How To Run Faster

Take Your Running Speed to the Next Level

BY Lance Watson

No matter how competitive you are, speed work can help increase your efficiency, letting you run faster and more comfortably. Whether you're training for a marathon or your first 5k, these simple speed workouts will take your running to the next level.

“The simplest way to improve is to run faster.”
– Scott Jurek

No matter if you’re front-pack runner, a back-pack jogger or somewhere in between, adding speed work into your weekly routine can bring huge benefits to your running. And whether you’re training for a 5K or a marathon, speed work is essential to becoming a faster and stronger runner. It is also a great way to break up your normal routine.

The best way to think of speed work is that it improves your running efficiency, sort of like the “gas mileage” of a car. When you run faster in your speed workouts, you get more efficient at running, both reducing how much energy your body uses and increasing the speed that you remove waste products from your muscles. By hitting the gas pedal harder on one or two runs each week, you can improve your race times, better your overall fitness, and have an easier time keeping up with your running partners.

Adding in speed work also keep your running fresh and fun while challenging you in new ways. However it is important to start gradually if you are new to speed work to avoid getting sidelined with an injury. Don’t make the mistake of going too fast too soon, which can lead to injury or discouragement. Instead, take the time to set your end goal and have a plan in place before you get started, otherwise it’s too easy to deviate.

Here are two different ways to include speed work into your weekly running routine and help take your running to the next level:

Interval Work

This can be done on the road or on a trail


10 minute warm up jog – building from Zone 1 to 2
5 sets of 60 seconds Zone 4-5 effort, followed by 2 minutes easy – Zone 1
10 minute warm down jog

Further ideas:

You can progress the number of sets (building from 4 to 6 to 8 to 10)
You can also progress the interval work, such as:
30 seconds hard, followed by 90 seconds easy
60 seconds hard, followed by 60 seconds easy
90 seconds hard, followed by 90 seconds easy

Tempo Work


8 minute warm up jog—building from Zone 1 to 2
3 sets of 5 minutes at Zone 3-4 effort, followed by 1 minute of very easy running/walking for recovery
10 minute warm down jog

Further ideas:

You can progress the number of sets (from 3 to 5, and so on)
You can progress the length of tempo (from 5 minutes to 10 minutes, and so on)

ZonePERCEIVED EFFORT: Breathing and Perception
1Gentle rhythmic breathing. Pace is easy and relaxed. The intensity is a very easy swim, bike or run.
2Breathing rate and pace increase slightly. Many notice a change with slightly deeper breathing, although still comfortable. Running and cycling pace remains comfortable and conversation is possible.
3Become aware of breathing a little harder, pace is moderate. A stronger swimming, biking or running rhythm, this is “feel good” fast. It is slightly more difficult to hold conversation.
4Starting to breathe hard, pace is fast and beginning to get uncomfortable, approaching all-out 30 minute bike or run effort, or 800 swim pace. This pace should be challenging to maintain.
5Breathing deep and forceful, many notice a second significant change in breathing pattern. Pace is all-out sustainable for one to five minutes. Mental focus required, effort is uncomfortable and conversation undesirable.
The Complete Marathon Training Guide

Complete Marathon Training Guide

Training Guide

This guide is designed to be used as you train for a marathon, with in-depth information on every part of the process. Each chapter is packed with tips, workouts, and insights from expert running coaches, to give you all the tools you need to succeed.

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About Lance Watson

Lance Watson, LifeSport head coach, has trained many Ironman, Olympic and age-group Champions over the past 30 years. He enjoys coaching athletes of all levels. 

Contact to tackle your first IRONMAN or to perform at a higher level.

Facebook: @LifeSportCoaching 

Instagram: @LifeSport_Coaching  

Twitter: @LifeSportCoach  

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