The Surprising Link Between Running Speed And Genetics

If you are a runner, you may enjoy setting new goals for yourself in order to maintain a spark for your healthy hobby and motivation to hit the pavement. In order to increase your speed and stamina, Verywell Fit suggests incorporating hills into your running route, as well as changing up the tempo on your runs to include fartleks — intervals of sprinting as fast as you can and then recovering at your usual pace. Focusing on your form is also key, as this can help your body maximize energy, thereby allowing you to move faster (via Verywell Fit).

Dr. Theodore Strange, chair of medicine at Staten Island University, explained to Healthline that prioritizing your general well-being can also help. "Runners can improve their times with good nutrition, knowing and maintaining a good weight that one is comfortable with, stretching before and after exercising, better than adequate hydration, resting appropriately, and setting goals for both time and distance," Dr. Strange told Healthline.

These strategies can help you make gains in your running times, but if you aren't hitting your goals as quickly as you would like, be patient with yourself — this may be due to your genetic makeup.

How your genetics affect your running speed

A 2022 study published in Current Biology found that every runner naturally has their own speed, which our bodies maintain in order to preserve energy and calories. The study highlighted the fact that our bodies naturally want to work smarter — not harder — and this means running at a pace where your energy expenditure will be the most efficient.

"This research suggests that the drive to minimize energy costs is really strong in humans, even when we're purposefully exercising as a way to expend more energy," evolutionary biologist David Raichlen from the University of Southern California told Popular Science. "We have a hard time overriding that desire to use as little energy as possible in any given task."

This doesn't help, though, when you are trying to improve your speed and running times. Researchers suggested to Healthline that beyond switching up your training routines, you can also enlist the assistance of a running partner who is faster than you, which may help circumvent your body's tendency to conserve energy. Along those same lines, it may also help to sign up for a race, as the adrenaline involved might help kick you into high gear, per Healthline.