3 Ways to Improve Your Running Speed

by - 10:37 AM

"Are you fast?"

Is a constant question I get asked by non-runners. There really is no correct answer there, so I hate answering it. What length of race are we talking about? What does "fast" mean to you?

Speedwork 101 for runners

I am a competitive person by nature, so I automatically compare myself to elite runners and think no, I am not that fast. I was a sprinter in college, so my muscular fiber build is geared toward fast twitch, and not slow twitch like those who excel at long-distance running.

However, I have started incorporating some speedwork techniques in the last year of my training that have made a significant difference in the pace level I am able to maintain in races, making me a faster runner overall. They are super easy to do, and call me crazy, but I think they are a fun way to mix up the monotony of "going for a run".

3 Ways to Improve Your Running Speed

1. Tempo Run

Incorporating tempo runs into your race training is key. Tempo runs teach your body to more efficiently process lactic acid in your legs and allow you to maintain faster speeds over longer periods of time.

Here is what a sample 4 mile tempo run looks like:

  • 10 minute or 1 mile warm up (slow, comfortable)
  • 2 miles at 10k race pace (or faster, comfortably hard)
  • 10 minute cool down (slow, comfortable)

I'm targeting a 7:30 pace right now for my next 5k. In my tempo run yesterday, I ran the first 10 minutes at 8:10-8:20 pace, then the next two miles at 7:40 and 7:25 respectively. I finished off with a cool down of an 8:20 pace.

You want to run your fastest for a minimum of 2 miles or 20 minutes, whichever is shorter. This is what will teach your legs to process the lactic acid faster.


2. Interval Training

I'm such a nerd, but I LOVE interval training. Probably because it takes me back to my track days. If you have an open running day, try heading out to your track for some speedwork.

Sample Interval: 600M Supersets

  • Run 200M at your fastest pace, followed immediately by 400m at 5 seconds slower than your first 200m
  • Repeat 4x after full recovery in each set

3. Fartlek Run

Ok yes the name is silly. Fartlek is just sweedish for "speed-play" and that's the form of this workout. This run teaches you to play with speed and challenge your body, without being focused on a watch or time goal.

After a short warm up, play with running faster for intermittent periods of time (to the tree, to the next sign, when the song beat drops) and jogging in-between. It is an un-regimented form of interval training and is a great one to bring in to mix it up.


How to Determine Running Effort Levels

Have to thank my HS track coach for this one.

  • Comfortable pace: Can hold a conversation (warm up & cool down)
  • Comfortably hard/tempo pace: Can speak in broken sentences
  • Interval Pace: can't speak. All energy focused on breath
FGK Tip: You should never be able to sing while running.

Good luck! It is also best to mix these in with your normal and long running days and never do two kinds of speedwork back to back. Your legs will thank you.

Check back Friday for another great summer grilling recipe!

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  1. I'm guilty of back to back speed days this week (tempo Monday, 800s repeats Tuesday) - thankfully and surprisingly still hit my times yesterday. Great post!

    1. Thanks Michelle! I have been on a bit of a running kick this week myself :) Definitely need to get some cross training in!

  2. Nice tips, Kat! I'm excited for our upcoming race - I think you'll nail your goal time!

    1. Thanks Sun! I'm excited too. Should be a fun day for team Olallie!