After you've been running for a little while and improved your endurance, you may want to focus on a new goal -- running faster. Here are some simple things you can do to start running faster and improve your race times.
Be Prepared for a Little Discomfort:
Some beginners have difficulty running faster because they're afraid of feeling uncomfortable. But one of the first steps to getting faster is to learn what it feels like to pick up the pace. When you're pushing yourself during speed training, expect to get out of breath and feel your leg muscles burning.
Work on Your Turnover:
If you can increase your stride turnover, you'll run faster. Start by running at about your 5K pace for 30 seconds and counting every time your right foot hits the ground. Then jog for a minute to recover and run for 30 seconds again, this time trying to increase the count. Focus on taking quick, light, short steps -- as if you're stepping on hot coals.
Try Interval Workouts:
Interval workouts are a fun way to work on your speed. You can do track workouts, such as 400m (one lap around the track) repeats. After a 5- to 10-minute warm-up, alternate between running one 400m at your 5K pace and jogging one slow, easy recovery lap. Start with two or three 400m repeats (with a recovery lap in between each), and try to work your way up to five or six. Or, if you're running on the road, you can use lamp posts or telephone poles to mark intervals. After warming-up, try sprinting for two lamp posts, then recover for two, and keep repeating the pattern until you've covered a mile.
Do a Tempo Run Once a Week:
Tempo runs help you develop your anaerobic threshold, which is critical for running faster. To do a tempo run, start your run with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running, then continue with 15 to 20 minutes of running at about 10 seconds slower than your 10K pace. Finish with 5 to 10 minutes of cooling down. If you're not sure what your 10K pace is, run at a pace that feels "comfortably hard."
Try Some Hill Training:
Hill repeats are an efficient way to build running strength. Find a fairly steep hill that's about 100 meters long. Run hard to the top of the hill, and slowly jog back down. Start with 3 to 4 repeats once a week, and gradually work your way up to 6 to 7 repeats.
If you're already trying to shed some pounds, here's more incentive: Research has shown that, on average, runners get two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. So, for example, a 10-pound weight loss would shave about one minute off your 5K race time.
Don't Forget About Rest Days:
Don't assume that running hard every day will make you faster. Rest is critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts, so don't forget to take at least one day off completely each week. Your muscles actually build and repair themselves during your rest days. So, if you run every day without taking days off, you won't see much improvement.
Be a Smart Racer
It's possible to shave some seconds or maybe even minutes off your finishing time with smart racing strategies, such as making sure you don't start out too fast. Try some of these strategies for running faster races.