Male runner on road doing speed training.

9 Speed Training Tricks for Runners

Speed training is an excellent way to add variety to your outdoor or indoor running routine. Alternatively, maybe you’re looking for ways to gain strength and speed to improve your running performance. 

Wherever you find yourself in your running journey, plenty of methods will help you run faster. Speed training for runners can incorporate a variety of routines and approaches, with many ways to succeed. 

How can a runner increase their speed?

A man running up stadium seats.

You might be plateauing if you’ve run at the same pace for a while. However, a speed training program can help you get stronger and faster.

So, what is speed training?

Speed training for runners is workouts that increase the intensity of your training program. For speed training workouts, you run much faster than you generally would, encouraging your body to use oxygen more efficiently and, ultimately, improving your speed.

9 Speed Training Tricks for Runners

Incorporate the following tips into your current running routine, and you’ll likely reap the benefits over time and find that you’re running faster and more efficiently.

1. Set new performance goals.

A female runner on the beach.

You’ll need to set new running goals to become a faster runner. Although you may already have some goals for your running journey, aim higher and challenge yourself to do more. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish with the proper training techniques and some persistence.

2. Push yourself harder.

A group of runners in a race.

While running on your treadmill or outdoors, try a faster pace and see how it feels. Most runners struggle to maintain a quicker pace at first, but the more frequently you do it, the more your body will get used to how it feels.

Over time, you’ll develop more physical and mental endurance, which will help you maintain a faster pace over a longer distance. Do your best to regulate your breathing despite the faster pace, and if you feel any pain, don’t be afraid to stop.

If you’re unsure what your current running pace is, you can use a treadmill to gauge your abilities and monitor your progress more accurately.

3. Gradually increase your mileage.

A group of runners on a race track.

One of the best tips for speed training for runners is to run more often. By adding a few more runs to your weekly routine, you will see improvements in your pace. A good baseline goal is to run at least two to three days a week.

If you’re already running that often or more, try to vary the intensity of your runs and incorporate different running routines, like some of the ones mentioned below. You could also try long-distance running on a treadmill if your schedule doesn’t allow longer outdoor runs.

4. Start strength training.

A group of runners lifting weights together.

Building muscle with strength training may not seem like it has anything to do with speed training for runners, but it does! Research indicates strength training can help runners run more easily and efficiently, which translates to better form and faster speed.1

And you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to reap the benefits of strength training, either. Simple bodyweight exercises or light weight lifting are enough to improve your strength and speed.

5. Complete at least one tempo run weekly.

A runner on a gravel path in the mountains.

Tempo runs are speed workouts involving running consistently at whatever pace you can sustain for about 60 minutes. This pace should feel challenging but not so hard that you struggle to breathe.

To improve your speed, completing at least one tempo run per week is a good idea. Here’s an example of what a tempo run looks like:

  • Run at an easy pace for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Run at a moderately difficult pace for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cool down with 5 to 10 minutes of running at an easy pace.

6. Work on your form.

A female runner on the beach next to the fence.

Speed training for runners requires more than just pounding the pavement. Research indicates your running form also significantly impacts your efficiency and speed.2 When you run with proper form, your body doesn’t have to work as hard, leaving you with more energy to fuel your pace.

Learning the correct running form isn’t hard. If you’re unsure where to start, even minor changes to your posture will help, such as relaxing your hands, shortening your stride, and keeping your knees in line with your body.

7. Try Fartlek training.

Two runners on a bridge during the sunset.

Fartlek runs are a type of speed training for runners that help you improve your endurance by varying the speed of your runs. 

To complete a Fartlek run, you should complete a run with periods of easy, moderate, and strenuous paces mixed in. You can use a specific duration of time or landscape markings to determine when you modify your pace. 

You don’t need to follow any specific structure to complete a Fartlek run. You can change the pace and duration depending on how the run feels and your specific goals. You might also consider running Fartleks on a treadmill with a fitness app like Vingo to keep track of your timing and pacing more easily.

8. Improve your nutrition.

A group of female runners drinking water.

Fueling your body with the right foods will also help you gain speed and strength. Make sure you’re getting enough calories from the right kinds of foods throughout the day.

For example, runners should prioritize carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats for best results. The carbs will help fuel your workouts, protein will enable you to build muscle for strength, and healthy fats will improve your joint health and help prevent injuries.3

Try to limit or eliminate empty calories from your diet, such as those from candy, sweetened drinks, and heavily processed foods.

9. Run hills.

A group of runners going up a hill.

Running hills may not be your favorite activity, but it’s an excellent form of speed training for runners. Doing this once a week will improve your running economy, which is essentially your body’s ability to convert oxygen into forward motion efficiently.

No matter how quickly you run, the less energy and oxygen you use, the better! Training with hills can help you get to where you’re using the least energy and oxygen possible.

If you’ve never completed a hill-running routine, it can be as simple as repeatedly running up a hill and jogging or walking back down. Just maintain a solid running pace up the hill and keep your form in check.

How to protect yourself from injuries while speed training

A group of runners going over a bridge together mid-run.
  • Always run with proper form. Good running form will eliminate unnecessary stress on your joints and muscles to prevent injuries. It will also enhance your efficiency.
  • Start slow. Doing too much too soon could result in an overuse injury. Take things slow and gradually ramp up the intensity of your speed training.
  • Stop if you experience pain. Learn to recognize the difference between discomfort and pain. If you feel any pain while running, stop and take a break. Running through pain could cause further injury.
  • Avoid overtraining. Overtraining (or doing too much without giving your body a chance to rest) can result in chronic fatigue, soreness and muscle pain, frequent injuries, and a general lack of motivation.

Key Takeaways:

Speed training for runners requires a diversified approach that includes a variety of training methods, healthy nutrition, cross-training, and a new set of performance goals. Although it requires hard work and persistence, you can become a faster and stronger runner with a speed training plan you can maintain and enjoy!

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  1. Bangsbo, J., Tybirk, J., Gunnarsson, T. P., Ravnholt, T., Dalsgaard, S., & Bangsbo, J. (2016). Effect of speed endurance and strength training on performance, running economy and muscular adaptations in endurance-trained runners. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(7), 1331–1341. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-016-3356-4 
  2. Folland, J. P., Allen, S. J., Black, M. P., Handsaker, J. C., & Forrester, S. E. (2017). Running Technique is an Important Component of Running Economy and Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 49(7), 1412–1423. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001245 
  3. Beck, K. L., Thomson, J. S., Swift, R., & Von Hurst, P. R. (2015). Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 259. https://doi.org/10.2147/oajsm.s33605

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