Whether you've battled a few marathons or you're embarking on your first 5K, the most common question we get asked is how to increase your speed as part of your running training.
Follow The Running Bug's 12 tips on how to run faster and knock seconds - or even minutes - off your PB.
1. Improve your strength
A study into strength training for runners found that pumping iron improved running economy (how efficiently your body uses fuel) and lowered race times. Include runner-specific exercises, such as single-leg squats and lunges. Check out our top strength training secrets for more detailed information on how to get stronger.
2. Lose weight
All other things being equal, losing 1lb will shave 2 seconds off each mile you run. If you are overweight, cutting body fat will slice seconds from your race times. A word of caution though – if you are already at a low weight, dieting won’t necessarily make you faster. Check out our top tips for weight loss.
3. Hill training
Including hills in your training can supercharge your fitness. It improves your running economy by building strength and power, while being lower impact (meaning less risk of injury) than traditional speed work. Try our top tips for hill training.
4. Power up with plyometrics
You may feel silly, but skipping, hopping and bounding can help make you a faster runner. A study found that runners who replaced one third of their normal running volume with plyometrics improved their race times, while runners who continued with their normal training schedule did not.
5. Find your tempo
Tempo runs are runs of 20-40 minutes done at a three-or-four word answer pace (i.e. you can say three or four words while still running, but no more). They should be hard, but not all-out. They improve your lactic threshold, which is key to maintaining a faster pace in all distances, from 5K to marathon.
Strides are basically relaxed sprints. You run fast for 50-80m while focusing on technique. They encourage a more economical running style and help to increase stride frequency, improving performance over all distances. Do them after an easy run or before a session, after warming up. Make sure you do them with good form.
7. Pick your course
Unless you're a seasoned mountain goat, you probably won’t run your best times on a cross-country course. Flat road races will increase your PB potential.
8. Try some performance shoes
If you have tried what the elites refer to as ‘racing flats’ before, you’ll know what we are talking about. These shoes are made with one thing in mind: to help you run faster.
9. Dress the part
You will really notice the benefits with running-specific lightweight apparel, which keeps you cool and wicks sweat away. Heavy cotton tops and jogging bottoms will weigh you down and are just plain uncomfortable. Go for running shorts or aerodynamic tights. Head to a dedicated running store, like Sweatshop, to find your PB kit.
It might cost a bit more, but you’ll get your money’s worth come race day. You're a runner, so dress like one!
10. Follow a training plan
Following a training plan is essential if you want to get the best out of your running. A good training plan will be progressive and challenging, while still allowing for ‘recovery weeks’ and rest days. Find one that suits your needs and watch your running soar.
11. Set a goal
Setting yourself a goal is a perfect way to keep your motivation and focus from wavering. It might be a target time, a mileage total, or completing a race. You can visualise yourself exceeding it when things get tough in training, or when your friends are heading to the pub and you have a run to do.
12. Get a coach or a PT
You might still have nightmares from that PE teacher who screamed at you to run around a field until your legs fell off, but we all need someone to motivate us occasionally and to give us advice when we are struggling. A good coach can see things from an emotionally detached perspective, which is sometimes just what you need.