Start Running Faster, Become Stronger, and Improve Your Race Times
Perform Interval Workouts
Interval workouts are a fun way to work on your speed. A great way to do this is through various track workouts, such as 400m (one lap around the track) repeats. After a 5- to 10-minute warm-up, alternate between running one 400m at your 5K pace and jogging one slow, easy recovery lap. Start with two or three 400m repeats (with a recovery lap in between each), and try to work your way up to five or six.
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.
Tackle Tempo Runs
Tempo runs help you develop your anaerobic threshold, which is critical for running faster. To do a tempo run, start your run with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running, then continue with 15 to 20 minutes of running at about 10 seconds slower than your 10K pace. Finish with 5 to 10 minutes of cooling down. If you're not sure what your 10K pace is, run at a pace that feels "comfortably hard."
Do Some Hill Training
The more you run hills, the less intimidating they'll seem when you encounter them on race day. And, hill repeats are an efficient way to become a stronger runner. Find a fairly steep hill that's about 80 to 100 meters long. Run at a constant rapid pace to the top of the hill, and slowly jog back down. Always run controlled and steady, focusing on good form. Start with 4 to 5 repeats once a week, and gradually work your way up to 8 to 10 repeats.
As an added bonus, uphill running can improve your upper body strength. Hill training forces you to drive your arms harder than you do when running on flat ground.
Learn to Fartlek, and Fartlek Well
Fartleks allow you to be creative during your runs and perhaps break up any monotony, as well as help you become faster over time. During a 30-minute run, choose objects to run to, such as: buildings, telephone poles, trees, picnic tables, or other landmarks. Choose markers that represent various distances, so your speed segments vary in length from 20 to 90 seconds. As you do fartleks, you learn modify your pace to match those distances. One of the keys to getting faster is to learn what it feels like to pick up the pace.
If you're already trying to shed some pounds, here's more incentive: research shows that, on average, runners get two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. For example, a 15-pound weight loss would shave about one minute, 30 seconds off your 5K race time! How's that for motivation!
Here's a tip: try eating your fruits and vegetables first. They are low in calories and they'll fill you up. As a result, you'll be less tempted to eat more of the higher-calorie foods.
Embrace Rest Days
Running hard every day of the week will not make you faster in the long term. Rest is critical to the recovery and injury prevention. Take one day off completely each week. Your muscles actually build and repair themselves during these rest days.
Racing is a skill, and to become proficient at any skill, you need to practice it repeatedly to show improvement. If your goal is to win a top spot in your age group or run a specific time in a race, it only makes sense to run more races to help you develop that needed experience.
It's possible to shave some seconds or maybe even minutes off your finishing time with smart racing strategies. To begin, study the upcoming course, and make sure you don't start out too fast.