Whether you’re running a 5K, marathon, or ultramarathon, modestly improving your splits (i.e. how fast you run each individual mile) can result in markedly faster overall times. I know what you’re thinking, “Easier said than done, Dean.” And I agree: Increasing your pace is one of those things that sounds conceivable in theory, but is difficult in practice. But don’t worry. I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that can help.
Experiment with the strategies below during your training runs. In the Fitbit app you’ll be able to see how each technique affects your overall times, average pace, and splits. If you’re using a device with PurePulse, you’ll also be able to track your heart rate zones, which can help you decide if whether you’re working too hard or not hard enough.
Ready to learn how to increase running speed? Lace up and dig in.
4 Ways to Run Faster
1. Start Slow and Controlled
Going as fast as you can out of the gate might seem like the most efficient way to log the most miles, but it’s not. In fact, starting fast and holding that cadence for the duration of your race (especially over long distances) can increase the likelihood that you’ll hit a wall, which can add as much as 60 minutes to your finish time. Instead, start slow and controlled, and don’t worry if your split time is higher than usual. By not burning through all your energy at the beginning, you may be able to finish stronger, which can make up for the time difference.
2. Change Your Stride
Many people tend to take the longest stride possible, thinking they’ll cover more ground. Instead, focus on shorter strides and more rapid foot turnover. Taking shorter, quicker steps helps your body assume a more upright posture and relaxes the back muscles, which can help your hips align properly—all good things for your cadence. Some experts recommend aiming for 180 steps per minute, which is similar to an elite runner’s cadence. To find your cadence, divide the number of steps you took during a run by the total number of minutes you ran (both numbers are available in the Fitbit app when you log a run).
3. Take Walking Breaks
Many runners are reluctant to walk, but it could lead to your fastest time. According to Olympic runner-turned-coach Jeff Galloway—who developed a popular Run-Walk-Run program known as “The Galloway Method”—run-walk-runners tend to finish half marathons an average of seven minutes faster than non-stop runners. In addition to making the mileage more manageable, Galloway notes on his website that taking walking breaks can also help to reduce your risk of pain and injury, ease fatigue, and create an endorphin rush.
4. Sweat the Small Stuff
Minor disruptions can turn into major headaches, so do a self-check before you start your run. That means double knotting your laces, lubricating areas prone to chafing, using the bathroom, and, if you’re about to race, ensuring your number is securely fastened to your jersey.
What are you doing to get faster? Join the running group in Fitbit Community to swap tips, share encouragement, and stay motivated.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.