So you want to run faster, do you? Welcome to the article that's going to help you get there. If you follow these principles, there's no doubt you'll be a faster runner, and an all around better conditioned, well oiled machine.
I've used these principles on myself, as well as on athletes I've trained. As a conditioning coach, running is an exciting way to see clear progress by improving energy systems and getting the body to adapt and improve.
Who this program is for
This article and program is for anyone who has a goal of running faster, and has at least some experience running. If you're just starting or looking to start, check out this program for beginners
Where to Start
In order to know you're getting faster, you have to have a reference to look back on. Before you start doing anything, get out there and time yourself on a run. Whether it's 1 mile, or 5 miles, you'll use that time to measure future progress.
What limits your speed right now?
If you had to go out and run a mile right now as fast as you can... what would stop you from doing it faster?
What is it that determines how fast we can run?
Once we understand what's limiting our performance, we can seek to improve those areas. As a result, getting faster will be all but guaranteed.
5 Areas to Improve Running Speed
We'll break it down to 5 components. We can then make a plan on how we're going to attack our goal of getting faster. We'll basically be rebuilding the engine. (or beefing it up, if it's already a strong engine).
- Aerobic Power, also known as VO2 Max - The maximum amount of oxygen your body can use.
- Cardiac Output - the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat.
- Lactate Threshold - The point at which lactate begins to accumulate in your blood.
- Mental Toughness - Your ability to keep going when you want to quit. "6 Habits for Serious Mental Toughness"
- Recovery - Remember, your body improves and adapts only when you actually recover from your training. If you need help, check out my article: How to Recover Faster From Your Workouts
Run Faster - Plan of Attack
Now it's time to dive in and plan out how we're going to train to get faster. It's important to understand that no one method is going to work. You need to include a lot of variety to get big improvements in your aerobic abilities.
First I'm going to give you the methods you'll use, and then I'll show you how to specifically program these methods into your weekly schedule.
*From Lowest to Highest Intensities
Cardiac Output sessions are designed to train your heart to pump more blood per beat. They are the foundation of any training program. These sessions will:
- Build overall endurance and work capacity
- Increase the size of the left ventricle of the heart
- Lower your resting heart rate
- Improve your recovery abilities, during and after training.
Cardiac Output sessions will be longer, slower cardiovascular training days. These should last at least 30 minutes, up to 90 minutes.
During these lower-intensity sessions, you should aim to keep your heart rate between 130-150 beats per minute. For this reason, I highly recommend using a heart rate monitor to make sure you're training in the right zone. You can also use it to measure your resting heart rate in the morning.
The Polar H10 is what I've used for years. It's highly accurate and well made with all the features you'd want. It's $86 on Amazon and worth every penny if you're serious about your training goals.
80/20 Training Split
Research shows that programs with 80% low/moderate intensity and 20% high intensity training are optimal for performance gains. If you think elite runners are training with high intensity all the time, you're mistaken.
High Intensity Continuous Training (HICT)
HICT sessions are designed to improve the oxidative (aerobic) capabilities of your fast twitch muscle fibers.
- Choose a compound movement, like a step up, squat jump or push up.
- Perform for a set period of time with 3-5 seconds of rest after each rep.
- For example.. Do jump squats for 8 minutes, performing one rep every 3-5 seconds.
Continuous High Intensity Running (CHI)
Not the same thing as HICT. Continuous high intensity means running for a set period of time at the maximum speed you can maintain for the entire time.
For example: Run for 10 minutes at as fast of a pace as you can maintain the whole time. Over time, try to either run at a faster pace or add time, or both.
Threshold training is designed to improve your lactate threshold. Lactate threshold is essentially the "point of no return." Once you cross the threshold, fatigue sets in quickly and you cannot maintain your pace.
Specifically, we want to be able to run faster at threshold. This means that the aerobic system is able to clear out lactate, and you can continue at your pace, for longer. We'll use:
- 3-5 minute intervals running at a pace that feels like a 7/10 perceived exertion, mixed with 2 minutes of walking/easy rest. The pace should be hard, but not "too hard."
High Intensity Interval Training/Power Intervals
HIIT and Power intervals are the highest intensity training we'll use, and they should be treated with respect. These sessions will improve aerobic power. They're also very hard, and will improve mental toughness when done at true high intensity (max effort).
For these sessions, you can use:
- 400 meter sprints, followed by 400 meters of walking/recovery. We want full recovery before each sprint.
- If 400 meters is too difficult, sprint 200 meters instead
- Hill Sprints. Find a hill or use a treadmill with a 10% incline. We're looking for 2-3 minutes of high intensity, followed by 3-6 minutes of walking/recovery.
Recovery is just as important as any training day. Without recovering from your workouts, you cannot reap the benefits of all the work you're putting in. As a result, you'll be wasting effort and potentially burning yourself out or getting injured.
I have a whole article on recovery here. Make sure your low intensity days stay low intensity. It can be tempting to push the pace. Wait for the higher intensity days and then you can push as hard as you can.
Now we're getting down to business. The most important part to planning your training is figuring out how to split your training up to:
- Maximize improvements and adaptations
- Maximize recovery
- Minimize injuries and burnout
The program is broken down into two week blocks. Week A and Week B.
Perform the 2 weeks, then, to ensure progression:
- Increase Cardiac output days by 5 minutes every 2 weeks.
- Increase HICT days by 2 minutes every 2 weeks.
- Increase HIIT sprints/power intervals by adding one interval every 2 weeks.
- Threshold training, add one additional repetition every 2 weeks
Run Faster Program: Week A
Run Faster Program: Week B
Wrapping it up
Run this program for 6-8 weeks, then retest yourself. You should see a pretty dramatic improvement in your speed, and you should be in much better condition.
I said it earlier, but it's worth mentioning again. Training with a heart rate monitor can really help make your workouts more focused and specific. As a result, you can ensure you're training in the right zone for the adaptations you're trying to get from your workout.
The Polar H10 is a great, affordable option that can really take your training to the next level. I'm recommending it because I know it's great.
When you're trying to accomplish any goal, it always helps to have a plan. going about it without a plan is like looking for something in the dark.
Remember to monitor your levels of fatigue. You can always scale things down if it feels too hard, or up if it's too easy. It's your body. Listen to it and make sure you prioritize rest and recovery.
These are methods that I know can work, because I've used them on myself and on others. I've run a 6 minute mile at 240 pounds using these techniques.
Thanks for being here, and I hope this helps you get a little closer to that best version of yourself.
References (and recommended reading)