Ask Stew: How to Become a Faster Runner When Time Is Tight

A senior airman completes the 1.5-mile aerobic assessment of the Air Force fitness test.
Senior Airman Joseph Shaffer, 932nd Maintenance Squadron C40-C crew chief, completes the 1.5-mile aerobic assessment of the Air Force fitness test March 3, 2017, at the Scott Air Force Base James Gym track, Illinois. (Tech. Sgt. Christopher Parr/U.S. Air Force photo)

Out of all the emails I receive, the most common ones are about running. This includes how to progress, how to get faster, how to run longer without stopping and how to avoid injury. 

All of these topics are common issues we either have or have had over the years with running. Whether you are a sprinter training for a 1.5-mile timed run or trying to run your first mile nonstop, these common issues never will go away. 

Here is a unique question about running from someone who only has a limited time to train:

Stew, I read a lot about your workouts for fitness preparation. My question is, with my wife and my work & family schedule Monday thru Friday, the only time that I can really dedicate to running is the weekend. I am training to enter the police academy and I have about 3.5-4 months to prepare. The standards are as far as running 300 meters in 62.1 seconds and 1.5 miles in 13:15. Is it possible to achieve these standards if I only can dedicate time to running on the weekends?

Brandon -- great question. Yes, you can, but you may not have that great of a foundation for the daily runs required at your police academy. This could lead to injuries. However, if you are not overweight, have good running form and are not susceptible to lower-extremity injuries, your chances are better of getting through the runs at your academy. 

Focus on your pace to reach both goals when you run. Check out the Need for Speed and do what you can.

It is unlikely you will be running 20+ miles per week at your academy, but you may run daily, even if it is just going to and from different training evolutions. So is daily running necessary? No, but if you can get in a few days during the week of 15 minutes of running (before work or after work), it will help with the running foundation more. 

With long summer days in most places of the U.S., this is the perfect time to get a little extra-credit running under your belt. Just consider it building a base of cardio that will allow you to keep the miles short but fast.

I find that if I take too many days away from cardio training (run, bike, swim, etc.) it is like I am starting all over again. You can take a week off of strength training and typically come back stronger. But if you take a week off from running, (for me) it is like I have never run before.

It is possible to get through your training program by running only a few days a week, but you risk future injury if you have other issues you are dealing with (weight, poor running form, etc.).

Here are some more articles that can help:

Good luck and thanks for serving your community.


Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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