How To Run Faster

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When I first started running, going for maybe one kilometre at a time with my friend Alison, we really went at a crawl. It’s a beginner thing: Your first experience with running longer distances was likely the same: running slower uses less muscles, so it’s easier to do. But now you’ve worked yourself up to longer distances, you have good endurance, but now you feel you’re going too slow. It’s time to train yourself to get faster.

The thing is, your body tends to get used to whatever speed you’re usually running at. Getting faster is just a matter of getting your body used to going at a higher speeds. But there are some things you could be doing to help it along.

In fact, there are two major ways to increase your running speed, according to Livestrong.com’s Jason Aberdeen: “Lengthening your running stride is [one way],” he writes. “Raising your turnover rate, or foot strikes per minute, is the other. While increasing your running stride can be difficult, it can improve your mechanics and speed if executed correctly.”

WIDEN THAT STRIDE

Little half-strides are fine when you’re just starting out, because they don’t work the whole leg, and they don’t wear you out as fast. But after increasing your endurance levels, you should be ready to widen your stride. “Lengthening your stride allows your feet to make contact with the ground several additional inches in front of your body,” Aberdeen writes in his article. “This additional room lets you fully extend your legs while running, allowing you to exert all of the energy from your hips and thighs into each step you take.”

Lengthening your stride makes you faster, by letting you cover way more ground than you would otherwise.

If you haven’t tried widening your stride before, take it slow, and do in intervals. Do five minutes at a widened stride, and then at your usual pace, and then repeat. Doing this in intervals lets you have a better overall run than if you pushed yourself the whole run.

Don’t overreach, however. “Reaching out too far with each leg can result in a push back from the ground,” Aberdeen writes, “leading to a loss of speed and distance with each step.”

When I go for a bigger stride, I find the pace that feels good–that feels fast–and I stick with it for a good interval of five to ten minutes. After a few months of doing this in intervals, I found I could keep up that pace for longer and longer. Like endurance, it takes building up.

Speaking of building up, that takes us to the second way to increase your speed.

RAISE THAT TURNOVER RATE

Okay, so first you have to figure out how many times your feet are striking the ground in a minute. Set a timer on your phone or watch for sixty seconds, and then run at your normal pace. Count how many times your right foot strikes the street as you run, and multiply that by two. That’s your turnover rate, and making that number higher is key to getting faster.

So how do we get that number higher?

Livestrong’s Julie Brock recommends adding a turnover drill to your weekly running schedule. This drill is an interval run based around getting your rate higher. As with the stride-lengthening intervals, Brock recommends at least fifteen minutes of running faster, timing yourself to get your turnover rate higher.

The basics are simple: time yourself to figure out your current turnover rate, and then try to beat that. You’re racing against your own clock.

About.com’s Christine Luff recommends getting your rate up to 180 steps/minute. (Luff also recommends a 30 second-on, 30 second-off drill, which sounds pretty intense) “As you’re trying to increase your turnover rate,” she writes, “focus on taking quick, light steps. Pick your feet up as soon they hit the ground, as if you’re stepping on hot coals. Your feet should be landing under your hips, not in front of you.”

She also recommends listening to songs with 180 BPM, to help you stick to the proper rhythm. In fact, your whole running playlist should contain songs with a BPM around 180.

Whatever drill you decide on, however, you’ll be on your way to getting faster. And with a good playlist, and a good schedule under your belt, you’ll be flying along in no time.

 

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