22 Tips to Improve Running Speed and Endurance

Woman running
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If you've been running at a steady pace for a while, it can be all too common to hit a plateau. But there are many ways you can build endurance and learn how to run faster without getting tired.

As you start to push yourself a little harder, setting new performance goals for your runs can help you stay motivated as you discover how far (and how fast) you can go. Use the following tips to increase your running speed during your training sessions.

Pick Up the Pace

One of the first steps to running faster is to learn what it feels like to pick up the pace. Start with short bursts of speed work and return to your usual pace. Keep in mind that increasing your speed might leave you more winded than usual at first, which is why it's important to regulate your breathing. If your muscles start to fatigue, it's equally important to notice the difference between discomfort and pain. If you're experiencing the latter, you'll need to slow down your pace.

Running outside your comfort zone may feel uncomfortable at first, but as you start to develop mental stamina and physical endurance, you'll get accustomed to the sensations that arise when you pick up the pace and start to anticipate (and maybe even enjoy) the experience of running faster.

To get a sense of your current pace, use this pace calculator. Just input your distance and time, and watch as your pace gradually starts to improve.

Run More Often

In many cases, increasing your weekly mileage will help to increase your overall speed. If you normally run once a week but participate in workout classes most other days of the week, you may notice improvements in your pace if you swap a few of those workout days with running days.

Some runners run every single day—though at least one rest day per week is usually recommended. If you choose to go that route, just keep in mind that you should vary the distance and intensity of your workouts to avoid injury or burnout.

If your goal is to increase your running pace, you should be running at least 2–3 days each week.

Work On Your Form

Proper running form can make you a more efficient runner. Making small adjustments to your posture and your gait helps your body to move with less exertion and more ease. The result is that you have more energy available to you to help fuel a faster running pace. Tip: Relax your shoulders and allow your arms to swing naturally as you run.

Count Your Strides

Counting your strides can help increase your stride turnover, which is the number of steps you take every minute you run. By doing so, you'll probably run faster as a result. To determine your stride turnover, run for about 30 seconds at a pace that you can sustain for three miles, and count each time your right foot hits the ground. Double the number to get your overall stride turnover rate.

Many runners target a turnover rate of about 180. This number is highly variable, but in general, new runners tend to have a stride rate on the lower end. So you'll likely get faster by simply improving your turnover rate.

To increase your stride turnover, start by running for 30 seconds at your current pace. Then jog for a minute to recover and run for 30 seconds again, this time trying to increase the count. Focus on taking quick, light, short steps—as if you're stepping on hot coals. Repeat 5–8 times, trying to increase your rate each time. Eventually, a faster turnover rate will feel natural during your longer runs.

Schedule Tempo Runs

Tempo runs, or runs at a slightly slower pace than you'd normally use, can help develop your anaerobic threshold, which is critical for running faster. Many fast runners schedule at least one tempo run each week.

The anaerobic threshold is the exertion at which your body switches from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic metabolism. Your ability to maintain effort while using anaerobic systems is limited. By improving your fitness with tempo runs, you won't hit this point as easily.

To do a tempo run, start your run with 5-10 minutes of running at an easy pace, then continue with 15–20 minutes of running at about 10 seconds slower per mile than your 10K pace (or a pace you could sustain for 6 miles). Finish with 5-10 minutes of cooling down.

Your tempo run pace should feel "comfortably hard," similar to a 10K race pace. You shouldn't be running so slow that you could carry a conversation, but you shouldn't be gasping for air, either.

Do Speed Work

Not surprisingly, speed work is one of the smartest ways to improve your pace. This is because speed exercises are designed to help you move faster. One way to do speed workouts is to practice structured intervals.

For example, you can run 400-meter repeats at a track. After a warmup of 5-10 minutes, alternate between running a 400-meter lap at a 5K race pace and jogging one slow, easy recovery lap. Start with two or three 400-meter repeats (with a recovery lap in between each), and try to work your way up to five or six. If you plan to run a race, it helps to run at the specific pace that you'll be running during your next event.

Try doing a speed workout once a week. There are other workouts that you can rotate into your training, such as those listed below. They can be done on a track or treadmill so you're able to accurately track the distance.

Speed Workouts

800m (Half-Mile) Repeats

  • 10-minute warmup
  • 800 m at 5K race pace
  • 1-minute easy recovery
  • Repeat 800 m at 5K race pace/1 minute recovery 4 more times
  • 5-minute cool-down

Mile Repeats

  • 10-minute warmup
  • 1 mile at 5K race pace
  • 1-minute easy recovery
  • Repeat 1 mile at 5K race pace/1 minute easy recovery 2 more times
  • 5-minute cool-down

6 Minutes (at 5K Race Pace)

This is a great option if you don't have access to a track or treadmill (though a running watch or another timing device is required):

  • 10-minute warmup
  • 6 minutes at 5K race pace
  • 1-minute easy recovery
  • Repeat 6 minutes at 5K race pace/1 minute easy recovery 2 more times
  • 5-minute cool-down

Practice Fartleks

If you don't have access to a track or another measured space to run specific intervals, you can use fartlek training instead.

Fartleks are simple, quick bursts of speed that vary in distance. Fartlek is a Swedish word that means "speed play." There are simple ways to incorporate fartleks into your runs to help you run faster.

If you're running on the road, you can use lamp posts or telephone poles to mark intervals. After warming up, try sprinting for two lamp posts, then recover for two, and keep repeating the pattern until you've covered a mile.

Or if you like to listen to music while you run, sprint for the duration of the chorus of your favorite song. If you're running in your neighborhood, sprint past 10 mailboxes, then recover for another 10. These speed "pick-ups" help you to learn how to get comfortable with running faster.

Incorporate Hill Training

Running hills helps improve your running economy and efficiency, which will translate into faster running. Specifically, hill repeats (repeatedly running up a hill and jogging or walking down) are a great way to help you pick up the pace. You can incorporate hill training into your running program after you've built an endurance base.

Try to work a hill repeat session into your training once a week. Start with a 10-15 minute warmup of easy running. Find a hill with a moderate slope that's about 100–200 meters long. Run up the hill at a hard effort. Keep your effort consistent and don't let your running form fall apart. Turn around and recover by walking or jogging down the hill at an easy pace.

Start with 5-6 hill repeats and add one repeat to your training regimen each week, with a maximum of ten repeats. You can also combine hill repeats with a tempo run.

Run on a Treadmill

While training on the open road is preferred by most runners, you can also use a treadmill to improve your speed. In general, treadmill running is easier than running outside. On a mechanized treadmill, the belt moves on its own underneath your feet, so less effort is required from you. Also, there are no obstacles such as wind or variations in terrain to challenge you. You can, however, set your treadmill's incline to 1–2% to simulate such elements.

One benefit of using a treadmill is that you can train yourself to turn your legs over quickly with greater ease. This will help you to transfer the skill to your outdoor runs. Also, treadmills allow you to structure interval runs and hill runs with more precision.

Let Your Body Recover

Don't assume that running hard every day will make you faster. Rest is critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts. You may find that you run faster when you take at least one day off from the sport each week.

On your recovery days, you can still participate in physical activity, but keep it easy and enjoyable. Your brain can benefit from a break from high-intensity activities as well, improving your emotional health.

Your muscles build and repair themselves during your rest days. If you run every day without taking days off, you won't see much improvement.

Follow a Training Plan

If it feels overwhelming to think about scheduling all of the different speed- and endurance-boosting workouts at once, a simple training plan can help you stay organized and focused.

Choose a plan that targets the specific distance that you want to train for. For example, if you want to run a faster 5K, use a training plan specifically designed for that distance.

You'll also find plenty of training plans for longer distances, but you should only target one race at a time, starting with shorter races first. Although training for a half marathon or a full marathon will obviously prepare you to go the distance of a 5K, they won't include 5K-specific speedwork. By following a training schedule that is specific to a designated race, you'll be more likely to get results.

Consider Your BMI

Runners who are overweight, which is generally defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 or above, may improve their speed by losing weight. Some estimates say that, on average, runners get 2 seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose.

Of course, that doesn't mean you have to lose weight, especially if you are content with your size and your doctor has not advised you of any potential health concerns.

Consult a physician before undertaking a weight loss plan. Your doctor can help you determine how much weight you should lose, if any, and what methods are safe for you to use.

Improve Your Eating Habits

Research shows that improving your nutrition may also help increase your running speed. Are you consuming enough protein to build stronger muscles? Are you consuming the right number of complex carbohydrates to provide adequate fuel for challenging workouts? Do you eat the right kind of fat to maintain healthy joints?

Evaluate your caloric intake and your macronutrient balance and see how it compares to recommended intakes for a balanced diet. Eliminate foods that don't provide good nutrition, and consider investing in a session with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports performance to make sure you are getting the macro- and micronutrients that you need.

Cut out any empty-calorie foods (candy, sweetened sodas or tea, starchy fried snacks, baked goods, and other heavily processed foods) and build healthy, balanced meals around nutrient-dense foods such as lean proteins, leafy greens, whole grains, and healthy fats.

Wear Lightweight Running Gear

Some running gear adds excess bulk and weight, which could slow down your pace and hinder your performance. You might invest in running gear that is made out of lightweight fabrics and materials. Also consider getting a pair of lighter, faster running shoes (unless your feet benefit from additional support).

Of course, there is some gear you don't want to run without, especially on long runs. Items such as a cell phone to call for help if you need it and water to stay hydrated on a hot day are often non-negotiable. Your health and safety are more important than improving your running time.

Stretch Regularly

Inflexible joints can hinder a faster running pace. You're not likely to move with efficiency when your body has a limited range of motion. Tight muscles can also make you more susceptible to injury. If you're sidelined by an injury, your pace is probably going to pay the price until you recover.

Try to stretch after every run. You don't have to spend a ton of time doing a wide variety of exercises, but spending 5–10 minutes after your runs doing simple calf, hip flexor, and quadriceps stretches will help to keep your body functioning optimally and your speed goals on track.

Strengthen Your Core

Believe it or not, the strength of your core muscles can affect your running pace. Stronger abdominals improve your running posture for more efficient breathing and also frees up your legs to work harder.

Try adding a few core exercises to your daily routine. Practice doing planks, and work up to being able to hold them for one minute or more. Or add abdominal curls, bicycle crunches, or basic bridges to the end of your runs.

Get Enough Sleep

Fast runners are often well-rested runners. So, one of the smartest ways to improve your running performance is to get enough shuteye. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most healthy adults get between 7–9 hours of sleep per night. Experiment with this range to determine the best amount of sleep for you.

Also, practice smart sleep hygiene. Try to go to bed at the same time each night. Make your bedroom a device-free zone by keeping electronics in another room and decrease the temperature slightly to get a better night's rest.

Lift Weights

Strength training builds stronger muscles to help improve your speed and overall performance. It can also help you to reduce your risk of injury.

Try to schedule one or two short strength training workouts each week. If you don't have access to a gym or health club, simply do bodyweight exercises like pushups, lunges, or squats to build more muscle.

If you're able, it can be beneficial to do these workouts immediately after a hard run or later the same day. This way you can fully recover on your easy days without overdoing it.

Experiment with Resistance

Workout tools and gadgets such as an anti-gravity treadmill, a running parachute, or speed bands can be used for increased power and performance. Of course, these tools take some practice, and some require you to enlist a workout buddy to use them.

For example, running bands provide resistance to your stride. The bands can be attached to a stationary object or to another training partner so that you have to pull away as you run forward. Some runners also attach bands to their legs and run in place against resistance to improve speed.

If you decide to try one of these options, it's often a smart idea to work with a qualified trainer who can show you how to properly use them.

Cross-Train

While running exercises are designed specifically to improve your pace, sometimes the best way to learn how to run faster is to take a short break from the sport and cross-train with other activities.

Cross-training can include spinning, CrossFit, swimming, and even soccer, all of which can help you to develop your cardiovascular endurance. Additionally, cross-training can help to increase your flexibility and range of motion in your joints, build mental toughness, and increase your overall strength.

Cross-training also gives you a mental break from running. So once you're ready to lace up your shoes and hit the pavement again, you'll be able to give it your all.

Run With a Group

Running with a group will not only motivate you to keep training, but many people find that they push themselves harder when they train with others.

There are different ways to find a running group, but more often than not, you can find one in your neighborhood for free. Ask about running groups at your local running store, at work, or at your health club.

Not only will you feel motivated by the challenge of running with others, but many running groups include coached interval training workouts and other targeted programs.

Finish Strong

If you're interested in racing and want to learn how to improve your race time, you can occasionally train as though you were racing. That means including a fast sprint to the finish at the end of your runs.

Picking up the pace for the last few miles of your long runs is good practice for race day conditions and it also improves your endurance. Try picking up your pace by about 20–30 seconds for the last mile.

A Word From Verywell

If you're ready to build more endurance and train your body to run faster, try incorporating any number of these tips into your running routine. Whether you're fairly new to running or an experienced racer, remember that it's important to listen to your body whenever you're training. If any of the suggested exercises cause you pain or intense discomfort, be sure to stop immediately.

Additionally, some of the tips listed may not be advisable if you have certain health or medical conditions. If this applies to you, always ask your doctor before beginning any new workout regimen.

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