Already a Runner? Add Speed Training to Get to Your Personal Best

One needs to build a foundation of cardio respiratory endurance first and then start working on speed.

Flex 'em
5 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Speed training: Tips to add speed training to improve your running.&nbsp;</p></div>

Speed is what most runners are constantly after as they chase their personal best or PB, as the running world calls it.

Now, getting faster is easier said than done and it does require a fair bit of hard work, plenty of dedication and a whole lot of patience.

Some Tips Before You Start

  • Start with 5-10 min warm-up drills like high knees, butt kicks, skipping, jumping jacks, leg swings and slow jog
  • Remember to hydrate
  • Have a recovery drink and ample electrolytes through the day
  • Stretch well immediately post workout
  • Don’t overdo speed work
  • Follow up speed workout with an active recovery session
  • If you have any medical condition or injury, consult your doctor or physiotherapist.

Ever since Eliud Kipchoge, one of the greatest marathoner the world has ever seen and a past winner of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, broke the 2-hour barrier for the marathon distance of 42.169 km by running it in 1:59.41 in an controlled environment in Vienna, Austria, in 2019, there has been a renewed obsession with getting faster and bringing down race times across the world.

With the Monsoon around the corner and cooler temperatures in the offing, now is a good time to tweak your training by adding speed work to get you to run faster and shaving a few minutes off your previous personal record.

“Speed work in your training will help increase your speed,” says Kaustubh Radkar, the Pune-based founder-CEO of RadStrong coaching which specializes in marathon-triathlon training.

“Studies have shown that adding speed to endurance training can take seconds off even 5km times and few minutes off marathon timings. Speed work improves your running economy.”

"However, if you have just started running middle and long distance, do not jump into speed training right away. You need to build a foundation of cardio respiratory endurance first and then start working on your speed." says Gagan Arora, Delhi-based coach and founder of Kosmic Fitness.

The speed workouts mentioned below work.

They have worked well for years for the world best athletes including Kipchoge, but the speed doesn’t come overnight. It takes about four to six weeks to show any improvement, so be patient, cautions Arora.

Interval Training

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Interval training once or twice in a week.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></div>

Interval training once or twice in a week.  

(Photo: iStock)

This is the most efficient and popular speed training across the world.

“Incorporate interval training once or twice a week in your training plan if you want to get faster,” says Arora.

1. Fartlek

Fartlek, where you alternate between running fast and slow, is extremely effective.

For your first fartlek try:

  • 10 minutes jogging for warm up,
  • Six to eight repetitions of 1 minute fast run; 1 minute easy jog
  • 10 minutes of cool down
If you don’t skip fartlek sessions, which are going to be draining and difficult, you should be able to do about six to eight sets of 4 minutes fast, 1 minute easy within 8-12 weeks.

2. Yasso Loops

Another interval training workout popular across the world is the Yasso Loops.

In this you run 800m at your best possible speed followed by a 400m easy paced jog to bring your heart rate down. Start with two such loops and gradually build up to eight Yasso Loops.

“The idea here is to run faster. If you are unable to keep up the pace reduce the fast run interval time or increase the rest interval or reduce the number of reps but stick to generating speed.”
Gagan Arora, Delhi-based coach and founder of Kosmic Fitness

The shorter, faster intervals train the body to burn less fuel while going further.

Fartlek and Yasso Loops slowly push the anaerobic threshold and you will be running comfortably at a better pace.

During speed intervals you can attempt to spell out your full name you should be able to call out 6-8 alphabets without chopping your breath that’s the intensity check; anything more than that you are running too easy.

For speed training to show initial gains you need to give it about four to six weeks but you need to patient and wait for three to six months to see sustained gains.

Tempo Runs

You run a little harder than your race pace and work on your tempo during this training.

You need to add at least one tempo run per your weekly training plan. If your half marathon race pace is 7 min/km, your starting tempo runs should be @ 6:30-6:45min/km.

Tempo runs are the most efficient way to raise your lactate threshold (the ability to run at a faster pace without accumulating lactic acid in the blood stream). This improves endurance and speed.

“Ideally, aim for 180-200 steps per minute during tempo runs,” advises Arora.

If you are training for a half marathon, your tempo runs should be about 10km to 15km and for the marathon distance training tempo runs could stretch up to 32km.

“Gradually increase the mileage for tempo runs as it drains you much quicker than your slow long runs,” says Arora.


<div class="paragraphs"><p>Uphill running.</p></div>

Uphill running.

(Photo: iStock) 

There are two kinds of repeats — hill and mile/kilometre.

The mile/kilometre repeat require you to run as fast as you can over a mile or a kilometer followed by a recovery jog till next repeat.

For example a person training for a marathon may start with 2 x 1 mile (1.6 km) repeats with a goal of doing 5 x 1.6 km during your training peaks.


1. Hill Repeats

Hill repeats have to be done on an uphill slope.

In flat cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai or Kolkata, the best spots for hill repeats are the flyovers.

A sample hill repeat for beginners would be four to six repeats of 50m uphill run, 50m downhill jog. You can start with these distances then gradually increase the reps and distance.

Hill training activates more muscles in the upper leg and the hip joint, hamstrings and also helps increase cardiovascular capacity. The treadmill, usually despised by most runners, is very useful for hill repeats.


A sprint is, simply put, an all-out run.

Most people can hold an all-out sprint for 50-100 meters while elite athletes are able to hold it for about 200-400m.

The objective of sprint training is to develop good form as well as speed.

A typical speed set is 6 x100 meters with active recovery of 3-5 minutes between each sprint, says Radkar.

Distances runners have to maintain a high weekly mileage and speed work introduces an element of fun in the training while making them go faster.

(Shrenik Avlani is a newsroom veteran on a break from full-time work since 2012. He is a location independent writer, editor and journalist and co-author of The ShivFit Way, a book on functional fitness.)

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