If you’re a runner, chances are you’d like to improve your performance and gain speed. This may be to improve your race times, burn more calories, or beat your personal best. There are plenty of techniques and drills you can use to gain strength, improve your form, and run faster.
Incorporate as many of these approaches into your routine as possible. A varied plan of attack prevents boredom, targets your body in different ways, and gives way to new challenges.
1. Warm up and cool down
Start each workout with a warmup and finish with a cooldown. This allows you to gradually ease your body in and out of intense activity. Stretching after you run will help to prevent lactic acid buildup, which reduces swelling and muscle soreness.
2. Eat well
Your diet plays a role in your running performance, especially the foods you eat right before you run.
Follow a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits, berries, and melons, if they’re available to you. Load up on fresh and cooked vegetables and carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, oats, and energy bars.
Avoid processed or sugary foods. Limit your intake of foods high in fat and fiber. You may also want to avoid dairy if it causes stomach discomfort.
Drink plenty of water along with healthy drinks such as coconut water, herbal teas, or sports drinks to stay hydrated. Avoid sodas and other drinks that contain alcohol, sweeteners, and dairy.
4. Maintain a moderate body weight
For many people, running is an effective way to lose weight. Maintaining a moderate body weight can help you increase the intensity of your training and run faster.
5. Perfect your technique
A 2017 study points to the effectiveness of improving your form and body mechanics to improve performance and reduce injuries.
Simple tips to follow include keeping your knee in line with your body, striking your foot under your knee, and pushing up and off from the ground behind you. Keep your hands relaxed, engage your core, and shorten your running stride.
6. New kicks
Invest in a new pair of shoes or replace the soles of your current shoes.
According to a small 2019 study, runners who wore Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes showed improvements in running economy, due in part to the effect of the shoes on running mechanics. The shoes had a positive effect on stride length, plantar flexion velocity, and center of mass vertical oscillation.
While it’s not necessary to buy this particular pair of shoes, you can look into which type of shoes could bring you the most benefit.
7. Dress the part
Choose clothes that are lightweight, wind resistant, and form fitting. Make sure your clothes don’t rub or chafe your skin, especially when running long distances. Layer properly and cover your extremities in cold weather.
8. Strength training
The stronger you are, the easier it’ll be for you to use proper body mechanics to run quickly and with ease.
A small 2016 study on endurance-trained runners pointed to the effectiveness of both strength and speed-endurance training in improving overall running performance. The runners also reduced their training volume.
To build muscle, lift weights or do bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, and pushups. Stay active with sports such as swimming, kickboxing, or volleyball.
9. Set an intention
Create an intention for your training plan and stick to it instead of running at random. This allows you to have a purpose for each session and work toward a specific goal. Vary your plan to include endurance runs, high-intensity training, and strength training.
10. Run sprints
Get out on the track and run a few sprints, even if you normally run longer distances. A 2018 study found that trained athletes who did just six sessions of sprint interval training improved their running performance.
Sprint training has also been shown to improve endurance, strength, and power performance in runners while requiring less time and mileage than other types of training.
11. Increase your mileage
If you’re new to running, work on building up your mileage so your body gets used to running. You’ll also experience how it feels to run longer distances. Build up your mileage slowly, gradually increasing the distance every 2 to 4 weeks.
12. A balanced body
It’s important that your body is balanced and aligned. This helps to ensure good posture, coordination, and balance, all of which will help to ensure your stride is on top form. Balance out your strength-building routine with plenty of stretches and long holds to prevent muscle tightness and tension.
13. Join a group
A group can provide running tips, boost your fitness level, and help you determine when you’re ready to run longer distances. Group members can be a healthy source of motivation, competition, and encouragement.
14. Be active most days
Aside from 1 full day of rest per week, aim to do some physical activity each day, even if it’s for a short time. This allows you to build consistency and get your body used to regular exercise.
For intermediate runners
15. Hill training
Run hills to build lower body strength, burn fat, and increase your speed. Do sprint runs by running up a steep hill and cooling down as you walk back down. Do hill sprints on an indoor treadmill when running outside isn’t an option.
16. Core strength
A strong core establishes a solid foundation for healthy movement patterns so you can feel more comfortable and at ease while running. This helps to stabilize your back, build speed, and lower your chance of injury.
Exercise options include plank variations, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, and Russian twists.
17. Endurance runs
Endurance runs are longer distances done at a slower pace. This allows your body to get used to lengthy runs while maintaining a low-to-moderate intensity. You can steadily build up how much time or distance you run every week.
18. Lateral exercises
Do lateral exercises to strengthen the muscles along the side of your body and move your body in a different direction. This improves mobility, eases low back pain, and stabilizes your hips, thighs, and knees.
Options include walking lateral lunges, step-ups, and shuffles.
For advanced runners
19. Next level racing
Boost your motivation by planning to run a race that’s longer than the last one you’ve mastered, especially if you’ve done that distance a few times.
If you’ve already done a 5K, sign up for a 10K, and so on. Adjust your training schedule accordingly. If you want to challenge yourself in different ways, sign up for a triathlon.
20. Tabata training
Tabata training is a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels. You do 20 seconds of intense exertion followed by 10 seconds of recovery. Do this seven to eight times.
21. Tempo runs
Tempo runs boost fitness levels while improving your technique and taking you to your edge. Run at a moderate-to-fast pace that’s a little faster than your average pace for 5 minutes. Then jog for a few minutes. Gradually increase the time of your tempo pace to 10 to 30 minutes.
22. Take time to relax
Along with your rest days, take time out to focus on relaxation. Do a session of progressive muscular relaxation, yoga nidra, or meditation. This may help to boost your performance by increasing speed and endurance while lowering your heart rate, oxygen intake, and breathing rates.
23. Short strides
For maximum efficiency and speed, run using short strides on the balls of your feet. Focus on taking shorter steps at a fast pace while maintaining good form. This allows you to propel your body forward each time your foot hits the ground.
24. Breathe correctly
Your running pace affects your breathing rhythms, so make sure you’re breathing properly and getting enough oxygen. This may require you to breathe through your mouth.
Engage in deep abdominal breathing and coordinate your inhales and exhales to your steps. For example, you can inhale for two steps and exhale for two steps. Or inhale for three steps and exhale for two steps.
25. Sprinting drills
Include a few drills at the start of your workout. Begin by jogging for 10 yards and then accelerating into a sprint for 50 yards. Alternate between these two speeds for a few minutes. Then do a few minutes each of high knees, long strides, and butt kicks.