Want to boost your mile pace and improve your kick? Speedwork for runners doesn't have to be old-school track laps.
If you want to get faster, you don't have to circle the track a nauseating amount of times.
If that's your thing...cool.
But if you're looking for speedwork for runners tips to get faster that don't require a hamster-wheel mindset, check this out...
If endurance runs are all about learning to handle a little bit of pain for a long time, speed runs are the exact opposite: how much ouch can you withstand in one short but brutal sitting?
Workouts epitomize the concept of quality over quantity.
When you’re training for speed, the focus shifts from ENDURANCE to POWER.
As we learned in our long run analysis (Long-Run Secrets: 6 Runner-Tested Tips to Ramp Up Your Miles), endurance requires patience more than anything.
You may not be moving at your limit in terms of speed, BUT you’re pushing the envelope when it comes to how long you can keep it up.
Speedwork for runners turns that on its head to pack a real punch...
It takes courage to dive into that level of discomfort.
Yeah, the light at the end of the tunnel never looks too far away — especially compared to the daunting feeling of looking hours ahead to the end of a long run.
But if you’re doing it right, that short period of time will likely seem endless.
When you’re in the middle of a fast tempo or clawing your way to the end of a hard hill sprint, seconds feel like hours too.
I know, I know; I’m really talking this up.
I don’t blame you if you’d rather say “no, thanks” to speed training entirely.
😲🏃♀️🏃♂️👉 But I’m here to burst your bubble: Speedwork for runners at every level is beneficial.
Let’s start with the obvious: Speed training makes you faster.
That’s something that both sprinters and marathoners care about in their own way.
So what's the secret to speedwork for runners?
It's really not a mystery.
The simplest explanation goes back to the idea that “practice makes perfect”.
The more you practice running fast, the easier it will get to reach high speeds — and then crank the dial even higher.
Rinse and repeat.
Running fast has a physiological effect on your body. But it’s a bit complicated.
👉 This tipping point is called the lactate threshold.
Everyone’s lactate threshold sits at a different spot depending on your genetic makeup and your training.
Speed training helps to raise the ceiling on your lactate threshold.
The higher your threshold, the longer your body will be able to:
You’ll also be able to reach and maintain higher speeds before reaching that crushing stopping point.
...gets your body used to working hard at a level just under your lactate threshold.
🤔Picture yourself deep in a squat, close to the ground and struggling under a heavy weight on your shoulders.
👉Speed training feels like growing accustomed to that weight, getting stronger, and gradually pushing it up until you’re standing tall.
The trick, though, is finding that sweet spot right below the threshold.
That doesn’t mean that speedwork shouldn’t feel mindbogglingly hard.
🤬 Most runners have a bank of colorful words to describe the unrivaled burn in the final seconds of an interval push.
It simply means that speedwork for runners without a strategy might not get you where you want to go.
Want to use speedwork to boost your mile pack, improve your kick and get faster?
Dive in with a plan in hand to make the most of your efforts.
Consider working with a coach. As always, the best results stem from working with a coach.
Try some of these workouts once a week to improve your lactate threshold.
For best results, stick with one workout for about four weeks — gradually upping the intensity each time — before switching gears.
Heading out the door for some speedwork? Remember to:
👉Ready to give it a try? These 5 workouts will make you faster?
Intervals are the simplest way to implement structured speed training.
Basic interval tips
Fartleks are the closest you’ll get to “just winging it”.
‘Fartlek’ is a Swedish word for ‘speedplay.’
It’s exactly what it sounds like: :
That being said, you can still use external factors to guide your choices.
Because Fartleks depend on feel instead of numbers, it’s easy to tweak this workout to match your ability level.
As you improve, you’ll naturally hit faster paces. You can also increase the amount, frequency, or distance of each rep.
I don’t know any runner who couldn’t stand to get a little better at hills. You agree?
No matter what, they’re always tough…which makes this type of speedwork for runners the great equalizer.
Everyone’s cursing something during a hill sprint.
Surprisingly enough, though, hill sprints are some of the easiest workouts on your body in terms of impact and injury prevention.
Pyramid workouts are perfect for runners who need some time to ease into the workload.
This plan works for both short and long intervals.
The choice depends on your overall running goals.
Remember that longer intervals spanning several minutes or more won’t — and shouldn’t — be quite as fast as shorter bursts.
You’ll need to put more effort into tempering your speed if you’re aiming to keep it up for a longer period of time.
On that note, tempo runs are the ultimate power-endurance exercise.
On these runs, you’ll practice hitting and holding higher speeds.
Why? Only personal experience can guide you toward a tough but sustainable pace.
Give yourself permission to experiment, and repeat the same workout for a few weeks in a row so that you have the chance to gather data over time.
Eventually, you’ll learn what the right pace feels like — mentally and physically — so that you’re able to pinpoint it for various distances even as your speed and endurance improve.
Tell us about it in the comments.
Got a favorite workout to boost your mile pace, improve your kick, or get faster? We want to hear about it.
Or do you run for the hills (and trails) any time someone mentions speedwork? We want to know about that too.