by Paul Koks in Training Tips, image by Mike Warren

Crucial Tips to Improve Running Speed and Break Your Personal Best

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If you aren’t competing with yourself, then you aren’t competing effectively. You may be very familiar with the backside of certain runners that always seem to leave you behind at races, but all that matters is that you don’t get too comfortable with the backside of your own best time. Your mission should always to be to beat yourself and these tips will help you do just that.

Cross Train for Strength

Running fast is not all about speed. You need the strength to carry the speed off. You will build up a lot of strength through running, but you can’t rest on that alone. Do lower body strength training as well as cross training designed to develop lean muscle. You can go hiking or rope climbing, anything that will challenge your body in new ways so strength is the result.

Check out the top 3 cross training exercises for runners

Vary Your Terrain

Don’t allow your body to get too comfortable running on flat, straight terrain. Take it to the beach, the mountains, and the steepest streets in your community. Go from the treadmill to the streets to the track at the local Y. This will get your body ready for races, but it will also help develop and strengthen the muscles in your lower body. Different terrain and elevations will challenge different muscle groups.

Check out the 6 reasons to start cross-country running

Interval Training

Beginning runners often do intervals of jogging and walking to get their body used to running, but you can use the same workout plan to develop speed. Run faster for short timed bursts then take it back to a more comfortable pace for timed bursts. Use the rest of these speed training tips to control your form during the speed bursts. You should use changes in form to throw your body forward, rather than just lunging forward and trying to make your body go faster.

Extend Your Stride

Too many runners think they can improve their stride by leaping higher in the air or reaching further forward with their front leg. This is entirely wrong. You don’t want to spend more time in the air. You want to focus on turning your feet over faster and extending your stride in the rear. This means you foot strikes right under your hip and then extends out behind you with force.

The focus is on extending out in the rear after the strike, rather than reaching forward before the strike. The more powerful your foot pushes off the ground after the strike, the faster your feet can turn over and the faster you will be able to run.

Also read: Perfect running form, Perfect race

Control Your Upper Body

Don’t place all of the focus on your lower body when trying to improve running speed. You also need to keep your upper body controlled and steady. Make sure your head is upright and steady and keep your arms bent at your sides. Look straight forward and allow your core muscles to support the lower body.

If you watch professional runners you will see that they do not have loose, flailing bodies. They are very stiff and controlled from the top of the head to their toes. This is because it takes strength and control throughout the entire body to keep the legs turning over quickly so the body is pushed forward at a faster speed.

Have you tried these breathing tips to improve your running?

Expect Higher Heart Rates

When you start running faster, you will feel your heart rate go up much higher than it does in your slower runs. This can scare some beginning runners, especially if no one ever warned them that their heart could beat extremely fast when first starting to pick up the speed. If you expect the higher heart rates right from the beginning, it shouldn’t take you by surprise.

Progress Gradually

Don’t expect to make great improvements in your running speed within days. If you have been running for a long time you may be able to progress faster than someone just starting out, but you should still allow your body to adjust gradually. A good rule of thumb is to increase speed or change-up your interval patterns once a week. You should be able to feel some difference in how you run in that period of time if you are running consistently throughout the week and working on speed during those runs.

Finally, make sure you aren’t placing too much emphasis on speed. It is healthy to compete against your own best time and want to improve, but running is about so much more than just speed.

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