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10-Week Training Program To Boost Your Speed

Eric Orton /

Most runners tend to go at the same pace, all the time, with little variation. This results in a performance plateau—and it’s a recipe for injury. No matter how quickly or slowly you currently go—or even what your goals are—focusing on speed will make you a stronger, more well-rounded runner.

Why should I want to go faster?
Improvement of any kind is great for self-confidence. Maybe it will even open up new achievements, like running a marathon or breaking the 2-hour barrier for a half.

What if I’ve never done speed work?
Most runners focus on getting some miles in during the week and a long run on the weekend. If you’re not used to running faster or even following a structured training plan, that’s okay. You can do it. Just make sure you have a watch or carry your phone to track your pace.

How do I adjust the training for my own pace?
An initial 1-mile speed test allows you to customize the program, since getting faster at the mile translates to all distances, up to a marathon. After the test, you’ll come up with personalized speed zones; during the program, you’ll hit all of them to develop a well-rounded aerobic system.

Can I still run at an easy pace?
Yes. When we’re running easy, this is an appropriate pace to develop and get recovery from harder workouts. It allows us to do more. Working at or above your normal race pace will make your race-day speed feel easier. Running both faster and slower will help you reach a new level.

Why are there five or six days of running per week?
Frequency is key to increasing your overall fitness and performance. You’re able to do more than what you think. The workout intensity will likely increase, but the daily runs may be shorter than usual.

Does it matter where I run?
The shorter and faster the interval, the flatter you want the terrain. If it’s uneven, back off a little on the uphills and speed up on downhills to average out in the end.

How much cross-training should I do?
If you’re used to something else like weights, yoga or cycling, continue. Do it after (or before) the run on harder days—that way your easy days will be all about recovery. Don’t add anything new right now.

What if it’s really hot out?
Heat contributes to a slower speed. Know that if it’s very hot, your pace can go down 15 seconds/mile.

How much faster should I expect to get in 10 weeks?
Everybody is going to be different, but less conditioned runners who haven’t done speed work will notice more marked improvement. Your mile could quicken by 30 seconds or 5 seconds—and those could be equal efforts for different runners. A 10-second improvement in 1 mile can equate to 2 or 3 minutes in the half marathon.

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