I recently had someone ask me “How can I run faster?” I have found that the best way to get faster is to do a combination of speed work and tempo runs during the week. If you are just building up your running base or getting back into running after some time off or an injury, I recommend starting out with either a speed workout OR a tempo run each week.
After about 4-6 weeks of working on your base, then you can add a speed workout and a tempo run to your weekly schedule. (So, if you are just starting to build speed - in my example below - you could alternate each week with a Speed Workout OR a Tempo Workout, then after building up your base - you can restart the plan and include BOTH a Speed Workout AND a Tempo Run each week). I want to emphasize that it is important that you don’t increase your overall running mileage by more the 10% each week - this will help to prevent injury.
For your speed work, you can do a combination of 200, 400, or 800 meter repeats with 200 to 400 meters of walking or jogging in between each set. The number of repeats can vary and build each week.
For your tempo work, you can start out with 1 mile at a certain pace and build each week increasing the number of miles that you run at a tempo pace. The tempo pace can be at a 5 or 10k pace or half-marathon/marathon pace depending on your upcoming race or goals. A tempo pace can also be a pace slightly faster than your normal run pace if you are just building your run base. These tempo paces should not be very comfortable as you start out the plan, but as you build your running fitness you will notice the tempo paces become a little easier to maintain. (Doing a tempo run in a training plan gives you a good idea of how it will feel during a race - you can practice some mental toughness during training that will help you on race day!)
You do not need a track to perform these workouts, in fact it’s a nice challenge if you can find a route with a few rolling hills…. because no race course is ever perfectly flat, right? If you do not want to mess with calculating a certain distance, or maybe you don’t have a watch that can measure distance yet - then run for a certain number of minutes - for example 1 min sprint, 1 min easy and repeat this 5 times during a workout. You can increase the number of sprinting minutes and recovery minutes each week.
I’ve included a sample build set below. I like to do my speed workouts on Tuesday and my Tempo workouts on Thursday - this also aligns with the Cal Tri FREE 70.3 race plan. https://californiatriathlon.org/coaching/training-plans/ (Please note that this example does not include any swim or bike sets or additional recovery runs that an athlete might do during the week)
Week 1 = Speed Workout - half mile warm up, 2×200 sprint with 200 jog/walk, 1×400 sprint with 200 jog/walk, half mile cool down
Tempo Workout - 1 mile warm-up jog, 1 mile at 10k Race Pace, 1 mile cool down
Week 2 = Speed Workout - half mile warm up, 4×200 sprint with 200 jog/walk, 2×400 sprint with 200 jog/walk, half mile cool down
Tempo Workout - 1 mile warm up jog, 2 miles at 10K Race Pace, 1 mile cool down
Week 3 = Speed Workout - half mile warm up, 4×400 sprint with 400 jog/walk, 1×800 sprint with 400 jog/walk, half mile cool down
Tempo Workout - 1 mile warm up jog, 3 miles at 10K Race Pace, 1 mile cool down
Week 4 = Speed Workout - half mile warm up, 6×400 sprint with 400 jog/walk, 2×800 sprint with 400 jog/walk, half mile cool down
Tempo Workout - 1 mile warm up jog, 4 miles at 10K Race Pace, 1 mile cool down
Week 5 = Speed Workout - half mile warm up, 8×400 sprint with 400 jog/walk, 2×800 sprint with 400 jog/walk, half mile cool down
Tempo Workout - 1 mile warm up jog, 5 miles at 10K Race Pace, 1 mile cool down
The combinations and possibilities are endless when it comes to bringing variety to building your speed — did I tell you how much I LOVE running?….. I could really talk about running ALL day!