is defined as “the number of steps you take during a minute of running” and a higher stride turnover equals more efficient running.  Taking shorter, quicker steps (i.e. having a higher stride turnover) uses less energy and places less stress on your muscles.  This also translates to less impact on your joints, causing you to feel more comfortable and less fatigued over longer distances.

5 Sure-fire ways to get faster.

So what is the best stride turnover rate, you ask?  Well, experts say that 180 strides per minute (i.e. 90 on each foot) is ideal.  And while this might seem high, there is a number of running drills you can do to help you attain this number.  You can, for example, do 1-minute repeats at your 5K pace, with 1-minute recovery jogs in between repeats.  Try to increase your stride turnover by one step on each repeat, and repeat a few times.

It’s also important to watch your running form while working on your turnover.  Focus on being light on your feet and remember to land with your feet under your hips and not in front of you.

So there you have it – Five sure-fire ways to get faster.  Yes, it’s hard work, and yes, they’ll require effort and discipline.  But one thing is certain: It’ll all be worth it when you glance down on your running watch and see a new PB when you cross that finish line.  So get training!


Featured image: “sprint 2” by phgaillard2001.  Licensed under CC BY 2.0.