How to Run Faster: Strategies From Running Coaches

Try these techniques to increase your running speed.

When it comes to running pace, your speed might naturally increase the more you run, according to research published in 2022 in Mind & Science in Sports & Exercise. But sometimes it can feel like you've hit a plateau if you've been training for a while.

And if your running speed is a factor that you care about, you should know that there are a few tried-and-true ways to increase your speed, according to experts. You can use these when you're interested in learning how to run faster to break a personal record, win a race, or if you have another goal in mind,

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Learning to Run Faster

There are many techniques for learning to run faster and it's critical that you choose the ones that feel best for your body. As a general rule, Meghan Kennihan, NASM-CPT, an RRCA- and USATF-certified run coach, told Health that you should aim to take 180 steps per minute or 85 to 90 beats per foot. While this may sound complicated, you can stay on track without tediously counting.

There are plenty of fitness devices that can help you keep track of your steps.

And listening to music with 180 beats per minute can help you hit this pace. You can find playlists by searching "180 bpm" (beats per minute) on Spotify, for example. You'll see a selection of playlists filled with songs in line with this speed. "Also, keep in mind your form, chest up, run tall, arms bent at 90 degrees or a little higher and landing underneath your body," Kennihan said.

However, it's also important to find the right cadence for you—you can always build on where you are, and there's nothing wrong with starting your quest to run faster at a slower pace.

With those points in mind, here's how to run faster, according to experts.

Hill Sprints

Amanda Brooks, CPT, an HUESCA-certified running coach, and author of Run To The Finish: The Everyday Runner's Guide to Avoiding Injury, Ignoring the Clock and Loving the Run, told Health that she recommends any runner start with hill sprints. "At the end of an easy run, adding in five to 20 seconds hard uphill will result in more power in their stride and translates into faster runner speeds," Brooks explained. This will help to increase your muscular endurance, or the ability of your muscles to handle repeating resistance.

Hill sprints help to ensure runners learn good form before moving faster. Runners must naturally lean against the hill while feet fall directly under the body, explained Brooks. This positioning is the preferred form for runners.

Bonnie Frankel, elite runner and sports activist, is also an advocate of hill sprints for their tendency to build muscle. Frankel explained there are a few ways to use them to your advantage. One option is challenging yourself to pick up endurance speed up a large hill. Alternatively, you can do interval training by repeatedly going up a short hill.

Speed Work

Interval and tempo training, as well as speed play, can all help increase your pace. For interval training, Kennihan recommended easing into things with a 10-minute jog and then spending 30 seconds to two minutes increasing your speed to the point where speaking a complete sentence becomes impossible. Afterward, recover at a light pace for two minutes before repeating the cycle four to six times—or less if you're uncomfortable. Finish with another 10-minute cool-down jog.

Brooks added an important tip: "Once we start adding in speed work, it's better to think about a quick foot turnover rather than a long stride. That will help reduce injuries and make running faster feel easier."

Unlike intervals, tempo training is all about finding a challenging but maintainable pace to run. Try keeping the speed for 20 to 30 minutes. In this case, you should be able to speak a full sentence but not share an entire story, said Kennihan. Again, stick to the 180 steps per minute or 85 to 90 beats per foot rule so as not to overextend yourself.

One more option to try for increasing your pace is speed play. Also known as the Swedish word "fartlek," this technique involves picking arbitrary, close stops along your run to sprint to, such as a stop sign. Once you've reached that point, slow down to recover and then choose a new point to sprint to.

According to a research article published in 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, pace variations among runners didn't have an adverse effect on objective measures of health, including heart rate and blood lactate levels.

Caution When Increasing Running Speed

There is a risk of injury as you work to increase your running speed. "Running faster can put more stress on your musculoskeletal system and should be approached with diligence and patience," Dylan Bowman, a professional ultra runner and co-founder of Pyllars, an app centered around running and mental health, told Health.

Brooks associated this risk, in part, with people attempting to move too fast too soon.

"There is an increased risk of injury because it is a higher impact, which is why you need to start slow and build up to full track or interval sessions," added Kennihan, who recommended starting with 15 to 20-minute sessions one or two times a week and never increasing beyond three high-intensity sessions a week.

While you can do additional runs at a more comfortable pace, paying your body attention and taking things at your own pace is critical. Authors of a research study published in 2022 in the Journal of Athletic Training explained that excessive increases in running pace and volume are risk factors for injuries. But the research showed that gradual increases were not harmful. The study found that a relative weekly change of progression up to 10% in running volume and progression in running pace was not associated with an increased risk of injuries.

Seeking advice from a coach or healthcare professional can help ensure you don't severely injure yourself. This is especially critical for anyone with a heart condition, said Frankel. "Always listen to your body because it will let you know if you are on the right track," Frankel explained. "Be safe, not sorry," Frankel added. With this said, speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new workout routine and monitor your heart rate before and after a run.

Benefits of Running

It's also important to remember that running as exercise is often about getting in that zone after a long day and leaving it all out there on the road. If you only have time for a couple of miles or you're heading out for a long run, you may not be looking at your pace at all—and there's nothing wrong with that. A research article published in 2021 in Scientific Reports described the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of running. And these benefits were not related to running speed.

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