To improve your speed before your next running event, focus on gait and footwork.

Want to Better Your Race Time? Try these 3 Strategies

In the weeks after running a half marathon, marathon or 5K, you may find yourself thinking about how to better your time for your next race. But running faster isn’t a matter of simply pushing yourself harder – in fact, that can backfire big time.

Instead, check out these tips from pro runners on how to improve your pace and endurance in sustainable ways.

1. Improve Your Running Form

Proper running form helps increase your pace by helping you run more efficiently. Work on improving your gate so you can move faster with less effort, giving you more energy and stamina. Here’s a detailed primer on how to work on your running form.

2. Increase Your Stride Turnover

Upping your stride turnover is one of the best-kept secrets to running faster. What is stride turnover? Also called stride frequency, it’s how many steps you take during a minute of running. You can also think of this as how many times your foot hits the ground in covering a certain distance.

To determine your stride turnover, run at your 5K race pace (a speed that you can sustain for three miles) for 30 seconds and count each time your right foot hits the ground. Double the number to get your stride turnover rate. A typical turnover rate to shoot for is about 180, though chances are you’re well below that right now, and any improvement is a good goal.

To increase stride turnover, start by running for 30 seconds at your current rate. Then jog for a minute to recover and run for 30 seconds again, this time trying to increase the count. Focus on taking quick, light, short steps—as if you’re trying not to touch hot pavement. Repeat 5–8 times, trying to increase your rate each time.

Eventually, a faster turnover rate will feel natural during longer runs.

3. Do Speed Work

If the name doesn’t make it clear, speed work is about getting faster, and the most popular way to do this is with structured interval training. Try these interval runs, or do repeats at a track.

To run a 400-meter repeat, warmup for five to ten minutes, then run 400 meters, alternating between running one 400-meter lap at your 5K pace and a slow recovery lap. Start with two or three 400-meter repeats (with a recovery lap in between each), and try to work your way up to five or six.

There are many different repeats you can run. An 800-meter repeat would be a 10-minute warmup followed by 800 meters (half a mile) at your 5K race pace, followed by a one-minute easy recovery. Repeat this five more times than cool down.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.