You have been running on a regular basis for at least a year. You want to beat your record. But there seems to be an invisible wall that prevents you from running faster. So how do you train in order to increase your running speed?
Here´s a revelation: In order to run faster when competing, you have to run faster when training. This may seem obvious but the fact is that a lot of people miss it. They run more often and longer distances, but keep running at the speed they find comfortable. If done correctly, this will certainly improve your basic conditioning and make your muscles and tendons more durable but it won´t do much to increase your speed. If you want to increase your running speed, you have to…well–run faster!
Diverse Training is Fun
But the thought of running at a an uncomfortable speed doesn’t appeal to everybody. However, nobody said you have to run at an increased speed all the time. Also, you are the one who decides exactly how much faster you run. There are several ways to do this and it doesn’t have to be a dreadfully painful experience. On the contrary, making your training more diverse may turn out to be surprisingly pleasant.
Running Intervals is the best way to increase your running speed. You run faster than usual in alternation with jogging. Run at a comfortable speed the first 10 minutes to warm up. (At this time it would be ideal to do some stretching before continuing.) Now you run faster than usual for a minute and then jog at a comfortable pace for two minutes. Continue running alternatively fast (1 min.) and slow (2. min.) for a period of 10-20 minutes. Finally, close by running at a comfortable pace for 10 minutes.
How fast should you run the fast period during intervals? That depends on your form and ambition. If running faster than usual is something you dread, just run a little faster than usual. Simply run as fast as you are comfortable with without making the experience more demanding than you are ready to deal with.
The focus here is to catch your breath for the next fast period. Jog as slowly as needed and keep a comfortable pace throughout this period. The slow pace will be slower than your usual running pace and that is alright; just focus on recovering for your next fast minute. Avoid walking though, even if you’re jogging pace is similarly slow as walking. Unless, that is, you are a beginner. Then you walk during the slow pace and jog during the fast pace.
As you start running intervals, you will find that the first fast periods are easiest but then it gets harder to keep up the same speed. This is to be expected, just do the best you can. As you get better, however, your endurance in running at a faster pace increases. When that happens, you get better at keeping a similar pace during the fast runs and you’ll recover faster during the slow pace. In other words: You are increasing your running speed.
It´s Also About the Mind
Running is not just a physical activity. The mindset matters as well. You may have the physical ability to run at a faster pace but since you are not used to crossing a certain line, you don’t think you can. By running faster than you are used to, even if it’s just a minute at a time, you are proofing to yourself that you can do it. As you do this on a regular basis, the mind starts to adapt to the idea of running at a faster pace. So with interval training, you are not only optimizing your physical ability to run at a faster pace but also changing your mindset.
You don´t really need any extra equipment to do this. A stop watch would help but you could alternate your speed using distances instead of time. Run past three light posts and jog past four as an example.
If you know how to use one, running with a heart rate monitor and pacing yourself accordingly is also a good idea, but by no means necessary.
To Wrap It Up
You want to know how to increase your running speed? The answer is: Run faster than usual when training. You don’t, however, have to run faster all the time nor at every training session. Rather, add diversity to your training schedule by at least once a week increasing your speed. The best way to do this is through interval training. So just go ahead and add intervals into your running routine and you will see progress in a few weeks.
A Word of Caution
Changing the training schedule will add extra strain on the body, especially when it involves hill training or running faster than your used to. Beginners should not do intense interval training. That does not mean, however, that you should stay away from it completely. You just walk during the slow pace and jog during the fast pace. Assuming you have been running on a regular basis for at least a year without problems, however, incorporating more intense intervals into your training schedule once a week should be fine. Stretch after the warm-up and again after the cool-down. If you have a heart condition or other known problems, consult your local doctor before starting.
Share your experience with interval training. Has it helped you increase your running speed?