If you’ve been around for a minute or two, you’ve seen our How to Start Running Guide + How to Fuel Your Run. At this point, you are pretty set to start your running journey! But we constantly get asked about going beyond the basics to really understand what is needed to take your running to the next level. So, let’s get into it!
Disclaimer: There are entire books and seminars out there on how to run faster, but what we have below is a great overview of some things you can work to tackle to help you reach your goals.
Proper Running Form
Proper running form is a key ingredient to increased efficiency while running and avoiding injury. We could spend hours to days to discussing the proper form (it gets pretty technical!), but for today, we’re going to give you a solid starting point. The best form includes in the following:
- Run tall and have your gaze straight ahead. Your head should be level.
- Shoulders should be relaxed, pulled back and down, away from your ears.
- Elbows should stay close to the body and move backwards at a 90 degree angle. Arms should swing naturally and in rhythm with legs. Arms should not cross over your body.
- Hips should be aligned with head and shoulders.
- Feet should land on the ground on your midfoot (the middle part of your foot).
- A slight lean forward from the ground (not the hips) is ideall.
It’s important to note that not all of this can be fixed at once, nor should it be. Work on one key area for a few weeks and move on to the next until you have completed each to the best of your ability.
While this form is considered “ideal”, we want to make note of something else that’s pretty important. Each body is different and will have different mechanics. Your stride doesn’t have to look like an Olympian in order to run faster. But if you are constantly plagued by injury, it may be time to take a harder look at your form. If you’re interested in seeing a trained professional for this support, we know several experts that we are happy to recommend.
For more detailed information on proper running form, visit this article from Road Runner Sports.
Warm-Up and Cool Down
A warm-up is necessary to basically tell your muscles it’s time to work. To make the most out of your workout, your muscles need to be warm, but they also need to be told how to fire. To get started, we like to follow the “10 for 10” rule. 10 for 10 means starting the day’s run with a 10 minute mile pace for 10 minutes (or one mile). For some, a 10 minute mile pace is too fast and that’s okay! Just add about 90 seconds on your average running pace. The goal is to get things moving slow and steady. This is even more crucial as you continue to age!
After the 10 for 10, we move into a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warmup is a series of movements designed to activate the nervous system, increase range of movement and blood/oxygen flow to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments before they’re called upon to do serious work. Some of our favorites include:
After a workout, a cool down is equally as important as the warm-up. A cool down relaxes your muscles and lowers your heart and breathing rate. It helps your body to eliminate lactic acid and other waste products faster and to repair micro-injuries. Typically, we like to cool down for 5-10 minutes in the form of a light jog or even a walk. After a cool down, we also do what we call “strides” after some of our workouts (we’ll let you know which ones below). What we call a stride is really a falling start drill. The purpose of finishing a workout with these drills to reinforce proper running form/mechanics and work on your foot speed. We typically do 4-6 strides at about 40 yards or so. Be sure to fully recover between each stride. A video of a falling start can be found here.
Types of Runs
To help you run faster, you can vary the type of running workouts you do. Examples include:
- Long – Depending on your goals and current ability, long runs have different means for everyone. But typically long runs are 1.5 or 2 times as long as your day-to-day runs. Long runs should be performed at a steady pace with the ability to speak easily. The benefits of long runs include increased cardiovascular capability, muscular strength and endurance.
- Recovery – Recovery runs are the unsung heroes of the running workouts. They are 100% necessary and should be considered for any training program. These runs are short, easy-paced runs that are usually performed the day after a long or harder workout. The benefits of this style of run is exactly as the name indicates — recovery. It’s thought that these easy sessions may flush out lactic acid and help prevent/recover from muscle soreness while speeding up recovery.
- Tempo – Tempos runs are runs that are completed at a sustained, increased effort, usually for 20 minutes or more. The goal is to hit your anaerobic threshold. This means that during a tempo run, you should not be able to carry out a conversation but you should be able to speak in broken fragments. If you can’t speak at all, you are going too fast. The benefits of this style of workout include increased lactate threshold, focus and mental + physical strength.
- Interval – Interval workouts are usually noted by short, intense effort intervals followed by equal or slightly longer recovery intervals. For example, 90 seconds of hard work (but not a full sprint) followed by 90 seconds to two minutes of active rest (very slow jog), then repeat. The benefits of this style of workout include improved endurance, running form and coordination.
- Fartlek – Ok, we promise we didn’t make this word up! And it’s perfectly fine to giggle the first time you say it 🙂 Fartlek is actually a Swedish word for “speed play”. It’s similar to an interval run in that you alternate between moderate and hard efforts, but it’s less structured. Fartlek can be considered more “fun” because you can make up your own intervals as you go. For example, you can increase your intensity until you get to a certain tree up ahead or maybe to a stop sign or traffic light. After your increased intensity session, you follow it up with an easy effort recovery. The benefits of this style of workout include improved mind-body awareness, mental strength and increased stamina.
- Hill Repeats – If you live in Atlanta, and run it’s streets, you know hills are unavoidable. But depending on your goals and any upcoming races, you may consider hitting up a big hill and doing hill repeats. This means working hard up the hill (but not a full sprint) and recovering on the down hill. You can start with 2 or 3 hill repeats and work your way up to about 8.
Running strength is more than just your cardio endurance. Having core, upper and lower body strength can significantly impact your running speeds. We recommend trying to work in strength training at least twice a week. Strength training can be done on an off-running day or on a recovery run day (depending on what you are training for). Exercises that are great for runners include:
We would love to see you in action! If you post anything on social media, please tag us (@thehealthypeaches) and or use our running hashtag (#THPrun).
Kell & Kels