A blog by runners. For runners.

6 ways to get faster in 2016

How to improve your speed and run faster this year

Our writer prepares to run really, really fast.

Running is both a lifestyle and a sport.

As a lifestyle, it influences what you eat and drink, how you sleep, and often, how you spend your weekends.

As a sport, it comes with the trapping and inspiration of competition. Once you have raced, for most people, the goal is to get faster, to perform better, and to feel that exhilaration of either passing people or improving by your own standard.

Getting fast is hard and requires a long view on your running, but it is something every runner can set as a goal for 2016. Here are six ways to get yourself there:

1. Weight matters. The lighter you are, the faster you can run. It’s physics. The less effort it takes for your body and muscles to propel you forward – and running is essentially a nicely choreographed series of small jumps – the faster you can go. That said, of course, if you are too thin and lack the necessarily muscle mass to attain speed, you won’t get faster. But for most of us, the lighter we are, the faster we go. What’s a good weight? For starters, use a BMI chart as a reference point, and also make sure to check out our article on losing weight to get faster.

2. Switch shoes. Lighter is faster with shoes, too. Look at most running shoe lines and if they have a racing flat model, you’ll see it weighs ounces less. If you run in a very cushioned running shoe, try out a shoe with less cushioning and a firmer ride (and lighter). Word of caution: When switching shoes, make the switch gradually and maybe reserve the racing shoes for speedwork and race days only. Here are some more tips for selecting a running shoe.

3. Learn to love hills. We recently posted about hill running and its ability to make you a faster runner by building leg strength. It also boosts your mental toughness.

4. You have to want it. Speed is built through desire. Take advantage of days you feel fresh and energized. Those are the days you really have to go for it, see how hard you can run, and then use the results that day to motivate you further. Maintaining speed for distance is truly exhilarating.  

“There is no shortcut to getting faster,” said Albert Dell’Apa, running coach and two-time All Canadian runner. “The foundation has to be laid for speed, first through building endurance, then layering strength workouts on top off that, then building speed after that. It’s important to be patient and do the necessary build up to prevent injury.”

5. Learn to love the track. Running circles around a quarter-mile track is boring, but it is a great measure of speed (not to mention, you can also safely wear headphones to crank up the tunes.). The flat, sometimes rubberized surface, is easy on your joints and feet and gives you time to test and push your speed at shorter distances. 

“The two things I find most runners neglect is (1) making sure every workout has a purpose and (2) hard speed work,” said Meredith O’Brien, a USA Track and Field Level I Coach. “Even if you’re training for a longer distance race, putting some serious effort into improving your VO2 max will be a big help for endurance and overall speed.”

Eric Orton, the famous running trainer from Christopher McDougall’s best selling book Born to Run agrees.

“Regardless of race distance, improving your mile time is the ticket to improvement across the speed spectrum,” he said“This is especially the case for a longer endurance athlete where there might be too much emphasis placed on endurance training year round.  So in other words, get faster at the mile and you will be faster across the board.”

But how can you do that?

“One way to train this is to work on neuromuscular speed/strength – short 10-15 second efforts and training at the 300-meter distance,” Orton said. “This type of training can/should also be done on hills as well as flat terrain [like a track]. Then apply specific endurance training with this based on a chosen race distance.”

6. Endurance counts. While speed workouts test your body in one way, building endurance makes you faster, too.

“In most cases, improving speed over the course of a certain race distance isn’t an issue of ‘how do I run faster?’ Instead, it’s a matter of ‘how do I run at a pace I can already run for a longer period of time?”, said Denny Krahe, a running coach and certified athletic trainer at dizruns.com. “So more often than not, must runners that want to get faster would benefit greatly from improving their endurance by doing longer runs at an easier intensity than focusing on speed work. Is speed work/high intensity training still important? Of course. But if you want to get faster for a longer race, you need to improve your endurance.”

What’s your speed goal for 2016?

Written by Rob Haneisen.