Knowing your baseline and knowing your personal best provides the foundation to help you become a faster runner. If you know where you are and what you’re capable of, you’ll be able to train smarter and boost your overall fitness while you’re at it. “Your body adapts to whatever you’re doing, and if you don’t increase the challenge, you’ll plateau,” says Atlanta-based running coach Carl Leivers, creator of Running Coach Carl. Leivers suggests adding speed-work to your training program to help boost your pace and keep improving.
Here are four ways to take your running to the next level:
1. RUN PROGRESSIONS
Pick up your pace by 10 seconds each mile after your first mile. “This is a good way for beginners to push the pace, because you can still run at a comfortable speed,” Leivers says. Start with your average training run of at least three miles. (If you usually run four miles, run four. The distance is up to you.) Using the three-mile example, run at a comfortable pace during mile 1. According to Leivers, it should feel easy. Next, pick up your speed by 10 seconds for miles 2 and then 3, so your last mile is 20 seconds faster than your first. (Note: You’ll need to wear a watch or track via MapMyRun.) “Over time, boosting your pace will feel easier, and you’ll adapt to the faster speed,” says Leivers.
2. RUN FARTLEKS
The name might sound funny (it’s Swedish for “speed play”), but the method is especially effective when it comes to building speed. The technique involves incorporating short interval bursts where you pick up your pace over the course of your run. For example, if you’re a beginner, and running four miles, jog the first mile easily. During miles 2 and 3, push your pace for 30 seconds and return to your easier speed for 90 seconds. Keep alternating for the entire two miles, and run your last mile at an easy clip.
READ MORE > WHAT’S A PR? AND WHY YOU NEED ONE
3. RUN REPEATS
More advanced runners can add mile-repeat sessions — which involves pushing your pace for a mile with a minute of rest in between — essentially forming long intervals. If that’s too much, you can start doing them as stride workouts. Leivers suggests heading to a track, and pushing your pace along the straights and jogging the curves. If you do that for two miles — you’ll have a tough speed workout featuring 16 strides.
READ MORE > WHY CHANGING YOUR RUNNING STRIDE IS UNNECESSARY
4. RUN BY FEEL
Sometimes you just have to run in a way that feels good to you. “Especially with beginning runners, it’s easier when speed work is more organic,” Leivers says. “Assigning a specific time or pace to hit can sometimes add too much pressure. It’s most important to stay motivated over the long term. Try adjusting your pace based on how your body feels on any given day. Still push yourself, but do it by feel. Before long, your body will adjust to the faster speeds.”
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN