How to Run Faster

How to run fast - Tempo runs, speedwork, fartleks, and more explained

how to run fasterMost runners want to know how to run faster. It’s a natural desire. You run and run and run, and you want to see improvement. In both speed and distance.

But how do you go faster? Easy. You … go faster.

I’ve gotten a few questions lately via DailyMile and comments on this blog about tempo runs and track workouts, so I thought I would share my knowledge.

Let me be clear, I am not an expert. This should be obvious, but just in case you weren’t sure … I’m just a blogger who runs, or maybe a runner who blogs. Either way = not an expert. If you want actual expert advice, check resources such as Runners’ World Smart Coach or a Hal Higdon training plan to learn how and when and for how long to do these workouts properly.

Also, before adding speed workouts, you should have a good “base” before you start these. But I don’t know what that is. If you can run for an hour without stopping and/or walking, that’s probably a good indicator. And the basic rule is only do one speed workout per week. And not the day before or after another “hard” run (like your long run). For all of the workouts below, my warm up and cool down is usually a mile at my easy pace.

How to run faster: Do a tempo run

Warm up, run for a few miles at a “comfortably hard” pace, cool down.
From what I’ve read, “comfortably hard” is around your 10K pace. If you don’t know what that is, consult the McMillan pace calculator, or run by heart rate. (This is how I calculate my heart rate.) You want to maintain the same pace throughout your tempo miles. So don’t start off too fast.

How to run faster: Do a track workout (a.k.a. intervals)

how to run fasterWarm up, run sprint intervals with recoveries, cool down. Most speed workouts call for sprints of 400m (1 lap around the track), 800m (2 laps) or 1600m (4 laps). Recoveries should be at your easy pace (sometimes I go slower) and can be done by distance (1-2 laps) or time (maybe half to 3/4 of the time you sprinted). I definitely recommend checking out the McMillan pace calculator to figure out sprint paces, and check out Runners’ World Smart Coach or a Hal Higdon training plan for suggestions on distance and number of sets. The big thing to remember about track workouts is that all of your sprint intervals should be at the same pace. You don’t want to push too hard on your first one and then have each one get slower. You want to hit the same pace each time, for the duration of the sprint.

If you don’t have access to a track, you can create a “track workout” on your Garmin dashboard and then send it to your watch. Once you start your workout, it will beep at you and tell you want to do next. This is also good if you have a hard time remembering what set (or lap) you are on while running.

How to run faster: Do fartleks

If this sounds like a lot to remember, one really easy way to do speedwork is with a fartlek (it means “speed play”). It’s similar to a track workout, but without as much structure. Warm up, and instead of doing sprints structured by pace and distance, just sprint to a point in front of you – the end of the block, the yellow house, a mailbox, etc. Then jog (recover) for a bit. Then sprint to the next point. Then jog. Repeat. Cool down when you’re done. This is also good if you are out on the streets/sidewalks and get slowed down by things like intersections and stoplights.

How to run faster: Do hill repeats

If all of this sounds too complicated, just go run some hills. Hills are “speedwork in disguise.”

There are more workouts you can do for speed – pick-ups, progressive runs, hill repeats, etc. But these workouts are a good start.

What’s your favorite workout to get faster?  


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2 Comments on “How to Run Faster”

  1. Organized track workouts are a good way to get speed work that somebody else has put together–chances are, whoever the leader is has done it before. 😉
    A couple of other things I’ve learned:

    1) Go in with a plan, don’t just wing it (really this applies to all your runs).
    2) If you feel like you have ONE MORE REPEAT in you, stop now. Save it for tomorrow.
    3) It takes longer to recover from a hard speed workout than most people think. If you’re losing quality tempo/long runs because of your speed workout, time to dial it back a little. It’s okay to walk off the track with a little left in the tank.

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