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Be a better runner

8 strategies to increase your speed
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

If you've been running for a while, or can comfortably manage a number of miles, you may want to challenge yourself to run faster and run for longer.

You may want to shave a few minutes off a 5km race time or just want to do a bit more and go to the next level with your running. Whatever the reason there are plenty of strategies to help you out.

1. Run for the hills

There are plenty of research studies that show the effectiveness of hill sprints when it comes to boosting leg and lung strength and ultimately running speed.

Running uphill is slower than running on level ground but the leg muscles are being strengthened which will make for faster times on flatter ground.

A study at the University of Georgia found uphill running activated more muscle compared with exercising at the same relative intensity on level ground.

"Hill sessions are classic for speed work as going uphill reduces impact and injuries," says David James, Professor of Exercise Science at the University of Gloucestershire.

2. A need for speed

If you've been a recreational runner for a while you may well have your pace which suits you and is comfortable.

"If you always run the same way you will plateau," warns running coach and trainer Karen Weir.

So if you want to get better you'll need to ramp it up a bit. Your body needs to get used to what it feels like to run really fast. Remember as a child when you just went for it, running as fast as you could? It was brilliant fun then and it can be just as good now! It'll be harder though and you may not want to do it but it will pay dividends. Even sprinting in 10 second bursts will help.

"Your body needs to get used to the speed work," says David. "Because it's operating at a higher intensity, start off with short speed intervals and build them up, so your body gradually has less and then no rest between the intervals, so that you'll eventually be able to sustain the desired speed."

3. Endurance runs

If your aim is to run longer distances the best way to build endurance is to run longer distances! Do it gradually, don't go from a 5km to a 10km straight away. Up your distance incrementally.

"There's no doubt the base of long slow distance work coupled with speed work on top is the key to better and faster running," says David.

He says: "Individuals adapt well and quickly so the speed work and long slow distance work combined should have a noticeable effect quite quickly."

He reckons if you do 10km in 50 minutes you should be able to get it down to 45 minutes within 3 or 4 months if you mix up your running.

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