Speed Training for Every Runner

Our team at the Chevron City to Surf think back to summer term at school when sports day was approaching and everybody was fighting for the chance to take part. More often than not you and your classmates all wanted to be in one of the sprint races – the battle was on to find the biggest speed demon. The 1500m races were generally avoided because they were too far…nobody wanted to run 3-4 laps of the grass track!

Now, well into our running careers, it’s the opposite. Most runners can come up with plenty of reasons to avoid speed training: we might say it hurts, it’s too difficult, likely to pick up an injury or it makes us too tired for the rest of our training… the list goes on. At the same time, we question why running the same 5km neighbourhood loop 3-5 times per week isn’t providing the results we expect.

As runners progress between skill levels they’ll question how they can become faster? Adding time and distance to the workout are two options, but another approach is to add some structured speed workouts to the weekly routine. These workouts involve running time or distance based intervals (high-intensity interval training HIIT) at a pre-determined pace with short recovery times.

More and more distance runners are replacing their long runs with short bursts of high-intensity training as it’s believed to be more effective, significantly reduces training time and is safer in terms of injury prevention. Long slow runs have been the bread and butter for distance runners up until the last 10-15 years. Such stamina workouts still have their place, but alongside a varied training program including regular speed workouts.

There is no avoiding it! Speed training is for every runner & anybody can do it!


Get Faster! Sounds obvious, but 1-2 speed workouts each week will contribute to faster times throughout all distances. Speed training doesn’t just affect the short stuff – your half and full marathon times will drop, too.

Stronger Muscles! In order to run fast, our muscles need to work harder resulting in stronger, more powerful muscles. Muscle elasticity and re-coil also improve thereby increasing your cadence.

Stronger Heart! Speed training is an anaerobic form of training. If we’re running at a high intensity our heart rate will jump to near maximum in order to provide more oxygen to muscles. The harder we run the harder our heart has to beat to keep up!

Flexibility & Mobility! Not only do we run fast, but speed training also increases our range of movement in the key joints thereby extending our range of movement.


Below are some of our typical forms of speed training each with its own purpose and place in a weekly session plus bigger training program:

Intervals! Intervals are a set of high intensity (near maximum) repetitions either over a set distance or amount of time. Recoveries between intervals are typically short and can be active or passive.

Tempo Intervals! These are longer than intervals and generally in the range of 1-3kms. The aim is to run slightly faster than race pace with short 1-2mins jog recoveries between each interval.

Fartlek! Designed by the Swedish, fartlek means ’speed play’ in Swedish. Fartleks combine a series of several super short sprints (max. 1min) with short recovery (10-15secs).

Hill Intervals! You can do intervals going UP, too. These help to increase the intensity and build extra strength.


Get Warm! Before starting any speed training or interval workout make sure you’re fully warmed up because running fast with cold muscles is more likely to cause injury. An example warm-up includes 8-10mins jogging at conversational pace followed by 3 technique drills and 3-5 80metre strides gradually increasing intensity from 60-80%.

Ease In! Try to harness your energy at the beginning of the workout and make sure to ease yourself in. Remember the focus should be on quality rather than quantity…you should always have enough left in the tank to do one more.

Cool Down! Following the workout re-group and cool-down at a conversational pace for 5-8mins followed by a stretch routine of the main muscle groups.

Find Your Speed Crew! Speed training is always much easier if you’re doing it as part of a group. Your crew can keep you honest with your recovery times and give you some extra motivation when the going gets tough.

Have Fun! Running fast is fun – embrace the challenge and enjoy!

For more articles on how Yoga can help you become a better, stronger, and faster runner read our features articles on the Chevron City to Surf for Activ News.

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