Every runner wants to run faster. Sure you do. Even if you’re just trying to finish races and not set any speed records, you still want to run as fast as fast as you can.

Everyone does. But, there are really only two basic ways to run faster: You can increase the length of your stride and cover more ground or you can increase the number of strides you take.

Think about it for a second: If you increase the ground you cover with each stride, you will run faster. Or, if you bump up the number of strides you take per minute, you’ll also run faster.

Sounds easy. Both work, but which one is a more efficient way to actually run faster in distance races?

Without a shadow of doubt, the fastest way to get faster is to speed up your tempo by increasing the number of strides you take every minute.

Now you might be wondering why then do all the great runners you have seen over the years on TV have these beautiful, long, loping strides that eat up ground so fast? Good question.

The answer is simple: They weren’t marathoners. A sprinter as great as Carl Lewis was in the mid-80s had an almost perfect stride length, but the longest distance he ever raced was 200 meters. Lewis had an exceptionally long stride length and a quick tempo, but he obviously couldn’t maintain that same stride length and turnover for 10 kilometers, 26.2 miles or even a mile.

Nor could the fabulous Olympic 800-meter Cuban gold medalist Alberto Juantorena—El Caballo—lope along for 26 miles. A long, loping stride is obviously fast, but inefficient over the long haul because of the incredible effort it takes.

Instead of increasing your stride length, it makes much more sense for the distance runner to increase the rate (or number) of your strides. By increasing the number of strides you take per minute by just one or two strides, could make as much as a one-minute improvement in a 10-K. If you can extend that increase over the length of a marathon, it could mean as much as a five-minute improvement. That’s huge.

The optimal stride frequency for distance runners is between 90 and 95 strides per minute. That’s approximately what most world-class runners take which is why they’re elite runners. For the rest of us of mortals, it’s about 10 strides per minute less—usually between 80 and 85 strides per minute.

If this is you, you’re in business because you can increase this rate relatively easy and reap substantial improvements in your overall speed in just a month of stride-specific training.

The first step you must take is to determine your current stride rate per minute. The only way to do this is to go to a track and do a series of short runs at whatever your 10-K race pace is. Here’s where it gets a little tricky: You will have to count the number of times your right foot hits the track each minute. So go for a one-minute run on the track and flick your right hand downward every time the right foot contacts the track. Do two or three of these one-minute runs at 10-K race pace to give yourself a good average number of strides per minute. There shouldn’t be much deviation if you’re maintaining the same pace and counting properly.

Chances are your stride per minutes will be lower than 90. If it’s higher than 90, you’re either counting wrong, running too fast or you’re already a pretty darned good runner and don’t need to read any more of this.

But if it’s 90 or lower, you have room for improvement. If your stride rate was in the 80-89 range, try this: While running on the track, run three-minute repeats at 10-K race pace at a stride rate of 90 per minute. To keep track of your strides, count the number of times your right foot hits the track every 30 seconds. If it drops below 45 every 30 seconds, pick up your stride rate for the next 30 seconds until you can hit 45.

(When you initially determined your stride rate, if it was in the 70-79 range, your stride rate goal should be 80 strides per minute or 40 every 30 seconds.)

After completing the first three-minute repeat, recover with a short jog and follow that with another three minutes at 90 strides per minute. Or, if you’re slower, 40 strides per minute. Do this four times. The goal is meeting the stride-rate target, not raw speed.

This first workout will be tough, but try to do it at least twice a week. Tack it on to your normal speed days. It will get easier if you emphasize rapid leg turnover, rather than opening up your stride. In fact, just the opposite will happen. If you’re doing this right with the proper stride cadence, your stride length will probably shorten. The goal is to increase your strides per minute by just a few strides. At first, this won’t make you run any faster. But if you give it time and practice this with some regularity, you will run faster–just not right away.

After doing this workout for a month, you should be comfortable enough at this higher turnover rate to also use this new, quicker turnover on your slower, easier days. By doing so, your stride length will eventually settle on its natural level—but with more strides per minute.

To prepare and strength your legs to accept all this, you’ll need to do some extra hill work. Over this one-month period, schedule at least two hill workouts a week on steep inclines (we have plenty of good ones to choose from) that are at least 100 meters in length. Do 10 repeats up the hill with an emphasis on a high knee lift. Walk the downhills.

Following this month of retraining your stride, you should be quicker by at least two strides per minute. The length of your stride will probably be about the same (or slightly shorter) as it was before you started, but you’ll be covering more ground at a quicker rate.

Stated simply, you will be running faster and easier.

Every runner wants to run faster. Sure you do. Even if you’re just trying to finish races and not set any speed records, you still want to run as fast as fast as you can.

Everyone does. But, there are really only two basic ways to run faster: You can increase the length of your stride and cover more ground or you can increase the number of strides you take.

Think about it for a second: If you increase the ground you cover with each stride, you will run faster. Or, if you bump up the number of strides you take per minute, you’ll also run faster.

Sounds easy. Both work, but which one is a more efficient way to actually run faster in distance races?

Without a shadow of doubt, the fastest way to get faster is to speed up your tempo by increasing the number of strides you take every minute.

Now you might be wondering why then do all the great runners you have seen over the years on TV have these beautiful, long, loping strides that eat up ground so fast? Good question.

The answer is simple: They weren’t marathoners. A sprinter as great as Carl Lewis was in the mid-80s had an almost perfect stride length, but the longest distance he ever raced was 200 meters. Lewis had an exceptionally long stride length and a quick tempo, but he obviously couldn’t maintain that same stride length and turnover for 10 kilometers, 26.2 miles or even a mile.

Nor could the fabulous Olympic 800-meter Cuban gold medalist Alberto Juantorena—El Caballo—lope along for 26 miles. A long, loping stride is obviously fast, but inefficient over the long haul because of the incredible effort it takes.

Instead of increasing your stride length, it makes much more sense for the distance runner to increase the rate (or number) of your strides. By increasing the number of strides you take per minute by just one or two strides, could make as much as a one-minute improvement in a 10-K. If you can extend that increase over the length of a marathon, it could mean as much as a five-minute improvement. That’s huge.

The optimal stride frequency for distance runners is between 90 and 95 strides per minute. That’s approximately what most world-class runners take which is why they’re elite runners. For the rest of us of mortals, it’s about 10 strides per minute less—usually between 80 and 85 strides per minute.

If this is you, you’re in business because you can increase this rate relatively easy and reap substantial improvements in your overall speed in just a month of stride-specific training.

The first step you must take is to determine your current stride rate per minute. The only way to do this is to go to a track and do a series of short runs at whatever your 10-K race pace is. Here’s where it gets a little tricky: You will have to count the number of times your right foot hits the track each minute. So go for a one-minute run on the track and flick your right hand downward every time the right foot contacts the track. Do two or three of these one-minute runs at 10-K race pace to give yourself a good average number of strides per minute. There shouldn’t be much deviation if you’re maintaining the same pace and counting properly.

Chances are your stride per minutes will be lower than 90. If it’s higher than 90, you’re either counting wrong, running too fast or you’re already a pretty darned good runner and don’t need to read any more of this.

But if it’s 90 or lower, you have room for improvement. If your stride rate was in the 80-89 range, try this: While running on the track, run three-minute repeats at 10-K race pace at a stride rate of 90 per minute. To keep track of your strides, count the number of times your right foot hits the track every 30 seconds. If it drops below 45 every 30 seconds, pick up your stride rate for the next 30 seconds until you can hit 45.

(When you initially determined your stride rate, if it was in the 70-79 range, your stride rate goal should be 80 strides per minute or 40 every 30 seconds.)

After completing the first three-minute repeat, recover with a short jog and follow that with another three minutes at 90 strides per minute. Or, if you’re slower, 40 strides per minute. Do this four times. The goal is meeting the stride-rate target, not raw speed.

This first workout will be tough, but try to do it at least twice a week. Tack it on to your normal speed days. It will get easier if you emphasize rapid leg turnover, rather than opening up your stride. In fact, just the opposite will happen. If you’re doing this right with the proper stride cadence, your stride length will probably shorten. The goal is to increase your strides per minute by just a few strides. At first, this won’t make you run any faster. But if you give it time and practice this with some regularity, you will run faster–just not right away.

After doing this workout for a month, you should be comfortable enough at this higher turnover rate to also use this new, quicker turnover on your slower, easier days. By doing so, your stride length will eventually settle on its natural level—but with more strides per minute.

To prepare and strength your legs to accept all this, you’ll need to do some extra hill work. Over this one-month period, schedule at least two hill workouts a week on steep inclines (we have plenty of good ones to choose from) that are at least 100 meters in length. Do 10 repeats up the hill with an emphasis on a high knee lift. Walk the downhills.

Following this month of retraining your stride, you should be quicker by at least two strides per minute. The length of your stride will probably be about the same (or slightly shorter) as it was before you started, but you’ll be covering more ground at a quicker rate.

Stated simply, you will be running faster and easier.