With a few months of running under your belt, you may be looking for a way to improve your speed, which is a combination of strength and endurance. To do this, Runner’s World recommends the following three workouts that have been proven to help runners increase endurance and strength, not to mention overall speed. They can be done throughout your normal running week and can be tailored to fit any running level.
LONG RUNS: You may have heard experienced runners talk about their “long runs” for the week. This is the day that runners run their most mileage. Long runs are different for each runner based on how seasoned they are. If you typically run 3-4 miles a day, your long run may be 6-8 miles. For others who only run a couple miles a day, a long run may be considered 4 miles. No matter now many miles you log in your long run, these once-a-week long runs can help you build major endurance. Please note – when adding more mileage to your weekly runs, keep in mind the 10% rule of running – a runner should add no more than 10% mileage to his/her weekly workouts. So if you normally run 10 miles total in a week, you would run 11 miles the next, etc.
HILLS: Many runners hate hills because they slow us down. Others are scared of hills because they can be very challenging to tackle. But, if you practice on hills you can learn to approach them the right way, which may help you overcome your anxiety. Aside from preparing you to run future hills, running hills can help improve your overall strength and endurance. Believe me, after running a few hills, running on a non-graded surface will make it seem like you’re flying! So, how do you approach a hill? For any hill, you want to avoid being completely upright and rigid in your approach. Instead, you’ll want to lean forward slightly, about 5 inches or so. As for pace, for small to medium hills, increase your speed slightly as you run up and over the hill. Use the downhill run for your recovery. For large hills, cut back on your pace a little – you’ll need to reserve your energy just to reach the top! Try adding a few small hills into your workouts each week. No hills near you? Run the stairs at a local park or school football field.
FARTLEK: Fartlek is a strange-sounding word that’s hard to say without laughing. But the word simply means “speed play” in Swedish. The premise behind a Fartlek workout is to build strength and endurance by alternating a slower, more comfortable pace with a faster, more challenging speed for a set amount of time. It may sound complicated, but all you really need to do is alternate running at your normal pace with a 1-2 minute faster run, and then repeat. The faster run should not be an all-our sprint, but rather 10-25 percent faster than your typical pace. After your fast interval, use your comfortable pace as a recovery period until you’re ready to start your next fast run. Your fast run can range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, or whatever you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to time yourself either. I do Fartlek runs once a week using trees/mailboxes as my interval markers.
Even if you’re not looking to take your performance beyond your current level, long runs, hills, and Fartleks can add variety to your weekly routines and help keep your runs fun and fresh!