5 Ways to Run Faster, Farther
If you pound the pavement, odds are you’ve wondered how to run faster and farther. That competitive desire goes with being a runner — whether you’re a weekend warrior or a veteran racer, you probably feel a drive to push yourself every time you lace up.
Making a few small tweaks can help you learn how to get faster at running in just a short amount of time. We tapped two of the greatest running minds in the country and asked their secrets for squeezing more out of every running workout. Here are their best tips to help you train smarter, recover quicker, and learn how to run faster.
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1. Rethink Your Warmup
If you want to learn how to run a faster mile or how to run a faster 5K, you may want to consider getting there by running a little bit slower.
Runners sometimes refer to slow, easy running as “junk mileage.” But while it may seem pointless to put in training miles at speeds well below race pace, it’s actually one of the simplest ways to boost running performance. Adding easy miles to your warmup can help prime your muscles for harder workouts and races.
“Warming up helps increase circulation and creates heat, which loosens and primes the muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons for the workout ahead,” explains Jennifer Gill, a Road Runners Club of America coach and certified personal trainer based in San Diego. “That not only means better performance during your run, but also a lower risk of injury.”
Another smart move: perform dynamic stretches such as lunges, high knees, and butt kicks before you log those warmup miles.
2. Add Power Training
You can improve leg strength, power, and overall running economy by adding some plyo to to your running workout program. Research suggests a running program that includes plyometric exercises (like box jumps or jumping lunges) can improve running performance more effectively than a running-only program.
3. Mix Up Your Workouts
It’s easy to fall into a routine if you lift weights, but it’s even easier if you run — after all, everyone has their favorite running routes. If you find that you’re running the same pace, distance, and course every day, it’s time to switch up your training to avoid a workout plateau.
“The body needs a balanced and varied workout regimen to build endurance, speed, and stamina,” explains Nikki Rafie, a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier and coach based in Portland, Oregon. “This means your running plan should include tempo runs in addition to long, slow distance to improve overall performance.”
4. Speed It Up
Need another reason to pick up the pace? Runners tend to get more enjoyment out of high-intensity workouts than moderate- to low-intensity workouts, according to a study in the Journal of Sports Sciences. In short, running fast is more fun than running slow — and there’s no shortage of research underscoring the link between enjoyment and athletic performance.
5. Strength Train
Science is pretty clear when it comes to whether strength training benefits endurance athletes. (Spoiler: It does.) Yet it remains one of the most overlooked elements of many cardio programs. “Strength training can not only improve speed and power, it can help improve cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and efficiency, allowing you to perform the same workouts with less energy expenditure,” Gill says.
Strength work has also been associated with a reduced rate of sports injuries. Start by adding two to three strength sessions per week. You may be surprised by how effectively strength training can help you learn how to run faster.
6. Make Recovery a Priority
Taking time to recover from tough workouts is just as important as the workouts themselves. If you don’t allow your body time to bounce back, you’ll likely run yourself straight into an injury.
“The body is always trying to self-regulate and heal itself, and that’s why rest days are important,” Rafie says. “The joints and muscles need time to rest so the body can heal, rather than breaking down from continuous wear and tear.”
For most runners, this means taking at least one day off from training each week. You should also alternate hard and easy days so your body can perform optimally in each workout.
7. Eat Like an Athlete
Burning calories as you run doesn’t give you a license to eat all of the junk food you want. If you want to learn how to run faster and farther, targeted nutrition and strategic eating (a.k.a. taking in the right amount of calories and nutrients) are essential to increasing energy levels, boosting performance, maximizing gains, and accelerating recovery.
Most people focus on protein intake, but carbs are just as important for helping you get the most out of every workout. Carbs are also important for “metabolic recovery,” or topping off the fuel stores your body uses to create energy.
“Taking in the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats between workouts will replenish energy stores, rebuild muscles, and provide enough vitamins and minerals for overall health and wellness,” explains Gill, who is also a licensed sports nutritionist. “If you don’t, your body won’t be able to perform properly, and will ultimately break down.”