7 Speed Workouts for Runners

If you have been following our blogs, you will know we have had plenty of blogs on different types of running; below are a few of the more popular ones:

8 Types of Training Runs

6 Reasons Your Long Run is Important

Run Faster AND Longer with Tempo Runs

5 Hill Training Workouts

4 Interval Workouts

Today’s blog is about running faster, and some simple workouts that will help you increase your speed; when you’re first learning how to run fast, whether you’re new to speed work; it’s early in your running season; or you’re coming back from injury, it’s best to take it slow. Keep the workout stress relatively low with short bursts of speed with complete recovery until your body can handle some of the more intense workouts.

Here are seven speed workouts you need to know, covering all ranges of fitness levels; remember, if you are new to speed work ease into and listen to your body.

Speaking of listening to your body, let us talk a little about pacing your speedwork; rather than use heart rate or race pacing, use how your body feels to determine the three types of pace for these workouts:

FAST: You find it hard to hold a conversation, but you can maintain for more than 60 seconds without losing proper running form (NOTE: it is not a sprint, but the next level down)

MEDIUM: This is a pace that you could run your entire run at but would not be able to maintain a conversation; faster than easy, slower than fast.

EASY: Think limitless running; you can run, carry on a conversation, and run effortlessly feeling as if you could continue at this pace without limits.

Not to be repetitive, but these workouts are flexible; for example, if you are new to running—and running itself is speed workout enough—replace the hard and easy running segments with running and walking.


Strides are short bursts of high-intensity running that train your mind and body to move faster with low stress. I like to do these in the middle of my runs, and suggest warming up for a mile or so at an EASY pace after which you throw in 20 – 30 seconds at FAST pace, then recovering by backing down to your EASY pace for 90 seconds or until your body feels ready for your next “stride”.

Repeat this process between 5 – 10 times depending on your fitness level and the feel of your recovery (if 90 seconds is not doing it for recovery, it is a good indicator you have done enough).

One to One

For most of the speed workouts, you will want to include the same warm-up by doing a mile or so at your EASY pace. For this workout, the middle part of your run should consist of one minute of slightly slower than FAST pace alternating with one minute of slightly faster than your EASY pace.

How many reps you do will be dependent on your experience and fitness level, but I typically run a 1 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool-down and all the miles in between are done using the “one to one” workout method. I would recommend starting slow, around a total of 4 miles with 2 miles at the “one to one’ pacing and then add these middle miles as you get more accustomed to the workout.

Three Pace Minutes

Like the “one to one”, this workout consists of running a warm-up and a cool-down at your EASY pace and splitting the middle miles into one-minute segments. However, in this workout you alternate between your EASY, MEDIUM, and FAST paces; this is a great way to acclimate your body to differing paces and how to move between paces efficiently.

I like to do this one as a “Ladder”, where I go up the ladder from EASY to MEDIUM to FAST and then back down the ladder; try it this way, I think you’ll find it more engaging and help keep boredom out of your run.

Fartlek Workouts

In a previous blog, we discussed the benefit of the fartlek workout as a speed workout; The original fartlek training involves frequently increasing and decreasing the running speed and thereby the training load when running outdoors. The effort and interval duration are not planned; these are determined by the terrain or running surface and can be alternated according to how you feel during the workout. 

Check out our previous 6 Fartlek Workouts blog for some great speed workouts.

Hill Bursts

One of the simplest and most efficient ways to improve your running is by adding regular hill sessions into your training. Hill workouts build strength and power in your legs, which, as well as helping you with the hill section in your races, will also make you faster on the flat part of the course.

In addition, hill training will help you improve your running form as it’s almost impossible to run hills without lifting your knees and feet; this will train you to “keep your knees up” more during your regular runs, improving your form.

The “hill burst” is an offshoot of hill repeats but it is intended to help you with your speed as much as with building leg strength. A word of warning, you should be a more experienced runner and have built a good base of hill running before doing this workout. 

  • Run at EASY pace for 15 minutes
  • Burst uphill for 8 – 15 seconds (think of this as a sprint, faster than your FAST pace)
  • Walk downhill, recover for 1 – 2 minutes; just enough time to catch your breath
  • Repeat this cycle 6 – 12 times, depending on fitness
  • Run at EASY pace for 15 minutes 


Some people love, but most people hate the tempo (or lactate threshold) run; the key to this running staple is to increase metabolic fitness by teaching you to push your body’s threshold. What does this mean? Well, you must train your body to better and more efficiently handle fatigue so you can run faster for longer periods of time.

The best pace for your tempo run is somewhere in-between FAST and MEDIUM.

As with all runs, start and end with a 1-mile warm-up and cool-down at your EASY pace; your desired tempo length will vary depending on your goal race distance.

However, if you are new to tempos, I would recommend starting with 10 – 20 minutes at your tempo pace and build this up according to your fitness level and your goal race distance. For example, if you are a 5K runner your tempo portion of the run does not have to be more than 20 – 25 minutes while if you are a marathoner your tempo run should be more like 90 minutes.

Here’s a good article on how to run faster and longer with tempo runs.

The Fast Finish Long Run

While not just a speed workout, fast finish long runs, like tempos, teach your body how to efficiently run when tired.

To run fast-finish long run, complete most of your run at an EASY pace; then, perform the last two to four miles at a MEDIUM or FAST pace. My recommendation is to start with these last miles at your MEDIUM pace and, once your body can handle this, I like to do half of the “fast finish” at MEDIUM pace and the second half at FAST pace and really kick at the end (like you would in a race)

As always, be safe and keep running!


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Rich Flaherty is a middle of the pack runner and triathlete, whose only real claim to fame is his daughter Bekah Brooks qualified for the Boston Marathon in her first marathon.


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