Woman running outside

Peloton’s Ultimate Guide to Running Faster and Meeting Your Speed Goals

Learn how to improve your speed and unlock your true running potential with these tips.

By Team PelotonAugust 30, 2023


If you’re a running enthusiast who’s ready to take things to the next level by running faster and hitting new speeds, you’ve come to the right place! This guide is packed with useful information—including expert advice, tips, and techniques from Peloton instructor Becs Gentry—that will help you unlock your potential and become a stronger, faster runner. 

So lace up those running shoes and let's embark on this exhilarating journey together. Are you ready to become the fastest version of yourself? Let's go!

What Determines Running Speed?

We all know running is much more than just putting one leg in front of another. There are many factors contributing to how fast we can run, and understanding them early in your fitness journey allows you to tap into your technique and boost your speed in the process. First, let's dive into what can determine your speed and how you might unlock your full potential.

Stride Length and Frequency

Your running speed is a product of two essential factors: stride length and stride frequency. Stride length refers to the distance covered with each step, while stride frequency, also known as cadence, is the number of steps you take per minute. By working on both, you can significantly improve your running speed. Remember, studies have shown the perfect balance between stride length and frequency is unique to each individual, so experiment and find the sweet spot that works best for you.

Muscular Strength

Stronger muscles contribute to faster running speeds. Your leg muscles—particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves—play a vital role in propelling you forward with greater force. Becs suggests adding exercises such as squats and deadlifts into your workouts, as they target most, if not all, of these muscle groups. And a strong core is important for maintaining stability and preventing injuries, so make sure to add core exercises into your routine as well.


Flexibility is often an overlooked aspect of running speed, but it can be a game-changer. Greater flexibility allows for a more extensive range of motion, which can lead to longer strides and improved running efficiency. Incorporate regular stretching and dynamic warm-ups into your training to enhance your flexibility and reap the benefits. Some of Becs’s favorite stretches are seated calf and hamstring stretches and rotational glute stretches.

Running Technique

Your running technique can have a significant impact on your speed. By fine-tuning your form, you can reduce wasted energy and run more efficiently. Focus on maintaining a slight forward lean, keeping your head up, and swinging your arms in sync with your legs. Additionally, aim for a forefoot strike, as this has been reported in the International Journal of Sports Medicine to reduce the risk of injury and improve overall performance.

Aerobic Capacity

A higher aerobic capacity means your body can deliver more oxygen to your muscles during exercise, allowing you to run faster and longer. To increase your aerobic capacity, incorporate a mix of endurance runs, interval training, and tempo runs into your routine. These workouts will challenge your cardiovascular system and help you build a strong aerobic base, ultimately leading to faster running times.

“Developing a base of aerobic or steady state training teaches your body how to efficiently put to use the oxygen you’re consuming and utilizing during training,” says Becs. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of training should be building or maintaining your aerobic capacity, while 20 percent can be focused on increasing your speed.

How to Measure Your Speed and Set Goals 

Understanding your running speed and setting achievable goals can be an essential part of your fitness journey. Here, we’ll guide you through the process of measuring your speed and setting realistic yet challenging goals that will keep you motivated and inspired.

Step 1: Assess Your Current Running Speed

First things first: It's important to know your current running speed. To do this, find a level, well-measured running track or use a GPS-enabled device to accurately track your distance. Warm up properly, then run a specific distance (Becs suggests a mile) at a comfortably hard pace. Record your time and use it as your baseline. This will give you a clear starting point to set achievable goals and measure progress against.

Step 2: Understand Your Pace Zones

Now that you know your baseline speed, it's time to familiarize yourself with different pace zones. These zones range from an easy/recovery pace to maximum effort sprints. By training within these zones, you can target specific aspects of fitness, such as endurance, aerobic capacity, and muscular strength. A well-rounded training program incorporates workouts in each zone, which not only boosts your performance improvements but also adds variety and excitement to your routine.

Step 3: Set SMART Goals

When setting your running goals, follow the SMART guidelines: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This means setting clear, quantifiable goals that are challenging yet attainable, aligned with your overall fitness objectives, and that have a deadline for achieving them. For example, instead of a general goal like I want to run faster, set the specific goal of I want to improve my 5K time by two minutes within the next three months.

Step 4: Track Your Progress and Adjust Your Goals

As you work toward your goals, regularly gauge your progress by repeating your baseline assessment. This will help you see the improvements in your running speed and allow you to make any necessary adjustments to your goals or training program. Remember that progress may not always be linear, so be patient, stay positive, and celebrate your achievements along the way.

Man running outside

How to Run Faster

Whether you're a seasoned runner looking to shave seconds off your personal best or a beginner eager to pick up the pace, this section is for you. Let's dive into the techniques and strategies that will empower you to reach new speeds and hit greater milestones in your running journey.

1. Perfect Your Running Form

Proper running form is critical to increasing your speed. It not only helps you run more efficiently, but also minimizes the risk of injury. Focus on keeping your head up, your shoulders relaxed, and your arms swinging naturally. Maintain a slight forward lean and avoid overstriding, which can slow you down and lead to injury. Don’t over-complicate things; studies have shown that the most efficient running technique is the one that feels natural to you. And remember, practice makes perfect. By consistently working on your form, you'll soon see improvements in your speed and overall performance.

2. Incorporate Speed Workouts

To run faster, you need to train your body to adapt to higher speeds. One of the most effective ways to do this is by incorporating speed workouts into your training routine. These sessions can include interval training, tempo runs, and hill sprints, among others.   

“If your idea is to run faster for longer, focus your speed work on longer interval work,” suggests Becs. For example, try running at a higher speed for a set distance or time, followed by a recovery period, and then repeat. These workouts help build your cardiovascular endurance and teach your body to run more efficiently at faster paces.

3. Strengthen Your Core and Legs

A strong core and powerful leg muscles are essential for maintaining good form and generating speed. Incorporate exercises like planks, lunges, and squats into your workout routine to build strength and stability. Additionally, consider adding plyometric exercises, such as box jumps or bounding, to help increase your leg power and explosiveness. Remember, a strong and stable body is the foundation for increased speed.

4. Prioritize Recovery and Rest

We can't stress this enough: Recovery is crucial for improving your running performance. Make sure you're giving your body enough time to rest and repair itself after intense workouts. This includes getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, and fueling your body with the right nutrients. By prioritizing recovery, you'll prevent burnout and ensure that you're ready to tackle your next speed workout feeling refreshed.

5. Stay Consistent and Patient

Improving your running speed takes time, dedication, and patience. Stay consistent with your training and keep a positive mindset. “All running progress takes time,” Becs says, “so patience is super important to have a handle on in all types of training.” 

Form and Technique

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced runner, you've probably heard about the importance of form and technique but may not have a clear understanding of what this actually means. Read on to learn how to run faster, more effectively, and with a lower risk of injury.

The Key Elements of Good Running Posture

Great running form starts with maintaining an upright posture. Keep your head up and your eyes focused on the horizon, which will naturally align your spine and help you breathe more efficiently. Relax your shoulders, avoiding any tension or hunching. Your arms should swing naturally at your sides, with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle (as long as this feels comfortable to you).

As for your lower body, aim for a fore-foot strike, where your foot lands directly beneath your knee. This will help you avoid overstriding and promote more efficiency overall. Engage your core muscles to maintain stability and balance, and try to maintain a consistent cadence, aiming for the golden number of 180 steps per minute—but don’t stress if you're not hitting this right away. Give yourself time.

Tips for Enhancing Your Running Technique

  • Practice drills: Incorporate specific running drills, such as high knees, butt kicks, and skipping, into your routine to target and improve your form. These exercises help you develop muscle memory and reinforce proper movement patterns.

  • Incorporate strength training: Strengthening your core, hips, and legs can significantly enhance your running form. Adding exercises like planks, lunges, and squats to your routine will help to build a strong foundation for your running technique.

  • Record yourself: Video analysis can be an invaluable tool in identifying areas for improvement. Record yourself running from different angles and review the footage to pinpoint aspects of your form that may need work.

  • Get advice: Don't hesitate to seek guidance from experienced runners, coaches, or trainers. They can provide personalized tips and feedback based on your unique running style and goals.

Patience and Consistency

Improving your running form and technique is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. Embrace the challenge and remember that every step you take toward better form will bring you closer to a more efficient, enjoyable, and injury-free running experience.

Running on treadmill

Recovery and Rest 

When it comes to physical fitness and exercise, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that more is better. However, in reality, when it comes to making progress and improving your overall fitness level, rest and recovery are just as important as the actual exercise itself.

During rest periods, your body has the chance to repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue, replenish energy stores, and strengthen the connections between nerve cells that control muscle movement. Additionally, rest periods can help prevent injury and reduce the risk of overtraining, which can lead to fatigue, burnout, and decreased performance.

We recommend incorporating both active and passive recovery methods into your training routine. Active recovery includes low-intensity workouts, like gentle stretching or yoga, which can help increase blood flow and speed up the healing process. Passive recovery consists of complete rest, taking a break from any physical activity to allow you to fully recharge.

Don't forget to listen to your body! If you feel sore or fatigued, it's a sign that you need to step back and allow yourself some rest. Remember, every runner is unique, and so are their recovery needs. 

How to Build Muscle to Run Faster

It's crucial to incorporate strength training into your routine. This doesn't mean you have to become a bodybuilder, but adding targeted exercises like squats, lunges, calf raises, and deadlifts can work wonders for your running muscles. These moves can address muscle imbalances, increase stability, and improve your running form, which will translate to greater speed and endurance. We recommend starting with one session, then building up to two to three strength training sessions per week, focusing on major muscle groups such as glutes, quads, core, hamstrings, and calves.

Another essential aspect of muscle-building is proper nutrition. We can’t overstate the importance of fueling your body with the right nutrients to support muscle growth and recovery. Eating a healthy balance of proteins, carbs, and fats will provide your body with the energy it needs to perform at its best and recover efficiently after each workout.

Lastly, don't forget that if you’re running consistently and hitting those targets, you’re building and strengthening your muscles along the way. Incorporating explosive movements—such as simple sprints and jumps—into your running sessions will target essential running muscles, allowing you to run further for longer.

Factors Holding You Back 

When it comes to achieving your goals as a runner, we know it’s not always easy to stay motivated and see results. Here are some common factors that might be holding you back—and some suggestions on how you can overcome them with confidence and enthusiasm. 

1. Inadequate Training

It's essential to have a well-rounded training plan that suits your individual needs and goals. Inadequate or imbalanced training can lead to plateaus, injuries, or burnout. 

2. Insufficient Recovery

Rest and recovery are key to unlocking your true potential as a runner. Without proper recovery, your body can't repair and rebuild muscle tissue, making it difficult to see improvements.

3. Suboptimal Nutrition

Your body needs fuel to perform at its best. A well-rounded, nutrient-rich diet can help improve your energy levels, speed up recovery, and support overall health. 

4. Limiting Mindset

A positive, can-do attitude can make all the difference! Doubting your abilities or having unrealistic expectations can hold you back from your potential. Embrace a growth mindset, and believe in your capacity to improve and overcome challenges.

5. Lack of Goal Setting

Setting clear, attainable goals is crucial to staying motivated and making consistent progress. Break down your long-term objectives into smaller, more manageable milestones, and celebrate your achievements along the way. This will help you stay focused, motivated, and on track toward reaching your ultimate running goals.

Considering Your Experience Level 

To set realistic running goals and develop a customized and effective training program, it's important to acknowledge your unique journey and take into account your level of experience. 

For beginners, it's essential to start with a gradual build-up of mileage and intensity. Focus on establishing a consistent routine and listen to your body's signals. Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small, and remember that progress takes time.

For intermediate runners, now's the time to challenge yourself and explore new training techniques. Incorporate speed work, hill training, and more targeted strength and flexibility exercises to help you reach new performance heights.

And for experienced runners, Peloton is here to support you in refining your strategy and pushing your limits even further. Analyze your past performances, identify areas of improvement, and set ambitious yet achievable goals.

Fueling and Hydrating Your Body 

Proper nutrition is a key component of any successful running plan. Eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats ensures that your body has the energy and resources it needs to perform at its best. As your training progresses, it's important to pay close attention to your nutritional intake, tailoring it to your specific needs and goals. 

Hydration is another crucial aspect of running success. Maintaining an adequate fluid intake is vital for regulating body temperature, preventing muscle cramps, and enhancing overall performance. Remember, it's not just about drinking water during your run; it's also essential to hydrate before and after to ensure proper recovery. 

Fueling and hydrating your body effectively can significantly improve your running experience, allowing you to reach new milestones and enjoy the process. 

Injury Prevention for Speed Training 

At Peloton, we understand the sense of accomplishment that comes with pushing your limits and working toward improvement. However, it's crucial to prioritize injury prevention to ensure progress without setbacks. Let's dive into some tips for injury prevention during training.

Warm-Up and Cool-Down

A proper warm-up and cool-down routine is crucial to preparing your body for the demands of training and promoting recovery afterward. “Whether it’s duration or speed you’re after, you’ll want to start your warm-up with dynamic movements, using exercises like hamstring sweeps, knee hugs, ankle grabs and skips,” Becs says. “By warming the muscles gradually, we offer our bodies the chance to work more efficiently and effectively. We also need to give the synovial fluid in our joints time to become more viscous, and that happens in a nice, gentle warm-up.”

After completing your workout, take the time to cool down with slower-paced jogging and static stretches. These practices help reduce the risk of injury, allowing you to continue chasing your goals with confidence.

Gradual Progression

We know you're eager to see results, but it's important to remember that progress takes time. Avoid the temptation to push yourself too hard too quickly. Increase your training intensity and volume gradually, giving your body the chance to adapt and build resilience. 

Strength Training and Flexibility

Incorporating strength training and flexibility exercises into your running routine can significantly improve your resistance to injury. Good flexibility can help prevent muscle imbalances and strains. A well-rounded approach to training will not only enhance your performance but also protect you from potential injuries.

Listen to Your Body

When it comes to injury prevention, your body is your most reliable source of information. Pay attention to how you feel during and after your training sessions. If you experience persistent pain, discomfort, or fatigue, it's crucial to address those issues with a healthcare professional. 

Staying Motivated 

We believe that staying motivated is key to unlocking your full potential as a runner, and we're here to help you ignite that passion.

You might also try to make running a social experience. Join a running group, participate in virtual races, or simply share your journey with friends and family. Engaging with a supportive community can make all the difference in keeping you motivated. A study conducted by the Journal of Exercise Physiology found that those running in a group felt the exercise less challenging and tiring than those running alone. 

Remember too that variety keeps running interesting, so mix up your training routine with different routes, terrains, and workouts. This will not only boost your motivation but will help you become a more well-rounded athlete.

Lastly, never underestimate the power of celebrating your achievements, no matter how small. Reward yourself with a well-deserved treat, share your success on social media, or simply revel in the satisfaction of a job well done.

When to Expect Speed Improvements

We get it: The excitement of progress and the feeling of achievement are what drive you. You dream of increasing your pace, but when can you expect to see an improvement?

Speed improvements vary for each individual, but typically, you can expect noticeable progress within four to six weeks of consistent training. Patience is key, and your body needs time to adapt and strengthen at its own pace. And it's not just about speed; it's also about the exciting experience of becoming a stronger, more confident runner.

Ready to get started? Lace up, join the Peloton community, and let's embark together on your journey toward faster and more efficient running.


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