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.
This program is ideal for someone who has been consistently running for up to an hour two to three times per week for at least two to three months. If you need to prep, run regularly for a few weeks to feel more comfortable. When you’re ready to begin the program, follow these steps.
1—Take the 1-mile test and do the math to figure out your speed zones (SPZ).
2—Incorporate a daily warm-up: 10–15 minutes at a pace slower than SPZ 1.
3—The speed zones give you an upper (A) and lower limit (B) to aim for, so you can take into account how you feel, the terrain, the weather, etc. Don’t stress about precisely hitting the specific zones. As you gain experience, it’ll be easier to dial into what the speeds feel like. Try not to look at your watch every 2 seconds.
4—RI stands for “rest interval,” when you recover before your next speed interval. The more difficult the speed interval, the easier the RI should be. Feel free to walk and err on the slow side.
5—If you want to run more mileage (because that’s what you’re used to), keep the pace at SPZ 1 or slower.
6—Don’t increase the long run each week. Keep steady and consistent week to week.
7—Always cool down 2–7 minutes based on how tough the workout is, and bring the pace down to SPZ 1 or slower.
The test is best performed at a track. If you don’t have access to one, look for a very fl at, well-measured path.
WARM-UP: 12–15 min. very easy jogging followed by 4 x 30 sec. pickups, building speed to a moderate/fast effort, with 1 min. rest in between. Then run 2 min. at a moderate effort with 2 min. rest just before the mile.
THE TEST: Reset your watch to record only this portion. Run 1 mile as fast and as steady as you can. Avoid starting out too fast and slowing way down at the end. Aim for a consistent pace. Stop your watch at the finish—use this time!
COOL-DOWN: 5–10 min. easy
Use your 1-mile time in these calculations to figure out your target speed zones (SPZ 1–7), or use our pace calculator on womensrunning.com.
DETERMINE YOUR SPEED ZONES
1-mile pace = _______
We’ll call this 1MP.
Convert time to decimal, so 9:30 would be 9.5, for example, and then convert the results back to times.
For each speed zone, your pace should be between A and B.
Speed Zone 1 (easy/recovery pace)
1MP x 1.35 = 1A
1MP x 1.30 = 1B
SPZ 1 = 1A to 1B
Speed Zone 2 (marathon training pace)
1MP x 1.25 = 2A
1MP x 1.20 = 2B
SPZ 2 = 2A to 2B
Speed Zone 3 (half-marathon training pace)
1MP x 1.19 = 3A
1MP x 1.15 = 3B
SPZ 3 = 3A to 3B
Speed Zone 4 (10K training pace)
1MP x 1.14 = 4A
1MP x 1.10 = 4B
SPZ 4 = 4A to 4B
Speed Zone 5 (5K training pace)
1MP x 1.09 = 5A
1MP x 1.05 = 5B
SPZ 5 = 5A to 5B
Speed Zone 6 (1-mile training pace)
1MP x 1.04 = 6A
1MP x 1.00 = 6B
SPZ 6 = 6A to 6B
Speed Zone 7 (fastest efforts)
1MP x 0.99 = 7A
1MP x 0.95 = 7B
SPZ 6 = 7A to 7B
Click on the training plan to open it in a new window and print it out!