what makes you faster?

There’s a lot of advice on how to be faster. There’s so much that it can actually be overwhelming to figure out what advice to follow.

Here’s a sample of things you can do to run faster:

  • Run slower (the thought being recovery is important and distance is important)
  • Run faster (intervals / tempo / speed workouts)
  • Run hills
  • Strength train
  • Run more (distance, duration, etc)
  • Lose weight
  • Run with a faster cadence
  • Change/improve your running form

So…. in July, I have run at 2 minutes per mile faster than usual without an increase in my perceived effort.I’ve been trying to run faster for a long time and I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck. I feel like I’ve tried everything… but I really haven’t. What’s my secret?

Running slower doesn’t seem like any advice to me, I’m so slow, if I run any slower, I’d be walking, so that one is out for me. Running faster makes sense, but I’ve always struggled to incorporate speed work into outdoor runs and found tempo runs easier to accomplish on the dreaded treadmill.

I don’t live near any hills and hill runs on the treadmill are just torture, so that’s not gonna happen regularly. I’m also really bad about going to the gym, and I have tried strength training in the past and I didn’t seem any noticeable speed gains.

Run more…. ah, I’m struggling to just run what I do now.

Lose weight…. I’ve lost about 20 lbs in the last 18 months, and I don’t think that’s it either. But I can see that if you weigh less it might take less effort to go faster.

That leaves us with the last two. Run with a faster cadence and change/improve your running form. I didn’t really set out to do either of these things, and I don’t think this explains ALL of it, but it is some of it.

I was out for a run earlier this month, and when I came around the corner on to my street for the final stretch, I sprinted the last block to my house. I noticed how different my running form is when I’m going all out versus when I’m at an easy pace. I would almost say if there really is a difference between running and jogging it would have to be form!

On my next run, I decided to try to incorporate more of the form I felt when sprinting into a regular run. I set out to do 10 1-minute intervals with a recovery period in between. What I had observed about my form while sprinting is that I’m more upright, my knees come up higher, my heels kick back farther, and and and… my cadence is faster.

I read an article online that with good running form, your feet should be landing just under your body and that you should be minimizing the time your feet spend on the ground. Trying to put your feet out too far in front, or push off behind you is actually counter-productive. So, while I was practicing my sprinting form (but at a slower speed), I tried to think about keeping my feet on the ground less and moving quickly.

I noticed right away that just trying to maintain this form made me faster. I could not go my usual easy/snail pace. It just didn’t work. And 1 minute was easy. At least it was for the first 8 intervals. By the last 2, I was struggling after ~40 seconds, but that’s ok. I was running out of air, which tells me I need to focus on breathing.

And that brings me to my last point. Breathing.

For the last month or so, I’ve paid more attention (in general) to how I breathe and how breath is connected to everything. Yes, I know, this is very familiar to anyone that’s done yoga. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention all this time in yoga class, or maybe I finally figured it out. Either way, I’ve been working on making sure I breathe more fully and into my diaphragm and not using just my lungs. 

Certainly, I have more work to do both on the breathing and my form, but I’m feeling energized by this unexpected speed burst this month. Let’s hope it helps me in my 10k that’s coming up soon!

–> What makes you run faster?


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