If you're a typical runner, you're always looking for ways to increase your speed, whether you're a sub 6-minute miler or a 14-minute mile plodder. To increase your running speed in one month, concentrate on your form to make sure you're not slowing yourself down and incorporate speed drills, as well as longer, slow runs and fast, shorter runs, into your running schedule.
Check your form. Few things will slow you down as much as bad running form. Keep your eyes up and looking forward rather than looking toward the ground. Hold your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and swing them back and forth, not side to side. Your arms should not cross your body. Relax your hands. Your shoulder should stay loose and low; avoid tightening up. Hold your chest up to maximize expansion and oxygenation. Strike the ground between your heel and forefoot, not directly on your heel, which creates drag.
Increase your cadence by shortening your stride. Measure your cadence by counting the number of times your feet hit the ground during a one-minute time span. The magic number to aim for is at least 180 per minute. If you fall below that level, strive to increase your cadence by at least 5 percent until you reach 180. A metronome app or running to music that keeps you on track with a beat to meet that pace can help you meet your goal. Your foot should land directly below your body, not in front of it.
Incorporate speed drills into your runs. Speed drills include fartlek, interval and tempos workouts. In all three techniques, you alternate fast running with slower intervals. Fartlek is unstructured; you pick something in the distance -- a tree, or a stop sign -- and run there at a fast pace. Once you reach your goal, slow down to an easy pace for a few minutes, then pick another target to reach. Intervals alternate timed sessions running at your top pace, followed by a timed recovery period at a slower pace. For tempo runs, maintain a short race pace, such as a 10k -- or around 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate -- for longer and longer periods, until you're running 3 to 5 miles at that pace.
Vary your runs. If you want to get faster, don't run the same distance at the same speed every time your run. Instead, plan one long run per week; these runs increase your endurance and, over time, will increase your overall speed. Run long runs at a pace up to 75 percent of your race pace. Mix it up by adding short, fast runs, done at race speed, and intervals during the week.
Conquer the hills. If you're fortunate enough to have hills near you, hitting the hills helps build strength and endurance, which will increase your speed.
Scrutinize your diet. Running burns calories, but that doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want. Emphasize good nutrition -- complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, good fats and protein -- to increase your glycogen stores and build muscle mass that will help you pick up the pace.
Although it's hard to make big changes in a month, keeping your weight in your optimal range will increase your speed.
If you've got more than 400-600 miles on your running shoes, it might be time to replace them. Old shoes can affect your form and slow you down.
Rest days are essential; take at least one day off per week from exercise to allow your muscles time to recover.
- Competitor: The Five Most Common Running Form Mistakes
- Runners Feed: Running Cadence: 180 Strides Per Minute is Key
- Cool Running: The Runner's Building Blocks
- American Council on Exercise: How Can I Increase My Running Speed for a 10K or Half-Marathon?
- Runners Connect: What is the Optimal Long Run Pace
- Competitor: How Often Should I Replace My Running Shoes?