Running workouts give you the structure you need to keep on running and achieve your goals. But some running workouts can feel almost like math exercises—with the added side-effect that they will make your muscles sore, too!
When did running get so complicated? Running is such a simple and natural act. If you want to run faster, forget about quick hacks and secret strategies. Focus on proven workouts.
Having a low body mass index BMI can make running workouts easier to follow and may improve your race performance. In preparation for your training then, you may want to consider the impact of your diet on your running performance.
The importance of variety is something that we will also touch on, as varied exercises are often the most effective.
Now let’s get practical and look at different types of running workouts for boosting your speed. Included are the best interval, cardio, and treadmill exercise ideas and pre workouts for running.
7 Great Running Workouts to Run Faster
What makes the difference between great running workouts and the rest?
As we’ll see, HIIT running workouts improve aerobic speed, peak power, and mean power, making them some of the best you can follow to get faster.
The right workouts can also help you reach your lactate threshold. You want to add them to your training plan.
And let’s not forget recovery runs, which are important for you to get into the best shape and improve your endurance.
Long distance running workouts are an essential part of endurance training for a marathon, half marathon, and other long races. Even if you have no marathon plans, they are excellent training for a beginner runner.
Long run workouts come with notable benefits. Find them below and learn more about long run workouts you can get started with.
How it helps
- Helps you maintain a quick pace for longer
- Improves your late race speed
- Boosts your aerobic capacity
- May improve your body’s ability to turn fat into fuel
- Increases confidence in your ability to run long distances fast
How to do a Long Run?
- Warm up at an easy, comfortable pace.
- Your long run should amount to 20 to 25% of your total weekly running distance. For example, if you run 20 miles per week, your long run should be between 4 and 5 miles.
- Ideally, you want to run for at least 60 minutes during your long run to prepare your body’s metabolism for a long race. If this is too long for you, keep it up for as long as you’re comfortable with.
- Run at a pace that is 10 to 20% slower than your marathon pace. If your marathon pace is 8:30 minutes per mile, your long run pace should be between 9:20 and 10:30 minutes. For optimal results, track your times and do the math.
- Alternatively, you can progressively increase your pace to finish near your marathon pace.
- Hydrate yourself and take in up to 300 calories or 75 carbs per hour every 15 minutes.
Progression runs simulate a late race push. You start slow and progressively increase your pace. You can fit in progression runs between other types of runs.
If you’re used to long runs and other workouts that encourage you to maintain a steady pace, a progression run can be challenging in a good way.
So, what are the benefits of a progression run workout and how can you do one?
How it helps
- Improves your aerobic system
- Gives your body a good warmup before you increase the pace
- Makes you a more disciplined runner by preventing you from speeding up too soon
How to do a Progression Run?
Start with a 45-minute run at progressively higher paces as follows:
- Run the first 15 minutes at an easy aerobic pace that enables you to have a conversation with a fellow runner.
- Run the next 15 minutes at a faster but comfortable pace.
- Run the last 15 minutes at a hard pace.
Hill sprints are popular with athletes across disciplines because they are effective. A study found that a hill sprint workout on a 7% incline increases agility, strength, and running speed.
Hill sprints are one of the fastest ways to improve as a runner. They unleash the energy stored in your muscles, getting you into shape faster than other types of training.
Here are the benefits of hill sprints and how to do hill sprints the right way without injuring yourself.
How it helps
- Improves your running speed
- Increases your agility and leg strength
- Reduces the risk of injuries at higher speeds (with proper warmup and cool-down)
How to do a Hill Sprint?
- Jog for 10 minutes as a warmup, increasing your speed toward the end of your warmup two times for 10 seconds. You can break the quick strides at the end with walking.
- Allow for a recovery period and cool-down.
- On a moderate hill or incline, sprint up for 10-seconds.
- Allow for 60 seconds of recovery as you descend the hill and your breathing goes back to normal.
- Repeat 7 to 10 times depending on your fitness level
- You can also do hill sprints on a treadmill while minimizing the stress that the descent puts on your knees.
- Cool-down with a short, easy jog.
Fartlek Running Workout
If so far we’ve looked at structured workouts, now it’s time to turn to a more flexible approach to speed training—the Fartlek run.
What is a Fartlek run? An opportunity to get creative. Fartlek means speed play in Swedish.
During a Fartlek running session, you can mix fast and slow runs while varying pace and distance.
A study found that Fartlek runs significantly improve muscle endurance in young adults after 12 weeks of training. Learn more about Fartlek run workouts and their benefits below.
How it helps
- Improves your sprinting
- Makes you better at overtaking competitors in spurts
- Can improve your race tactics
How to do a Fartlek Run?
- Warm up at an easy running pace for 10 minutes or 1 mile.
- Keep going for 4 miles more, fitting in 4 Fartlek intervals.
- Pick a tree, street sign, postal box, or any other landmark and sprint to it, or just sprint up a hill.
- Jog for a few minutes, before accelerating on an incline or sprinting to another location.
- Vary your sprints, pace, and distances for each Fartlek running session. It’s all based on feel and the landscape.
Tempo Run Workout
Tempo runs can motivate you to run faster for longer periods. The tempo run pace is faster than your mile pace but slower than your sprint speed. The idea is to get used to maintaining an uncomfortable pace for longer.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that tempo run workouts correlate with improved running performance. What’s more, this type of workout is one of the key factors differentiating top-performing athletes from the pack.
Don’t forget that as with all types of running exercises, having the right running shoes will make training easier.
Let’s find out more about what a tempo run is and all its key benefits.
How it helps
- Builds your speed and strength
- Boosts your aerobic fitness
- Increases your lactate threshold and running endurance
How to do a Tempo Run?
- Know your tempo run pace—this is around 85-90% of your max heart rate. To calculate it, subtract your age from 220 and divide the result by 85%. For a 29-year old, this would mean 220-29×0.85=162.35 or a pace that keeps your heart working at 162 beats per minute.
- Warm up with a 10-minute easy run.
- Speed up to your tempo run pace. Maintain a pace that makes it difficult for you to carry a conversation.
- Keep it up between 20 and 40 minutes. Or do shorter sets adding up to the total amount, for example, two sets of 10 minutes for a total of 20 minutes.
- Cool down with an easy 10-minute run.
- As a beginner, you don’t want to do a tempo run more than twice a week!
Interval Running Workout
Fun and adaptable to all settings, interval running is one of the core exercises for increasing running speed. During this type of training, you can alternate run walk intervals.
If you’re familiar with brisk walking, intervals could end up being your next favorite running workout.
Learn more about interval running for beginners and its benefits.
How it helps
- Research shows that interval running workouts improve your aerobic capacity
- Builds stronger muscles
- Accustoms your legs to faster running speeds
How to do an Intervals Workout?
- Warm up with an easy jog.
- Do a 30-second speed interval at a fast pace below your sprinting pace.
- Alternate with 1-minute of walking or slow walk for recovery.
- Repeat the interval and cool-down period.
- After recovering from the second interval, do a 30-second sprint.
- Cool down with a 1-minute walk.
- Repeat the sprinting and walking interval for up to 17 minutes.
- Allow your body to cool down after your workout with a short, light jog.
Ladder Running Workout
Last but not least on our list is ladder workout running, a variation of interval training, and another effective high intensity running drill for boosting your speed.
This type of training alternates different paces, so it’s one of the more enjoyable ways to improve your speed. It’s anything but boring!
Here’s a summary of the benefits of ladder run drills and how to do them correctly. To do this one, you need to know your marathon, half marathon, and 5k paces.
How it helps
- Improves your agility
- Strengths joints and ligaments
- Improves footwork at high speeds
- Can also improve coordination
How to do Ladder Run?
Start with a short, light jog.
Next, alternate different paces with a 1-minute recovery pace in between as follows:
- Run for 5 minutes at your usual marathon pace then recover.
- Run for 4 minutes at half your marathon pace then recover.
- Run for 3 minutes at your 10k pace then recover.
- Run for 2 minutes at your 5k pace then recover.
- Sprint for 1 minute then recover.
- Cool down with 5 minutes of easy jogging.
Not Just Fast, But Also Steady Running Workouts
Fast, steady, and incremental—that’s the best approach to running workouts for boosting your speed without injuries.
As some of the studies we shared with you show, to get results with running workouts for beginners you need to stick with them. You can and should try out different workouts until you find some favorites, but then you want to integrate them into your weekly training routine—and do them!
The quality of your sleep, what you eat, and the runners’ supplements you take can all have an impact on your speed as a runner. Don’t neglect these.
And don’t forget that once you become fast, you need to keep running to stay fast. Over time, that means speeding up to workouts for intermediate and advanced runners.
So, keep it up!