How to Run Faster Based on Your Runner Archetype

There are so many ways of improving: higher mileage, strength training, faster workouts… But if you want to know how to run faster, which is best for you?

how to run faster

No matter who you are or how long you’ve been running, there are concrete ways to reduce your injury risk, run more consistently, and learn how to run faster.

But each training strategy is different and not always appropriate for every runner. You might be ready to hit the gym for more advanced weightlifting or start running 50 miles per week but that doesn’t mean I am!

Instead, I want to highlight three archetypes of runners. You might not exactly fit into one of these categories but they’ll give you a good idea of the necessary steps for improvement.

A majority of runners find themselves in these situations regularly.

Now, you’ll know more about the options available to you, so that you can keep making progress toward your goals.

But first, which runner are you?

The Often Injured Runner

runner injured

Every few days, I get a variation of this question:

“I can get to about 2 miles and then my knee starts to hurt. Should I keep trying to train for the half marathon?”

With any substantial injury, you can’t focus on treatment while trying to train for a race. Only healthy runners can train well.

The goals and approach are very different so it’s far more effective to focus on one thing at a time.

This is why…

  • Runners focus on weight loss before we focus on training
  • Bodybuilders focus on gaining size before they focus on leaning down
  • We should always focus on treatment before training

This sentiment was explained well by performance coach and author of Peak Performance Brad Stulberg:

So if you do find yourself chronically injured, injury prevention must be a priority if you hope to get off the dysfunctional merry-go-round.

Three of the most effective strategies for staying healthy include:

  • A 10-minute series of dynamic warm up exercises before you start running
  • Slowing down your easy runs (easy should feel easy: controlled, comfortable, and conversational)
  • A 10-20 minute sequence of runner-specific strength exercises after each run

Building athleticism, increasing strength, and reducing some stress are sound ways to stay healthy.

Of course, the most important aspect of injury prevention is not strength training (or foam rolling… or ice baths… or compression socks…) but the structure of your training.

I spoke about this in this video.

To learn more about this training structure – and why it’s far more productive at preventing injuries than gym work – we have a free email course set up for you.

Sign up here and you’ll get the first coaching lesson right away.

The High-Achieving Runner

 

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Running is fun!

This is the runner that we all aspire to be. Healthy, running strong, and well informed about how to train effectively.

Despite everything going well, they’re not entirely sure what to do next. How can they keep progressing? What more can this runner do?

It’s true that the faster you get, the harder it is to keep improving.

Just look at me: in the first 9 months of my running career, I went from a 6:20 mile to a 5:02 mile. But it took seven more years to run 4:33!

Any runner who is bumping up against their physiological limits must be looking at “the next logical step” in their training.

After all, if you want your race times to improve, you have to first improve your training.

You’re probably in this category if you find yourself:

  • Running well but without many Personal Bests
  • Race times have stagnated
  • You think you’re doing everything “right” but your results aren’t budging

These runners need to take the next step. Two of the most effective strategies include running higher mileage and lifting weights.

Higher mileage is arguably the best way to improve. The benefits are undeniable:

  • Denser mitochondria, the “energy factories” of muscle cells
  • Stronger muscles and more resilience to injuries
  • Higher capacity for work (the ultimate runner’s dream)

When you can run a lot, running faster gets a lot easier.

Weightlifting is another great option for high-achieving runners who want to figure out how to run faster. The benefits include:

  • More strength, power, and global athleticism
  • Improved running economy (so you can go faster at the same effort)
  • Better ability to sprint and kick hard at the end of a race
  • Injury prevention

A periodized, progressive, and runner-specific strength program has the potential to dramatically transform your running career.

Since most runners don’t lift weights (and those who do don’t lift as appropriately as they could be), there’s a lot of potential for improvement.

If you’re not sure where to start – or you’re looking for a “one and done” strength program for runners, we’ve got you covered.

Our free strength series will show you the mistakes to avoid, sample exercises, case studies, and more.

The Lost Runner

run faster xc

No, I don’t mean lost when out for a run. That will happen to all of us sooner or later!

This is the runner that struggles with consistency. They sit down on Sunday night and wonder what they’re going to run this upcoming week.

Many runners are in this position. They’re just not sure if they’re doing the right thing. They ask questions like:

  • “I just want to be more consistent. How do I keep improving?”
  • “I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing… I hate wondering what to do!”
  • “I’ve been at 2:10 in the half marathon forever. I don’t think I’ll ever go sub-2:00.”

If you find yourself afloat in a sea of conflicting information, have hope! Shore is just over the horizon…

First, recognize that any lack of consistency might just be because you’re bored. And that’s ok! Running can get repetitive sometimes…

But a varied running program can alleviate boredom. It’s like Coach Mario Fraioli recently said:

I’ll add that trail running can be an exceptionally fun way to inject more exhilaration into your running!

But if variety isn’t your problem, I recommend a three-step approach for these runners:

  1. Read a running book. It doesn’t matter too much which book it is, but choose one that explains the training process.
  2. Be patient! Learning something new and developing competence takes time (often years).
  3. Find support: a coach, running partner, training group, or online community of other runners like you.

Immersing yourself in the sport is one of the most fun ways of learning more about running. You’ll also improve at a faster rate!

But it’s also true that finding a club that works with your schedule or hiring a personal running coach can be difficult or expensive. And we all don’t have friends who want to run with us at 5:30 in the morning…

Strength Running has an affordable group coaching program called Team Strength Running that makes your running easier.

For those who want a supportive team, coaching guidance, and ongoing education about the sport, this is for you.

Get notified when enrollment opens next and I’ll send you all the details when it’s time.

Stacking the Building Blocks of Improvement

 

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Learning!

Progress is not guaranteed. But for those runners who want to know how to run faster, we have the tools to make it happen.

Just like there is a hierarchy of injury prevention, there’s also a hierarchy of speed development:

  • Develop some fitness to run consistently and build your ability to run even more
  • Learn more about running. Knowledge is a competitive advantage!
  • Focus on injury prevention to stay healthy and build momentum
  • Lift weights to improve strength and resiliency
  • Run higher mileage
  • Run faster, longer, or more frequent workouts

Depending on where your running is at the moment, you now have new ideas and strategies to keep progressing.

Instead of implementing all of these suggestions at once, choose one at first and get comfortable with it. After a few weeks, you’ll be ready to start incorporating more of these strategies.

After a few months, you’ll be a whole new runner.

Before you go, I have questions for you!

What is your favorite strategy for running faster? How do you improve when you’ve hit a performance plateau? What works for you?

Leave your recommendations in the comments below and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

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Comments

  1. I m definitely interested to make it a better run

  2. Currently working on more mileage, as I have only ever trained for a couple of half marathons and am now aiming at a “Full” ……. with this I have also had to up my pre-habing routines to ensure there are no muscle imbalances which can lead to injuries ……. I have noticed my speed is increasing slightly and I believe this to be from the extra strength routine (lifting) and the addition of adding a lot more miles/kilometers

  3. Reanea W. says:

    This was very informative. I’m a beginning runner and fall into the category of often injured. In this article you mentioned that runners focus on losing weight before training. What then shall I focus on? Thanks so much!

  4. Jen Major says:

    Hi Jason! Great article. I would say I fall into the High-Achieving runner. I went from mid-packer to consistently placing in my age group within a few years. But lately, those race times have stagnated. I am already peaking at about 70 mpw during a marathon build-up, so I wonder if I should aim for more mileage, or change up my strength routine. I am sure I could do better strength-wise, even though I commit to two sessions per week already. I will say, since committing to your pre-hab routines, consistent core sessions, dynamic warm-up, etc., I have never felt this good before a marathon. I am used to feeling trashed 3 weeks before race day, but I am less fatigued, I run smoothly, and I recover quickly.

    • Right, you’re already training incredibly. You might not need more mileage, but better (not necessarily faster) workouts, weightlifting, and patience (if you’ve only been training like this for a few years, you still have more progress to come!).

  5. Colleen Wait says:

    I need to do more speed work and runner specific weight training. I do them, I just need to do more. I recently started doing speed intervals on the treadmill and it is helping. I just don’t seem to be doing enough. I mentally check out before my body does. It’s a slow process and that frustrates me.

  6. Roman Benedit says:

    Jason, as you know I was sidelined with ITBS for about 6 months and Finally in August of this year is when I’ve been able to run pain free. For me weighted strength exercises along with SR Routines is what has helped me. I’m now running 30 – 40 seconds faster thanks to the tools in SR. As a matter of fact this week as been just awesome as I’m building up my long run. Was able to do 7 mile in 62 minutes and “ZERO PAIN”
    I went from not being able to run 1000 feet certain days to now being hit higher mileage goals. I’m still learning and improving as I move along just trying to become better at the basics of what I’ve learned so far. Thanks Jason

  7. Hi Jason, I have been following your running blogs for quite sometime and I find them very useful! I am also subscriber of your HPL product and it’s proved to be game changer for me. I used to fall under the category of often injured runner and the rehab period used to be quite frustrating. I used your HPL program while preparing for a HM and after completion of the program I became more of a confident runner (gaining bit of extra pace was secondary for me!! ). And I am sure the more I practise (strength training) and stay consistent with structured training program, I will see more improvement in my runs (getting PBs will be bypart). Keep up the good work & keep posting blogs, you are motivating lot of runners out there!!

  8. Dawn Hudson says:

    Stuck in a 9 min mile for years. Had several PRs in marathons but never that ultimate time goal I wanted. I currently run 35-50 miles per week and weight train 3x a week. Started adding speed ladder workouts to my weekly training, also instead of 3-4 tempo miles in a mid distance run- bumped it up to 6-8 tempo miles. Added a third speed day of an all out 20 seconds above 5k pace run for as long as I could sustain (usually less than 2-3 miles) each week. After doing this for about 10 weeks straight I dropped my mile time to 8 minutes easily. I just beat my half marathon PR by 4 minutes and am looking to continue this speed going into a full marathon. I should add that I always do the strength running before and after routines for each run. Thanks Jason!!

  9. I’d love to improve and PR again but as a 56 yr old Master’s runner, it seems to be more about maintaining and staying injury free. Recovery is KING along with balanced easy/hard running. Speedwork has helped perk up my slowing pace. That ‘s been fun to feel developing. I also do a lot of strength/mobility work, daily rope stretching and just added short, easy yoga sessions.

  10. Edward G Wickham says:

    My strategy to continue to improve is to have a coach that gives you challenging, “just beyond your reach” types of workouts, be it pace or distance, or workout type related. Then I suspend my own disbelief that the workout isn’t doable and just go out and do it to the best of my ability. We are all stronger and faster than we believe we are.

  11. Hi Jason, I would fit the lost runner. I was running the exact same miles and getting slower. Then I contacted you for the PR Marathon training plan. I received the plan about a month before I needed to start for it to match the 20 weeks….but I started doing the warm-up and exercises with my current running. I’m in the 3rd week now and I can’t believe the difference the warm-up, strides, core and IT band routine are making. I never warmed up before because I considered myself a slow runner so why bother…..Now I see why I should bother. My legs feel awake and ready to move. I really like the list of exercises….squats, lunges, planks etc and when to do them. Thank you for my plan. I know the strength workouts are making a difference and in a very short period of time.

  12. Martin Devine says:

    It seems to me that I fit (at least in part) into all three types – have had quite a few injuries over the years that I’ve been running, tend to train (and choose/enter races) without a plan or specific long-term aim, and have a feeling that I’m getting close to running the best times that I’m capable of.

    A couple of things that have worked for me in the past:
    – being able to run/train consistently over an extended period of time (something that hasn’t happened as often as I would like in the past – as I’ve already said, I’m a bit prone to getting injured…)
    – you need to run fast in order to get faster! In other words, I’ve found that it helps to do at least some training at faster than your race goal pace. This is where parkrun has helped me a lot – a free timed 5k run every Saturday morning, which I often use as a tempo run (as I find it a lot easier to run at a fast pace when there are other runners around me)

    There’s also something that I do in races that helps mentally – while I wear my GPS watch during a race, I have it set up to show distance and heart rate only, and run with the aim of getting to the finish line feeling that I’ve given everything that I had on the day, and letting the time take care of itself. I’ve found that this helps to simplify things when I’m running – takes away the temptation to analyse and calculate (and potentially talk myself into slowing down because I must be going too fast…) This has led to some great experiences approaching the finish line, and several times that were a good bit faster than I could have hoped for – my first sub-3 marathon (Lochaber 2014 – punched the air when I saw the clock showing 2:55 at the finish line, then remembered that I still had a bit of running to do!), improving my PB at Loch Ness in 2015 (2:51) and 2017 (2:49), and the perfect storm at the Edinburgh Marathon this year (took 4 minutes off my PB on a day where everything just worked – the only (minor!) irritation was finishing just outside 2:45…)

  13. Michael Blake says:

    Hi Jason,

    Many thanks for your daily encouragement in running! My tracking app tells me I’ve done over 6400km since 2010 – I’m 67 years. I enjoy running 7 to 10km 3-5 times a week, and my usual route (7.1km) gets me to climb 140m. I have had a couple of injuries – slight tear in calf, stretched Achilles, and weak knee. I have benefitted from using (some) of your exercises in your Ballerina Routine – especially the Iron Cross and single leg half knee swats. The swats have been superb in strengthening my angle and knee joints, and have improved my balance. Iron Cross enhances flexibility in my back. Recently I noticed I’d started to let my toe scrape the ground a little. I started reminding myself to lift my feet, which then meant a longer stride and slightly faster times.

    My 7km route starts me on 2km local streets to some local foothills, about 2km on a trail climbing 140m, then a 3 km along suburban streets back home. My 10km route is along a coastal bike track – very level. This year my best pace for 10km is 5.30km/min, and 5.50km/min for my 7km run. Reasonably slow, but injury free!

    Thanks for your regular encouragement.

  14. I ran my first half at 55 which was Auckland Marathon in 2.04 and tried again next year with same result despite more longer runs. So the 3 rd year I ran it in 1.59 and was thrilled having broken the 2 hr barrier. I believe this was due to joining get running Thursday night group. We did Fartlek, intervals and also I ran 4 x a week instead of only 3. Made a 5 min improvement due to this.

  15. Janet Ayeni says:

    Thanks for this article… I think I find myself in between the second and third! I want to get better at running 10km so I decided not to train for any half marathon this year though I’ve seen a lot of improvement with my timings for half’s and I can’t transfer it to my 10ks.. so my goal is to run 10km at 49’ ! So I’ll be working on more weight lifting and hill workout as one of your other articles suggested!

    Thanks for all the training tips????????

  16. dinesh solanki says:

    hi, i am a regular runner and want improve my pace how i can improve it.

  17. I competed in my first 5K at 22 but didn’t run my first half marathon until I was 56. I’ve completed 8 now and have managed to place in the top 6 in my age division at each. Best time 1:58 and best placing 2nd. However, my times are slowing. Is it unrealistic of me at 62 to want to go faster?

  18. Leigh J Cant says:

    I am the stacking of building blocks. I have been struggling mentally for a couple of years and changed up my running routine to more mileage and more strength training . My breathing was very hard and intense so I practice a lot of breathing excerises for my lungs. I ran a race last weekend one of my runs every year and I won my age group and got my best 5k time this year. Gives me a high to keep going and reach my goal of 29:00 for a 5k.

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