Interval Training and Improving Speed

You have been running for a while now, but you want to be faster. You have tried a few different things to try to help, but nothing is working. So how do you get fast?

To get faster, you have to run faster.

That sounds easy but is actually hard to do. I have run for over 20 years and to make myself run faster, I have to really have set my mind to an interval workout or I have to have someone pushing me. It is even better if I have someone to push me in an interval workout.

Pace: To start, you should try to run a mile to figure out a base pace for yourself. What you run this mile (try to be as fast as you can) will help figure out what paces you should run for intervals. Coach and Legend Joe Vigil has come up with various pace charts that will help you develop a pace for your intervals.

Here is another pace chart example (this one is from Gulf Winds Track Club). As you can see, you need a mile time to figure out what sort of pace you should be at.

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When you start interval training, you should start a pace that you can run now. As you develop into a faster runner, you can decrease the paces because you will be in shape. You should not start at your goal pace, because that could be a big jump from your current fitness. If that doesn’t make sense, please ask me!

Now you know how fast you should run, but what is interval training and what types of intervals should you be running?

Goal: Before you start, you should also figure out your goal. What distance do you hope to be faster in? Interval training for a marathon is much different than a 5k. You also can do more interval training for shorter races.

Decide a distance that you want to be your goal (rather than just be faster). Once you know the distance, then use the workouts below to outline a weekly schedule for yourself.

You will get faster interval training for any distance–but be specific to start.

Long Intervals– Just like hills, you have a few options to get faster times. The first is long intervals. Your goal will depend on how long “long” intervals are.

When I train a 5k runner, they have long intervals maxing out at 1 mile. They do not do any longer for an interval. I even consider 800’s a longer interval.

These long intervals work on endurance and the slow twitch muscles (just like hills). They allow you to build up lactic acid in your legs and run through that until they do not burn as much anymore.

These long intervals are really to help improve pace.

An example of a long interval workout for a 5k runner would be 3 1-mile intervals at race pace. If the runner has run their mile in 6 minutes, then they should be trying to hit 6:00-6:20 for each mile interval.

After each mile, you get a break. I usually have people jog a little after (still working on the endurance), and then they get to take a breath. I vary the rest. One week it may 4 minutes. The next week I might give them an equal amount of time (if it took 6 minutes to run, 6 minutes to recover). Do not give yourself a FULL recovery at any time during long intervals.

You should feel recovered enough to run another one, but not so recovered that it is easy.

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Another common workout I do with 5k runners is 4-6 x 800 meters at race pace. The recovery is a 400 jog. This really works on endurance because there is no break at all to recover. You have to learn to recover while running.

For a marathoner, they might do 2-mile intervals at race pace with a five-minute rest. The pace is much slower so they will not require as much rest.

Short Intervals– These intervals should be more painful than the long. These should be run at a faster speed and more of them.

Even for a 5ker, the shortest interval workout I really do is 400 meters. I have my athletes run 6-10 400’s at a few seconds faster than race pace.

I might even have them do 6 all out.

The difference between short intervals is that you get a full recovery because your goal is to run fast. This is way easier to do with people who are faster than you. You want someone to push you or you could time yourself and try to be consistent with goals. Push yourself.

There are various short interval workouts online. Shape Magazine has a few workouts that can be done on a treadmill.

HIIT Workouts– This is another way to get faster, and considered interval training. High-Intensity Interval Training is the hottest craze. If you Pinterest workouts or just plain Google workouts, you will see a variety of 10-20 minute workouts.

These workouts are not necessarily running workouts. The may include short sprints, but they also include aerobic exercises that will make you out of breath. High knees, burpees, push-ups, planks, etc. They give you more variety.

If you are bored of running but want to incorporate some sort of training, you should add these HIIT workouts to your regular routine.

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Strides– Strides are crucial to getting faster. If you do nothing else, you should add these. They add about 5-10 minutes into a workout but make a huge difference.

After any workout (the more tired you are, the better!), find a place where you can run 80-100 meters. You can start around 75% but build up to 100% effort halfway through the stride. The last 50 meters should be at 100%.

After you are done, you should walk back to the start and repeat. You should do this 6-8 times. Remember your form as you go through these strides and remember to run as fast as you possibly can.

Just by doing this little stride 2-3 times a week, you will build speed, stamina, and mental toughness. This forces you to run hard when you probably would rather be done.

Intervals are crucial to getting faster. If you are stuck in a rut, or you just started and want to get faster, try to include 2 of these workouts per week. Ideally, you want to do one long interval session, one short intervals session (HITT workouts count as short intervals). Also, add strides to 2 of your days.

By doing all of these things, you are going to become unstoppable!

Do you already run intervals? What are your favorite interval workouts?



2 Comments on “Interval Training and Improving Speed

  1. Great information here Lauren! I’m def going to incorporate strides onto the end of some runs! And, do more hills! I am loving the Aaptiv App for interval runs. Trainer Megan Takas has good variety and encouragement for me right when I’m about to die.


  2. I love Aaptiv. I should write an entire post about them and share! Ha Ha 🙂 Then we can be Aaptive sponsored!! 🙂 We should start doing some strides!


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