It doesn’t matter whether you’re a weekend warrior or a veteran racer—if you pound the pavement, odds are you feel a drive to push yourself every time you lace up. That means you want to know how to run faster and farther.
That competitive desire goes with being a runner. So does the fact that there’s room for improvement in your training program, and that making just a few small tweaks can help you learn how to run faster and farther in just a short amount of time.
We tapped two of the greatest running minds in the country and asked for their secrets for squeezing more from every workout. Jennifer Gill is a Road Runners Club of America coach and certified personal trainer based in San Diego. Nikki Rafie is a Portland, Oregon-based coach and two-time Olympic Trials qualifier.
Follow the advice of these two running veterans, and you’ll not only train smarter and recover quicker, but have more fun while you’re at it. And cover more ground in quicker time that you might have thought possible.
5 Tips to Help You Run Faster, Farther
Start with the new running you by following the five steps below from our experts.
Rethink Your Warmup
We get it—you want to know how to run faster and farther. Patience. For now, consider getting there by running a little bit slower.
Slow, easy running is sometimes referred to as “junk mileage” because runners supposedly don’t see the benefit of putting in training miles at speeds well below race pace. Yet this is a total myth—nothing could be further from the truth than the notion of “junk mileage.” In particular, priming your muscles for hard workouts and races with some less stressful running is one of the simplest ways to boost running performance.
“Warming up helps increase circulation and creates heat, which loosens and primes the muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons for the workout ahead,” explains Jennifer Gill of Road Runners Club of America. “That not only means better performance during your run, but also a lower risk of injury.”
Another smart move: perform dynamic stretches such as lunges, high knees, and butt kicks before you log those warmup miles. Research shows that doing so can improve leg strength, power, and overall running economy.
Mix Up Your Workouts
It’s easy to fall into a routine if you lift weights, but it’s even easier if you run. After all, everyone has his or her favorite routes. If you find that you’re running the same pace, distance, and course every day, it’s time to switch up your training.
“The body needs a balanced and varied workout regimen to build endurance, speed, and stamina,” explains two-time Olympic Trials qualifier Nikki Rafie. “This means your running plan should include tempo runs in addition to long slow distance to improve overall performance.”
Need another reason to pick up the pace? Runners tend to get more enjoyment out of high-intensity workouts than moderate- to low-intensity workouts, according to a study in the Journal of Sports Sciences. In short, running fast is more fun than running slow, and there’s no shortage of research underscoring the link between fun and athletic performance.
Science is pretty clear when it comes to whether strength training can benefit endurance athletes—it does—yet it remains one of the most overlooked elements of many cardio programs. “Strength training can not only improve speed and power, it can help improve cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and efficiency, allowing you to perform the same workouts with less energy expenditure,” says Gill.
What’s more, strength work can help reduce the risk of running injuries not only by strengthening muscles, but also by reinforcing ligaments and tendons. Just two to three strength sessions per week is all you need to help you learn how to run faster.
Make Recovery a Priority
Taking time to recover from tough workouts is just as important as the workouts themselves. If you don’t allow your body time to bounce back, you’ll likely run yourself straight into an injury.
“The body is always trying to self-regulate and heal itself, and that’s why rest days are important,” says Rafie. “The joints and muscles need time to rest so the body can heal, rather than breaking down from continuous wear and tear.”
For most runners, this means taking at least one day off from training each week. You should also alternate hard and easy days so that your body can perform optimally in each workout.
Eat Like an Athlete
Burning tons of calories through regular exercise doesn’t give you a license to eat all of the junk food you want—at least, not if you want to figure out how to run faster and farther. Indeed, targeted nutrition and strategic eating—including taking in the right amount and the right kinds of calories—are essential to increasing energy levels, boosting performance, maximizing gains, and accelerating recovery.
Most people focus on protein intake, but carbs are just as important—especially when it comes to “metabolic recovery,” or topping off the fuel stores your body uses to create energy.
“Taking in the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats between workouts will replenish energy stores, rebuild muscles, and provide enough vitamins and minerals for overall health and wellness,” explains Gill, who is also a licensed sports nutritionist. “If you don’t, your body won’t be able to perform properly, and will ultimately break down.”