Whether you’re running for records or just to get in shape, there’s a good chance you need to run less. This might sound strange, but many traditional distance runners rack up huge mileage. They put in 30 miles a week or more and don’t get any faster.
There are a number of ways to boost speed that have nothing to do with running farther—just harder, and more efficiently. For instance, if you usually run at one pace, you’re probably not going to get faster as quickly as you will by including interval work in your program. Along with your longer runs, you need to train your body’s energy systems for speed.
You’ll also likely benefit from gaining strength and working on your mechanics. Depending on your speed now, interval training alone may not get you under a 5-minute mile, but it will get you going in the right direction. Here’s how to start: Twice a week, perform sprint intervals (400 meters and 600 meters) or hill climbs.
400-meter sprint intervals How to do it: You’ll start by sprinting 400 meters for 6 repetitions, resting 1 minute between sprints. Start running slowly in your first rep and increase speed on each one so the last rep is your fastest. Keeping an even pace on all reps is OK as long as the last one is still faster than the rest.
600-meter sprint intervals How to do it: Same basic idea as the 400-meter sprint intervals, but aim for 6 to 8 repetitions, or sprints, and increase your rest time between sprints to 2 minutes. More advanced runners can try decreasing the rest time to 1 minute or work up to 800 or 1000 meters with 2-3 minutes of rest between reps.
Hill climbs Running hills can also help improve speed and power. How to do it: Find a hill that would take you 3-5 minutes to climb. Jog up the first 3/4 and then sprint the last 1/4. Jog back down and repeat 3-5 times. Your goal is to get to the same spot on the hill during each sprint. You can also do the same thing on a treadmill, so you’ll run for 3 minutes and then sprint for the last minute, nudging up the incline each minute.
Here’s a 9-week progression that makes use of these techniques and incorporates your distance running:
Week 1 - 6 x 400m
Week 2 - 8 x 400m
Week 3 - Hills
Week 4 - Distance jog
Week 5 - 6 x 600m
Week 6 - 7 x 600m
Week 8 - Hills
Week 9 - Distance jog
© Core Performance
Abbott Nutrition strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program and perform exercises under the supervision of a certified fitness trainer or conditioning coach. The effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition should be determined by your health care professional. The suggestions here are in no way intended to substitute for medical advice.