Tuesdays on the Run: Speedwork

Erika @ MCM Mama Runs hosts Tuesdays on the Run with April @ Run the great wide somewhere and Patty @ My no-guilt life

This week’s topic is: Speedwork: How to run faster

This a tough topic for me because I am not good with prescribed runs or formal drills.

So here is what they say to do: 

Woman stretching during run in a forest.

  • Be Prepared for a Little Discomfort – Some beginners have difficulty running faster because they’re afraid of feeling uncomfortable. But one of the first steps to getting faster is to learn what it feels like to pick up the pace. When you’re pushing yourself during speed training, expect to get out of breath and feel your leg muscles burning.

Runners feet

  • Work on Your Turnover – If you can increase your stride turnover, you’ll run faster. Start by running at about your 5K pace for 30 seconds and counting every time your right foot hits the ground. Then jog for a minute to recover and run for 30 seconds again, this time trying to increase the count. Focus on taking quick, light, short steps — as if you’re stepping on hot coals.

Runner on track

  • Try Interval Workouts – Interval workouts are a fun way to work on your speed. You can do track workouts, such as 400m (one lap around the track) repeats. After a 5- to 10-minute warm-up, alternate between running one 400m at your 5K pace and jogging one slow, easy recovery lap. Start with two or three 400m repeats (with a recovery lap in between each), and try to work your way up to five or six. Or, if you’re running on the road, you can use lamp posts or telephone poles to mark intervals. After warming-up, try sprinting for two lamp posts, then recover for two, and keep repeating the pattern until you’ve covered a mile.

Woman running

  • Do a Tempo Run Once a Week – Tempo runs help you develop your anaerobic threshold, which is critical for running faster. To do a tempo run, start your run with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running, then continue with 15 to 20 minutes of running at about 10 seconds slower than your 10K pace. Finish with 5 to 10 minutes of cooling down. If you’re not sure what your 10K pace is, run at a pace that feels “comfortably hard.”

Running Uphill

  • Try Some Hill Training – Hill repeats are an efficient way to build running strength. Find a fairly steep hill that’s about 100 meters long. Run hard to the top of the hill, and slowly jog back down. Start with 3 to 4 repeats once a week, and gradually work your way up to 6 to 7 repeats.

Man Weighing Himself on Scale

  • Lose Weight – If you’re already trying to shed some pounds, here’s more incentive: Research has shown that, on average, runners get two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. So, for example, a 10-pound weight loss would shave about one minute off your 5K race time.

Runner lying on the couch

  • Don’t Forget About Rest Days – Don’t assume that running hard every day will make you faster. Rest is critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts, so don’t forget to take at least one day off completely each week. Your muscles actually build and repair themselves during your rest days. So, if you run every day without taking days off, you won’t see much improvement.

Runners in race

  • Be a Smart Racer – It’s possible to shave some seconds or maybe even minutes off your finishing time with smart racing strategies, such as making sure you don’t start out too fast.

Now here’s what I do:

I should say that I don’t do much speedwork.  In fact, I rarely even do the first 2 below. I know I should and I would probably be faster if I did.

  • Modified Fartleks – In other words, I ran as fast I can until the next mailbox or lamp post.  I repeat this several times. I do this maybe once a week during a run. I also always end my runs running very fast.  I think this is because I want to be done sooner. But it does give me practice in running fast and sprinting through the finish line.

  • Track Intervals – I walk one lap of the track (400 m) and then run one lap fast.  I repeat 12 times. So I have completed 3 miles but only 1.5 miles running. Sometimes I only run/walk a half lap because 400 m of walking is boring but in the end, it is the same distance.

now he knows how to rest

  • Rest Days – I rarely run two days in a row. If I do, it may be a morning followed by an afternoon.  If my legs are tired, I run slower. Sometimes I even take 2 days off before a race. As you age, your legs need more time to recover.

  • Run a lot of races. Someone once replied when I said that “I don’t do speedwork” that “your races are your speedwork.”  This is probably true.  I am not motivated to run fast and not walk during my training runs.  I just do the miles to get it done.  However, in a race, my competitive nature takes over, I want to be fast.

Happy Running! What do you do to get faster?




7 thoughts on “Tuesdays on the Run: Speedwork

  1. I agree that races are speedwork, especially 5 & 10k! They are tempo runs, especially if you throw in a little warm-up & cool down. Also I agree about the rest days, especially as you get older. I’ve noticed my body doesn’t bounce back in the same way anymore!


  2. I did no speed work this past spring and I still got faster because of all of the races. I didn’t RACE all of them, but there were some fast spots in each and I did race a couple. Now to get back to hills and fartleks….

    Thanks for joining us! Next week’s topic is fueling your run!


  3. I’m competitive too – which is why it frustrates me to be so slow! What you do seems to work for you; I know when I take it easy for training runs I don’t get faster – but I don’t race anywhere near as often as you.


  4. Yeah, my injury prone 40 year old legs won’t let me run back to back days but they do seem to hold up to speed work fairly well as long as I give them rest days in between. I’ve put my formal speedwork on hold for the summer (yes I’m being a wimp!) but I hope to get back to it as soon as I see a low in the 60’s again! Thanks for linking up with us today!


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