Improving your running speed can be a challenge, especially when you feel like you’ve hit a plateau.
Don’t worry, with a few simple tips and techniques, you can break through and achieve your speed goals.
If you’re struggling to improve your running speed, there may be several factors at play. These could include:
- Not recovering correctly
- Inadequate hydration and nutrition
- Running too fast,
- Not doing strength training
Let’s take a look at each of these factors in more detail, and provide you with practical tips to help you maximize your running potential.
Not Recovering Correctly
If you’re not getting enough rest and recovery time, your speed may be affected. Your body needs time to repair and rebuild after intense workouts, and if you don’t give it that time, you risk injury and burnout.
To recover fully after every run, runners must allow themselves enough time to come back better adapted for their next run. Coach Parry’s practical guide to running recovery emphasizes the importance of recovery, which is just as crucial as training and should not be ignored.
A rest day is recommended for recovery, which is not only for physical but also mental recovery. However, for those who find it challenging to take a complete day off, a low-intensity recovery run or swim is recommended.
It’s important to distinguish between recovery runs and easy runs. Recovery runs should be low intensity and no longer than 45 minutes to avoid pushing the body too hard. After every run, a cool-down exercise can help slow down the heart rate and flush the body, facilitating muscle recovery.
Poor Nutrition and Hydration
Proper nutritional intake is crucial for runners to perform at their best and recover quickly after a training session.
It’s important to stay hydrated before, during, and after a run to keep your muscles functioning correctly.
Runners need to focus on eating a balanced diet, that includes all three macronutrients, (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) to support their training goals.
To ensure that you have the energy needed for an intense training session in the morning, it is advisable to have a slightly larger dinner the night before.
It is important not to neglect your main meals as a runner, and it is best to make sure that carbohydrates are included as the primary fuel source along with protein for muscle recovery and bone health. Your plate should consist of half fruits and vegetables, one-quarter of starchy sources like whole grains, and one-quarter of protein.
It is also essential to fuel up during the training session to restore glycogen and not run out of fuel during the run. Runners should aim to consume a mix of protein and carbohydrates during the training session, which will benefit them on race day by training their gut to handle extra fuel.
Hydration is also crucial, and runners should aim to be well-hydrated before, during, and after the training session to support the transport of nutrients to the active tissues, get rid of waste products, and regulate body temperature.
Running Too Fast
Running too fast can actually hinder your progress in improving your running speed. Constantly pushing yourself to run at a certain pace or beat your previous time can lead to hitting a plateau in your progress.
This is because running at a high intensity too frequently can result in overtraining and fatigue, ultimately decreasing your performance.
Additionally, running too fast can increase your risk of injury, as your body may not be able to handle the high impact and stress placed on your muscles and joints.
Therefore, it’s important to balance your running intensity and allow for adequate rest and recovery time to prevent injury and ensure continuous improvement in your running speed.
Inconsistency can have a major impact on your running speed. When we follow a training plan for a big race and then reduce our running to just a few times a week after the race, we’re not giving our bodies the consistent stimulus needed to see significant improvements in our running speed.
This inconsistency can hinder your progress until the next big race when we ramp up our training again. By maintaining a consistent base, you’ll be in a better position to see progress in your running speed.
Now that you understand some of the reasons why your running speed may not be improving, here’s what you can do to increase it.
How do I increase my running speed?
- Incorporating Interval Training,
- Adding Strength Training,
- Gradually Increasing Your Mileage
- Find A Running Partner
- Hydrate & Fuel
- Get Enough Rest, And
- Track Your Progress
Incorporate Interval Training
One of the best ways to increase your running speed is to train at intervals. Interval training involves running at a high intensity for a short period of time, followed by a period of rest or lower-intensity activity.
This type of training can help improve your cardiovascular endurance and increase your overall speed.
Before beginning interval training, it’s important to establish a foundation of consistent running. Once you’ve built up a solid base, you can start incorporating shorter intervals, such as 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 1-2 minutes of rest or jogging.
It’s crucial to remember that interval training doesn’t necessarily mean max effort intervals. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your intervals over time, but always listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard or too fast, especially if you’re a beginner runner.
Add Strength Training
Strength training is a critical component for runners who aim to prevent injury and improve their running performance.
One of the most significant benefits of strength training is that it helps prevent injuries. It does this by ensuring that smaller muscle groups are working correctly and contracting at the right time to help stabilize the body. When smaller muscle groups aren’t functioning correctly, larger muscles take over and lead to misaligned movement patterns, resulting in potential injury.
Additionally, strength training improves a runner’s running economy by 4%–6%, depending on their level and the type and frequency of strength training. This translates to runners being able to run further and more efficiently with less fuel in their bodies. It also helps delay the onset of fatigue.
When it comes to incorporating strength training into a runner’s routine, it is ideal to do two to three strength training sessions per week. While it might seem like there isn’t enough time for strength training, it is critical to make time to do so to prevent injury and enhance performance.
Periodization of strength training is also essential. It’s about balancing strength training with running training, laying the building blocks of a foundation, and complementing the runner’s overall training plan.
Making sure you do the correct strength training is important. The good news is we’ve created a free strength training plan for runners that you can download by clicking here.
Increase Your Mileage Gradually
To improve your running speed and endurance, it’s important to gradually increase your mileage. One effective strategy is to build up slowly and not exceed a 10% weekly increase to prevent injury. Varying your pace during your runs is also helpful, so try to avoid doing all of your runs at the same pace.
Additionally, introducing walk breaks into your running sessions can help you sustain your mileage over time. So, start implementing these techniques to increase your running mileage safely and effectively.
Find a Coach
While running with a partner or group can be beneficial, sometimes you need more personalized attention and guidance to reach your full potential. That’s where a coach comes in. With a coach, you’ll receive tailored training programs, ongoing feedback and support, pacing charts and race plans, and a partner who is invested in your success.
We offer individual coaching options that can help you achieve your running goals faster and more effectively than trying to do it alone.
Cross-training is an effective way to improve running performance. Incorporating activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga into your routine can help strengthen your muscles, relieve stress, and reduce the risk of injury.
Cross-training also allows for a break from the repetitive movements of running.
Hydrate and Fuel
Maximizing your running performance isn’t just about training and technique; it also involves supporting your body with the right nutrition and hydration.
To maximize your running performance, it’s important to support your body with the right nutrition and hydration.
If you’re following a low-carb diet, consider using non-carbohydrate sources like fat during your runs, and be sure to fuel immediately after exercise to refuel your muscles within the first 30 minutes.
On the other hand, plan a high-carb meal with nutrient-dense foods before exercise to help sustain energy levels during long runs.
It’s also important to experiment with different fueling options during your training to find what works best for you and to consider increasing your fuel intake during exercise if you’re struggling with energy.
Remember, fueling during long runs is essential to maintaining energy levels and avoiding muscle fatigue.
Get Enough Rest and Recovery
Rest and recovery are just as important as actual training when it comes to improving your overall speed and allowing your body to adapt to the stresses of running. To ensure that your body gets the rest and recovery it needs, be sure to schedule regular rest days and engage in activities that aid recovery, such as foam rolling, stretching, and massage.
It cannot be overstated how crucial rest and recovery are for a runner’s success, so make sure you prioritize them just as much as your actual training sessions.
A study suggests that chocolate milk can be a cost-effective and beneficial alternative to expensive recovery products. The study found that chocolate milk can help extend the time to training exhaustion and improve muscle repair, which are crucial factors in the recovery process after exercise.
In our separate video: Is Chocolate Milk A Great Recovery Drink For Runners? We dig into the science, discuss the study in more detail and provide additional insights.
Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress can be a great way to monitor your improvement and stay motivated. Use a GPS watch or a smartphone app to track your distance, speed, and time.
Additionally, consider keeping a running journal to document your progress, including how you felt during workouts, any changes you’ve made to your routine, and any new personal bests.
How Long Does It Take To Increase Running Speed?
The time it takes to increase your running speed will vary depending on your starting point and the amount of effort you put in. However, with consistent training and dedication, you should start to see improvements in your speed within a few weeks to a month.
Remember, improving your running speed is a gradual process that requires patience and perseverance. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.
Stay consistent with these strategies in your training routine, and you’ll be on your way to achieving your goals and maximizing your running performance.
Improving running speed can be a challenging and rewarding experience, but it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can hinder your progress.
Here are some mistakes to watch out for when trying to improve your running speed:
- Not warming up properly before running
- Neglecting proper nutrition
- Not addressing muscle imbalances or weaknesses
- Comparing yourself to others
- Ignoring pain or discomfort
- Lack of accountability or support
- Not enjoying the process
Not Warming Up Properly Before Running
Failing to warm up properly before a run can increase your risk of injury and limit your performance. Make sure to spend at least 5-10 minutes warming up with dynamic stretches and exercises before starting your run.
Neglecting Proper Nutrition
Proper nutrition is essential for fueling your runs and aiding in recovery. Be sure to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats to support your running goals.
Comparing Yourself To Others
Comparing yourself to other runners is like comparing apples to oranges—they’re both fruit but totally different! So, instead of worrying about how fast or far someone else is running, focus on your own goals and progress. After all, you’re the only one who knows how many times you hit snooze on your alarm this morning!
Ignoring Pain or Discomfort
Ignoring pain or discomfort during runs can lead to injury and prolong recovery time. Listen to your body and take breaks, or seek medical attention if necessary.
Lack Of Accountability Or Support
Lack of accountability or support can make it tempting to skip your running sessions in favor of binge-watching your favorite TV show on the couch.
But unless you’re looking to set a new world record in Netflix marathoning, it’s important to find ways to stay motivated and accountable. So, consider joining a running group or finding a training partner who won’t let you slack off and will keep you accountable.
Not Enjoying The Process
One common mistake that some runners make is focusing solely on their end goal and ignoring the process. It’s important to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. Running is more than just improving your speed and performance; it’s about enjoying the scenery, fresh air, and feeling of accomplishment. Think of running as a journey towards a destination, and don’t forget to appreciate the experiences and benefits along the way, such as a healthier body and mind.
Improving your running speed can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach, it is achievable. By addressing the factors that may be hindering your progress, such as not adding strength training, not recovering correctly, poor nutrition, and inconsistency, you can work towards maximizing your potential as a runner.
Incorporating interval training, strength training, proper nutrition, enough rest and recovery time, cross-training, and tracking progress can help you improve your running speed. Remember to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard or too fast.