When I first began long-distance running, I had two goals for any race: Don’t die and don’t finish last. After a few (dozen) races, I thought “Maybe it’s time I start to aim higher.” While I know that I am not going to win any races or even be considered a front-of-the-pack runner, I know I can be a better version of myself. I started incorporating tips I found in order to get faster, and it culminated in a big PR at last weekend’s Broad Street Run. They aren’t hard and fast rules, but suggestions that can help you in your running journey. Incorporate one or all and do it your own way – running isn’t the same for everyone.
1. Start lifting weights. – You don’t need to Hans and Franz to get results from strength training. A 2008 study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed a group of runners who did squats in addition to the regular running routine. Their “time to exhaustion” increased by over 21% as compared to the runners who did not do squats. Either look online for a training program you can do yourself or check out a group fitness class such as Body Pump. I normally get my strength training from a mix of boot camp workouts and [Solidcore] classes…anything is better than nothing so find out what works for you!
2. Cross train. – According to Active.com, Runners who cross train become better overall athletes. Taking the time to rest your running muscles and develop new ones through swimming, cycling, or yoga increases overall fitness as well as decreases the pounding on joints that can lead to injury. So take a moment to try a new activity and reap the positive benefits.
3. Follow a training plan. – While you can find formal training plans online (Hal Higdon is my favorite), a training plan can be as simple as planning out your workouts week by week. Planning ahead ensures you hit your recommend mileage as well as keeps you on track to incorporate strength work and cross training so you can run your best race.
4. Run with faster friends. – I have no scientific evidence for this one, but in running like in life, surrounding yourself with people who are better than you will then help you push yourself to be better. I run shorter runs with my boyfriend and I do my best to keep up. Just make sure to be up front with your new running buddies. Most are very understanding of your desire to be faster and will work with you so that everyone can get what they need from the workouts.
5. Move up a corral. – Much like running with faster friends, racing with faster racers could help you improve your time tremendously. Don’t line up with the elites, but moving up to run with people who plan to run at the faster end of your pace will help you start strong and finish stronger.
Will these tips turn you into Usain Bolt? No. But will they help you become a better runner in whatever way that applies to you. I know I’m never going to be an elite runner, but there is no greater satisfaction than looking at the race clock and realizing you’ve shaved seconds or even minutes off your time.
Did I miss anything? What tips do you have for people who want to become faster runners?