30 Ways How to Run Faster and Longer
When you think of how to run faster and longer there are two people that probably spring to mind. It’s only natural that when you think of speed you get a vision of Usain Bolt and his massive frame blitzing the competition at the Olympic games.
If you’re thinking of running faster for longer, the classic long distance runner that you’ve seen all over the news is Mo Farah. In truth he’s so talented he can run from middle distance, to long distance all the way up to the half marathon and more recently the full marathon.
Another guy you might have heard of, due to possibly being the best long distance runner that’s ever lived, is Eulid Kipchoge. He tends to run longer distances than Mo Farah and has been described as the best marathon runner of the modern era. He was recently involved in an experiment with Nike called Breaking2 where they tried to break the 2-hour marathon barrier and Eulid fell just short.
It would be sexist of me to miss out a few ladies for inspiration so here goes…
Florence Griffith Joyner, otherwise known as Flo Jo was the fastest women’s sprinter and still holds the record for the 100 meters, even though she died in 1998. For all her greatness, her legacy has been tainted by drug use allegations and, hence, the reason that today’s cleaner athletes are struggling to break her record.
Personally, I like to be positive and although I’m not in any way condoning drug cheats, the fact she still trained hard and won gold makes her an inspiration to many. You can still take the hard work and discipline aspects from someone, even if you don’t have to copy them in taking drugs.
Kelly Homes was an amazingly talented middle distance runner who won double gold at the age of 34. She’s a great role model for anyone wanting to learn how to run faster and longer.
Finally, we’ve all heard of Paula Radcliffe who is without doubt the best women’s marathon runner that has ever lived on planet earth. Need I say anymore about her exploits?
I couldn’t finish this little list of the fastest runners of modern times without giving a shout to my own personal hero – the sprinter Michael Johnson. With 12 gold medals to his name he is nothing short of an absolute legend. He achieved this through hard work and dedication, because people initially thought his awkward gait wasn’t suitable for winning medals and breaking world records. How wrong were they?
It’s funny how I hate sprinting myself, as I’m more of an endurance runner who prefers length and time over short bursts, but I admire anyone who has achieved their lifetime ambitions and dreams through sheer determination, combined with natural talent.
Why have I mentioned all these athletes? Well regardless of what type of running you do, there is a special person who you can look up to and take inspiration from to give your own running a boost. We’re not saying that you have to emulate them and win gold medals. Just take a few leaves out of their books and you will improve your own running immensely.
What can you learn from them? How about dedication, consistency and always being positive in the face of adversity. You get the picture. Just keep on training hard and your times will improve, the weight will fall off and above all you will be running faster and longer.
1. Proper Running Form
Good running mechanics are determined by body strength and flexibility. It would take a professional bio-mechanics coach to go over everything thoroughly, but the basics are as such:
- Try and maintain a short, quick stride without overstretching and potentially pulling a muscle or landing awkwardly.
- Make sure that you land on your forefoot, which is the most natural way to run, and that your foot lands below you knee. This is made easier by the short strides mentioned above.
- Push up and away from the ground behind you. Stay focused and concentrate on this type of thing and your running will become much more natural and easier.
- Keep your arms and elbows bent at 90 degrees or less.
- Relax your hands and if you’re carrying anything swap over at least twice during your run so you don’t get tired hands. Spread the load and give them a break. Some people run with a dog lead or water bottle in their hands and nowadays plenty of people run with a smartphone in their hands. This can all affect your gait and running style.
- Work out your core muscles at the gym or even doing a few sit ups to keep your body solid and in sync with your legs. It’s no good having half of your body super fit and the rest of your body lagging behind. You need to balance your strength and fitness in order to keep the injuries at bay.
- As with all running and exercise regimes, make sure that you don’t do too much too soon. Increase your mileage slowly at pace that you are comfortable with. Get plenty of rest and recover correctly. Wear good shoes that are comfortable and you enjoy running in. There’s nothing that will spoil your running quicker than a blister from a dodgy pair of sneakers.
- If you do decide to change your running form and gait, then slack off on the mileage while your body gets used to the new way of training. You might think that running is running, after all you’re just moving forward on two legs, but different gaits affect the muscles in different ways. It takes time for muscles to adapt and increase strength where they need it to compensate for the new changes.
2. Try Counting Your Steps
Running is similar to cycling in the sense that when you are putting the majority of the miles in you do it in a low gear, or for us runners a relatively easy pace. What a high turnover of pedal revolutions or steps, known as cadence, does is get our lungs working and burning fat, but without hammering our glycogen stores so we feel tired afterwards yet not absolutely worn out and lethargic.
Some of the greatest runners have a cadence of approximately 180 steps a minute, which they attain by keeping small and fast steps for a high turnover. To find out your sweet spot run for a minute counting how many times your right leg hits the ground then double the number. This is your stride turnover or cadence.
3. Become an Interval Monster
Interval training is designed to cram a harder workout into a shorter space of time. It’s also a great all-round workout that shocks your body by the challenging pace and tempo you work at, but by mixing things up you also get real improvements in all areas. You will usually lose body fat much quicker than regular training methods. The multi-faceted approach and win-win appeal of intervals is why many people really take a shine to it.
The great thing is you can do a myriad of intervals – but don’t start them until you are at a reasonably fit level otherwise you could be at risk of serious injury by pushing too hard too soon. Not wanting to sound negative, but if you’re seriously overweight, then intervals are something you should try a bit further down the line.
Some people prefer rigid intervals where you run 400 metres flat out then have a rest, then rinse and repeat half a dozen times. Others like to start at 100 m, then rest, then 200 m then rest, 400 m and finally 80 metres and then work your way back down in reverse. There are many different formats, but mix and match until you find what gets you in your zone.
4. Sprinting is Important too!
Just like the professionals do, you should be practicing sprinting from time to time. You might not be lining up on the Olympic games final for the 100 metres, but by getting used to sprinting and doing some short sharp burst in your workouts, you will be able to utilize this when passing people during an actual race.
They’re called strides and they are anywhere between 50 to 100 and even 200 metres long. By practicing strides you will increase your confidence and get used the the extreme lack of oxygen when you undertake such demanding physical action that really punishes your body, your lungs and energy systems, not to mention your ability to recover quickly.
Like all other forms of training, all these little things have a purpose and by combining them all you have a better chance of becoming the runner that your really want to be, but above all the runner that you are absolutely capable of becoming. You just have to believe and keep on chipping away at your personal best times for speed and distance. Eventually the times will come down as the distances increase.
5. Get to Know the Treadmill
The treadmill is the one place where you can really go flat out and see the screen next to you for inspiration. It’s a great incentive to see you’re running at a fast pace and feeling comfortable at the same time. You can also increase the incline once you’re up to the standard required for a bit of hill running. It can be really taxing on your muscles just jumping in at the deep end too soon, so as always be patient and work up to the incline sessions, starting at an easy incline such as 1 degree or maybe 2 then move up and down as suits.
You can always hold back and try a bit harder next time – that is much better than trying too hard the first time and getting injured or simply becoming disillusioned because it was too hard to keep going at that pace and you’re permanently scared by the mental experience.
All running is tough at times, but we have to stick at it and see the rough bits through. Under duress it’s a great time to switch off and day dream a little – then you can imagine how swift you will be in another four weeks or so. Bit by bit you will improve as long as you put the hard work in on the treadmill.
6. Stretch Each Day Before and After Working Out
Everyone knows that running leaves you with sore legs the next day. Everyone also knows that as you get older your muscles, tendons and the rest of your body get stiffer and lose flexibility. This really needn’t be the case if we go about things the right way.
As is often the case, old age and a lack of fitness creep up on us. It’s only recently when I’ve been riding my bike that when I turn my neck to see what traffic is about it dawned on me how rigid I’d become – and that shocked me a little due to always been as super skinny and flexible type of guy. Not to fear thought I’m going to stretch myself back to where I was as a teenager – that’s the plan anyway.
You only need to do a simple stretching workout on both legs and your neck, arms, back etc. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes before you go running and a couple of minutes afterwards. It’s a great way to increase flexibility, but also to ward off the aches and panes, stiffness, etc, that rears its head the next day when you get out of bed. Stretching realigns the muscle fibres so they recover quicker and don’t become tangled with one another.
7. Fancy a Fartlek, Anyone?
Ready, steady, fart… No, seriously, a Fartlek is a Sweedish word for speedplay and all you have to do is run, walk and jog as far and as short as you like. It’s easy to run between street lights and other road markings, or if you’re up the woods use trees as the goal posts. The idea being that it’s a bit like interval training, but less rigid and you do it listening to your body rather than someone else telling you what to do or a strict plan that you written down before you come out.
Plenty of runners have won gold medals over the years doing the Fartlek. It’s definitely any serious runner should include in their running programme. You could also use it if you’re going fell or hill running, because believe me, the first time you think you can run up the mountains there will be plenty of walking rests on the way. What looks like a relatively mild hill is actually a ball breaker once you start running up it.
8. Go All Mike Tyon on Your Game and Jump Rope
Jumping rope is an awesome way to warm up, while increasing fitness at the same time. It’s not expensive to buy a nice quality rope and again it’s a bit like Fartlek in the amount of variation you can do with it. You can take turns with friends to play about in a car park while waiting for the rest of the running club to turn up.
Rope training is also great for you arms and legs. It gives you a great workout that has many benefits, such as increasing balance and stamina. It’s also something you should consider doing indoors – ceiling height permitting in the winter – or at your ex-partners house if you fancy smashing a few ornaments. 🙂
All in all it’s definitely something that you should have in your sports bag and training repertoire.
9 Try a Pair of Free Running Shoes…
Or at least buy a pair of racing shoes if you’re competing. Trail shoes are quite heavy and suitable for trail running events obviously, but will slow you down a few seconds on a road coarse. Pick the right tool for the job. You wouldn’t see your grandma knitting with chop stix, would you?
You can of course go absolutely bair foot, but that’s more suited for men, because a pretty lady doesn’t want sexy toes on a night out that are now hammered by fell running and hitting rocks barefoot. Maybe it’s a cool look, but not in my world!
10 Elaborating on Point 1 – Train Your Core
It’s paramount to be a strong runner that is taking seriously, you need to incorporate a full-blown core workout into your training plan. This doesn’t need to be 1000s of sit ups everyday. Most people exaggerate when they say they do this many anyway. It would be absolutely counterproductive because most people would burn out if they did this many. All muscles need a rest and time to recover, get stronger and recharge their batteries with glycogen and protein. By doing 1000s of something on a daily basis would go against the grain of all modern training principles.
Rightyo, so what we’re saying is maybe two or three days a week do situps, curls, hip flexors with the pole and any other ab exercises that you usually fit into your routine. We all have our go to exercises that we love and the ones that we avoid at all costs. It’s not hard to tone your abs up with with a few weeks hustle so get going, peeps. 3, 2, 1, Gooo!!!
11. Incorporate Squats into Your Regime
Weight training has been show to increase the overall strength and power of your muscles, but in this case you legs. It also helps develop the tendons and ligaments and any other connective tissues that are stressed when working out. When you are running and relying on your two legs it goes without saying that squats are a great way to improve explosive power for better sprinting and general running results.
All you need to do is speak to the personal trainer in the gym who will gladly give you a couple of minutes advice on what weight you should be lifting and how many sets you should do while staying safe. You can quite easily damage your back if you lift too much too soon and it isn’t nice having a back injury that could stick with you for the rest of your life – so be extremely careful please.
Work your way up by getting used to lifting the bar on its own – don’t feel silly. It’s a great way to perfect your squatting technique. Then gradually work your way up with bigger weights until you are at your sensible limit.
12. Dead-lifts are a Great All-Round Explosive Body Exercise
Dead-lifts are an all-round explosive exercise that increases body power that any sportsman can benefit from. Clearly runners don’t need to workout to the same amount as the World’s Strongest Man, but explosive power is great for pulling away from a runner near the end of a race when the chips are down and you need that last little bit of help to get some distance between you and your rival.
If you incorporate dead-lifts into your weight lifting programme then you will definitely feel the benefit.
13. How About Lunges to Increase Leg Strength?
Lunges are another great strength training exercise that you can include with your preparations. There are many formats of lunges, but if you are using weight above your head when doing a lunge, bear in mind that this will place more stress on your knees. Therefore, take extreme caution when learning this exercise and in order to do it correctly and get good form, build up slowly to where you are comfortable with.
14. Speed Sessions Similar to Intervals
Speed sessions are another form of interval training, but where you are strictly concentrating on increasing speed as much as endurance. You might run over a shorter distance, like 10 x 100 0r 200 metre sprints. This will be extremely hard on your body, so don’t participate if you have any niggling injuries even old ones that could reoccur. You need to listen you your body more than ever when you take part in extremely hard training programmes.
You only have one body so make the most of it and look after it the best you can.
15. Long Runs are Key to Burning Fat and Increase Endurance
Every runner should have a long run or two in their weekly programme, but save your real long run for the weekend. That way you can relax, take it steady and really concentrate on the distance. If you run 5 miles the previous week, then this week add 10% on to your distance so you run approximately 5.5 miles and so on.
Increase the distance every week and then you can work your way up to marathon distance in no time at all.
You will really start to feel a confidence in your running once you are able to tackle the higher mileages with ease. Sometimes they can get a bit boring, but it’s learning how to use your time positively like constructive day dreaming that helps immensely. Alternatively running with a friend will give you company that you can swap stories with and before you know it you’re on your way home for dinner.
16. Improve Your Breathing Style for Big Improvements
It might sound drastic to suggest that changing your breathing style can have such a positive improvement on your running, but it genuinely can. Oxygen is super important to us humans, I’m sure you are aware of how quickly we go downhill without it. Therefore, it makes total sense that when we are running – and using our oxygen reserves at an alarming rate – that we need to take this into serious consideration and look at how we can improve our oxygen conservation and efficiency.
To get more air in the lungs, breathe in through the mouth and nose at the same time. Then out through the mouth and nose. This might be contrary to what we have always been told since we were children running at school with our one friend who always knew stuff that we didn’t.
The way people are thinking now is similar to what free divers and record breakers are doing to hold their breath for over fifteen minutes. They purge – which is forcing yourself to hyperventilate, but on purpose so you flood your body with oxygen. It might not be a good idea to do while you are actually running, but beforehand you can try and experiment with the Ice Man Wim Hoff’s breathing techniques and I can assure you that they do actually work and it’s not baloney.
You don’t have to do them when exercising, but try them at first to relax on a morning then perhaps take a cold shower. This is all shocking to your body initially, but once you get acclimatised, it will do wonders for your physical and mental health.
17. Run to the Hills
Hill running is renowned for being both extremely hard on the body yet confidence boosting at the same time. Once you’ve got used to attacking hills, you’ll think flat ground is a walk in the park. The first time you look at a hill, it’s easy to underestimate just how tough it is to actually run up it. Don’t worry, though, because if you’re with a friend who is starting out hill running then they’ll probably feel the same way.
In all likelihood you will be literally crawling up the first few times, just getting above walking pace will feel like a win. The trick is to keep on practising and before long you will be a master. If you only do one hill climb a week you will feel the benefit. Two sessions will obviously be better, but any more than that and you will be at risk of burn out.
To start hill or fell running you should always have a base level of fitness, because you don’t want to be over exerting yourself while on the side of a mountain hours away from medical care. Think safety first.
There are lots of different forms of hill running you can do. Hill repeats are very popular where you run up a hill then jog back down and repeat 10 times.
Alternatively you could just plan a running course around your local countryside with plenty of steep inclines and declines so it feels different from a regular outdoor run.
You will increase your leg strength, if not outright speed, while testing your lung capacity to the max.
18. Lay of the Junk Food
Sweets and sugary food aren’t just bad for your teeth, they’re not too good for your body either. Make sure you load up complex carbohydrates before you workout. The only time that it’s okay to splurge on junk food is when you have a day off your healthy eating plan no more than one day a week.
If you have to go to a family reunion or a friends wedding then a one-off treat isn’t going to ruin your body. Use your common sense and also listen to your bathroom scales – they will tell you if you’re doing good or bad.
There are actually valid reasons for eating sugary food, such as someone who is a diabetic and they have a low or if you’ve been doing an extreme event and you feel like collapsing. Eating something with simple sugars in will boost your blood sugar levels much quicker than eating complex carbs that take longer to digest.
If you do have any medical conditions, always consult your doctor before starting your physical exercise regime.
19. Run Against the Wind
Why not try running with a parachute to increase resistance? There are quite a few ways to make your running harder, such as using elasticated bands. Another method is the anti-gravity treadmill, which is great for people with injuries such as bad knees. They even used them on the international space station.
Parachute training is a safe way to increase endurance, speed and strength. It mimics hill running, but of course you can run on any piece of flat land or sports field or even the beach which will increase resistance even more due to the soft ground.
20. Lift Weights for Strength & Endurance
It isn’t desirable for a runner to put on too much weight, even if that extra weight mainly comes from increased muscle mass. However, it is beneficial to increase body strength for most sports including running, which will be helpful during sprinting to the finish line or overtaking someone mid-race.
The key to weight lifting for most runners – apart from sprinters, who do have big muscles – is to work on a high number of repetitions so to increase endurance, but not to dramatically increase muscle size.
Sprinters only have to carry their body weight for a short distance and need big, powerful muscles to accelerate so they have a totally different view to weightlifting than long distance and marathon runners.
21. Shed the Body Fat and Lose Weight
On average it has been said that for every one pound in body weight a runner loses it equates to 2 seconds per mile quicker. Therefore, if you are reasonably overweight and lose one stone, you can hope to improve your mile time by 28 seconds. That is a good amount of time that anyone would be proud to improve by, not to mention the double win of actually losing the weight in the first place.
Depending on how much body fat you are carrying to start with will determine what kind of results you can expect to achieve. Regardless of whether you are slim or a little overweight, the challenge of improving your personal best mile time is there to be accepted. You shouldn’t worry about what other people are doing, just believe in yourself and endeavour to improve bit by bit until you are satisfied with your achievements.
The mirror and scales will always tell you the truth, even if your friends might not!
22. Don’t Waste Energy
When you’re racing or running, don’t be tempted to have a look around you too often. Ideally you should only look back if necessary. All the little extra movements are simply wasting energy. It might sound like we’re exaggerating, but it’s true. Concentrate on the road ahead so you don’t trip over anything that way as well as conserving energy you are keeping one step ahead of getting injured.
By keeping your eyes pinned 10 to 20 metres ahead that is the optimum distance for general running on flat ground, but hill running is another matter altogether. It’s much harder to be as disciplined when running up a hill or down one for that matter. Your eyes will need to be paying more attention to your footsteps so you don’t fall over.
23. Join the Revolution
If all you did was go running, even the most committed runner would get a little bored and stale from time to time. Why not jump on the stationary cycle at the gymnasium and get some revs in? Spinning those legs is a great workout for the legs, hips and lungs. You can vary the intensity and do all the good stuff, just as you would when running, like sprints and intervals.
You can even do the real thing and get your mountain bike jig on or how about being Lance Armstrong for the day – without the blood transfusions – and pedal up the steepest hills in your area. That is guaranteed to get you huffing and puffing.
By mixing your training up you are resting some muscles and hitting others that running doesn’t catch.
It’s widely accepted that due to the more constant pedalling and at higher speeds, cycling will get you fitter than mountain biking. This is why most professional mountain bikers will actually do a certain amount of training on a racing bike. One thing downhill or cross country mountain biking will do though is pump your arms. You’ll certainly know when you’ve hit a huge downhill section and you can barely keep a grip on the bar.
In essence the more varied your training, as long as it is structured and with purpose, the better your overall fitness will be.
24. It’s all About the Toes!
Most runners these days land on their heels, which is known as heel striking. This is partly due to modern running trainers encouraging us to run this way.
Barefoot runners, on the other hand, or should we say foot, are staunch converts to landing on your forefoot. Apparently this is the more natural approach.
While your whole body plays a role in speed, if you think about your toes and try arching them upwards when running, which is known as dorsiflexion, only the ball of your foot hits the ground. The effect of this approach gives you a quicker stride turnover and, hence, an improvement in your overall speed.
25. Tempo Runs will Test Your Willpower
A tempo run is your weekly or bi-weekly barometer of speed and endurance, otherwise known as your fitness level. What you should be aiming for is to challenge yourself so you are running as fast as possible for the full 20 minutes.
Treat your tempo runs seriously and don’t set off too soon and burn out. The idea is to find your ultimate pace that you can hang with. It should be comfortably uncomfortable if that makes sense?
If you’re holding back then you aren’t achieving what you are setting out to. Push hard, run fast and get the bit between your teeth. Tempo runs shouldn’t really be enjoyable, but beating your personal best time afterwards will be the reward for your hard work and dedication. If you really want to run faster and longer then you have to train at a consistently hard pace on regular occasions.
26. Drink Coffee
If you’re a serious athlete these days, you might be wondering what isn’t on the banned list. Well the good news is that coffee isn’t. That tempo run you want to beat, well it might sound corny, but bring out the Kenco and blitz the tempo.
We all know that caffeine is recommended for people who have a long car journey and feel tired. Obviously if they’re too tired and it’s dangerous to drive they shouldn’t drive at all, but if it’s just a little morning head fog, then caffeine is one of the reasons why we have it with our breakfast.
As a runner you should take advantage of caffeine and its natural kick or high. It is also classed as a diuretic, which means it will make you want to go to the toilet if you drink too much of it. The fact that you are always taking it in with water or milk, though, will make sure that you don’t dehydrate like some people think. That is a myth so don’t be worried by such silly talk.
27. Hit the Stair Climber
The stepper, stair climber or even mountain climber. Whatever it’s called it is great for burning calories – mainly fat – and getting your hips used to spinning rather quickly. It’s also a great aerobic workout for your lungs and cardiovascular system in general.
You can try the various routines and programmes that the machine will have to chose from. Most modern ones will even give you a rough indicator of how many total calories you have burned.
There’s a more advanced version that uses your hands as well – this one’s the true mountain climber – just like on one of the old Rocky films so you’ll look cool as hell pretending to be Balboa himself.
28. Get Physical, Mental and Spiritual with Yoga
Yoga has immense benefits for everyone, especially athletes and runners. The famous Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs credited yoga with extending his career. Looking at how many games he played as a professional – almost a thousand – is testament to how good yoga really is. Give it a whirl yourself and check out what this ancient form of exercise and relaxation has to offer.
The main benefits from a runner’s perspective will be increased flexibility and also the relaxation aspect isn’t to be laughed at. The more laid back you are when running, both training and racing, will help you save valuable energy you would otherwise have wasted through stress.
29. Quality Sleep Equals Quicker Reactions
Countless studies have shown that people who have suffered sleep deprivation are almost as clumsy as drunk drivers. Sleep has endless benefits and getting a good night’s kip shouldn’t be underestimated.
Make sure that you have a comfy bed with supportive pillows. You’ll never get properly rested if your bed is like something out of a medieval prison cell that’s like a sack with some straw in it. Today you can get good quality bedding at reasonable prices so there really isn’t any excuse.
If you have other problems regarding sleeping then make sure that you see your doctor, because there might be some underlying serious condition that is keeping you up at night. Better to be safe than sorry, as the old saying goes.
30. Run Light on Race Day
When you see any professional runner on television, what do you see them with? They all have nothing more than a pair of shoes, shorts, race bib and watch. They don’t need anything else on a professionally organised event.
Fair enough, if it’s your local event then you might want to carry a small body belt with some energy gels. However, most events will be organised so that there are aid stations evenly spread out to keep you fuelled and prevent exhaustion from creeping in. The event planners will want to ensure your safety as much as you do yourself.
All we’re saying is don’t start off running with too many layers that you don’t need. Not only will you be uncomfortable, but you might overheat if you don’t have anywhere safe to leave them.
Five More Runner’s Reads
- Treadmill Workout to Burn Fat
- Staying Motivated for Weight Loss
- Half Marathon Training for Beginners
- How Long do Running Shoes Last?
- Running Weight Loss Plan
How do You Run Faster and Longer?
What little tips do you use to gain extra speed and endurance so you can run faster and longer?
Is there anything that we pointed out that you’ve tried before or are considering trying?
Share your knowledge with your fellow runners in the comments below. We really appreciate you taking the time to let us know what is working for you and even what isn’t working.
Maybe things that you were told by a friend or read online, but turned out to be a waste of time. Anything you may have to pass on, even if you think it isn’t worthwhile, could really make someone else’s running much easier and more productive.