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When was the last time you evaluated your running goals? Like trying to see the world on a treadmill, running without a clear objective might log you a lot of miles but won’t really get you anywhere.
While there’s nothing wrong with running for the sake of running, pounding the pavement at the same intensity with no change can eventually leave its mark. Many 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.
Frequently Asked Questions All About Speed Training
Not convinced yet that you need to focus more on your speed? We rounded up the most frequently asked questions to get you on the right track before starting the 10-week speed program below.
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.
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.
Getting Started Speed Training
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.
- Take the 1-mile test and do the math to figure out your speed zones (SPZ).
- Incorporate a daily warm-up: 10–15 minutes at a pace slower than SPZ 1.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you want to run more mileage (because that’s what you’re used to), keep the pace at SPZ 1 or slower.
- Don’t increase the long run each week. Keep steady and consistent week to week.
- 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 flat, well-measured path.
Start with 12 to 15 minutes of easy jogging, followed by 4 x 30 second pickups, building speed to a moderate/fast effort, with 1 minute of rest in between. Then run two minutes at a moderate effort with 2 minutes rest just before the mile.
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.
Jog at an easy pace for 5 to 10 minutes.
Determine Your Speed Zones
Use your 1-mile pace (1MP) in these calculations to figure out your target speed zones (SPZ 1–7).
Start by converting your 1MP 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
The Get Faster Training Plan
Finished your mile test and calculated your speed zones? You’re ready to embark on 10 weeks of getting incrementally faster. Make sure to take advantage of weeks four and eight as recovery weeks–your legs will need them.
|Week||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5||Day 6||Day 7|
|1||10-20 min in SPZ1 5x30 sec building speed to SPZ4 by the end of each rep with 1 min RI||4-5x3 min in SPZ6 with 3 min RI||20-40 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||4x5 min in SPZ3 with 2 min RI||Off or 20-30 min in SPZ1 + 5x10 sec fun sprints with 1 min RI||30-60 min in SPZ1||Off|
|2||10-20 min in SPZ1 5x30 sec building speed to SPZ4 by the end of each rep with 90 sec RI||4-5x3.5 min in SPZ5 with 3 min RI||30-50 min in SPZ1||6x45 sec building speed to SPZ7 by the end of each with 2 min RI||Off or 30-50 min in SPZ1||20-30 min in SPZ1, finishing with 15-30 in SPZ2||Off|
|3||30-50 min in SPZ1||4-6 x 75-90 sec as steady as you can in SPZ7 with 2 min RI||20-40 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||3-4 x 5 min in SPZ4 with 2 min RI||Off or 20-40 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||6-8 x 1 min building speed to SPZ6 with 1 min RI; then finish with 10-20 min in SPZ1||Off|
|4||30-40 min in SPZ1||30-40 min in SPZ1||20 min in SPZ1 + 6x30 sec building speed to SPZ4 by the end of each with 1 min RI||Off||30-40 min in SPZ1||30-40 min in SPZ1||Off|
|5||20-30 min in SPZ1 + 5 x 30 sec building speed to SPZ4 by the end of each rep with 1 min RI||5-6 x 3 min in SPZ 6 with 3 min RI||20-40 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||3x8 min in SPZ3 with 2 min RI||Off or 20-30 min in SPZ1||30-60 min in SPZ1 finishing with 6x30 building to SPZ7 by the end of each with 90 second RI||Off|
|6||30-50 min in SPZ1||5-6 x 4 min in SPZ5 with 3 min RI||20-40 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||8 x 45 sec building speed to SPZ7 by the end of each with 2 min RI||Off or 30-50 min in SPZ1||30-60 min in SPZ1||Off|
|7||20-40 min in SPZ1 + 5 x 30 sec building speed to SPZ4 by the end of each rep with 90 sec RI||6-8 x 75-90 sec as steady as you can in SPZ7 with 2 min RI||20-40 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||3-4 x 6 min in SPZ4 with 2 min RI||Off or 20-40 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||8-10 x 1 min building speed to SPZ6 with 1 min RI; then finish with 10-20 min in SPZ1||Off|
|8||30-40 min in SPZ1||30-40 min in SPZ1||20 min in SPZ1 + 6x30 sec building speed to SPZ4 by the end of each with 1 min RI||Off||30-40 min in SPZ1||30-40 min in SPZ1||Off|
|9||30-40 min in SPZ1||4-5x3.5 min in SPZ6 with 3 min RI||20-30 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||8-10 x 1 min building speed to SPZ7 with 1 min RI; then finish with 10-20 min in SPZ1||Off or 20-30 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||3x8 min in SPZ3 with 3 min RI||Off|
|10||30-40 min in SPZ1||3x4 min in SPZ5 with 3 min RI||20-30 min recovery run at slower than SPZ1||Off||20-30 min in SPZ1||1-Mile Test||Off|