1. Try plyometrics
Hopping, skipping and jumping might get you some funny looks, but it can make you a faster, stronger runner, in under 20 minutes a week.
A 2003 study showed that a six week plyometric routine produced significant improvement in running economy (a measure of how efficient a runner you are) at speeds of 10:00 to 7:00 minute miles.
Start gradually as too much too soon can lead to injury. After a good warm up, include skipping, bounding, jumps for distance and jumps for height. Start with 1 to 2 sets of 5 and progress to 3 sets of 10. Just 20 minutes a couple of times a week should be enough to see benefits.
2. Include intervals
Only running at a slow and steady pace is an inefficient way to train. Adding in speed training isn't just for the athletes. Running at a challenging pace for shorter bursts, separated by breaks is actually a more effective way to improve.
If you are a beginner, just running at a tough pace for 1-3 minutes, followed by resting for an equivalent time and repeating 5-8 times should be enough to see an improvement.
For the more experienced, it's worth considering the speed of your intervals. To supercharge your fitness, spend time at a pace you could keep up for 3-5k. A good session to try is running at this pace for 3 minutes and repeating 5-8 times with a 90 second rest in between. This pace has been shown to be the most effective at increasing Vo2 Max; trust us, that's a good thing.
3. Eat your way faster
For those of us who are carrying a little bit of excess weight, one of the quickest ways to faster times is in the kitchen. If you are overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can make running feel a lot easier.
If you are already towards the lower end of the healthy BMI range, losing weight won't necessarily make you faster as you may lose muscle. Instead, making sure you get enough calories to fuel your training, especially at the right times can help you make the most of the training you do have time for.
Ensure you always eat a snack within 20-30 minutes of finishing your run. This should be 300-400 calories and should include some carbohydrate and protein. A milkshake or a banana and yogurt are perfect choices.
4. Find your tempo
If you struggle for time, don't just go and run. Think about what you want from each workout and make sure you are running at the right intensity. As well as intervals, running at your tempo pace ensures you'll be making significant fitness gains.
A good tempo workout can also be completed in half an hour and you'll see way more improvement than just going out and running steady for an hour. How do you know you are running at the right effort level? If you're a beginner, you should be working out at an intensity that you could keep up for an hour if you absolutely had too. You should know you are working but you're not flat out. You won't be able to talk in full sentences but should be able to say 3-4 words at a time.
If you use a heart rate monitor, it's around 85-90 per cent of your maximum heart rate . For more experienced runners, who have raced, it's between your 10k and half marathon race pace. Try running at an easy pace for 5 minutes to warm up and then speeding up to your tempo pace for 20 minutes. Finish with five minutes at an easy intensity.