6 Workouts to Improve Running Speed & Endurance

Posted by Gary Robinson on

At some point in every runner's journey, they want to go a bit faster. The good news is that by adding one or two more intense workouts to your weekly schedule you can often quickly see improvements in speed and endurance. Our resident Community Manager and Coach, James Poole, details his top six favourite workouts to give your running a kick in the pants.

The Progression Run

This should be a staple workout for any aspiring runner and allows the body to warm up before running at a harder effort. It also teaches mental patience and the discipline to hold something for later in the run - an essential skill for longer races like half and full marathons. Progression runs start slow and end fast. Begin your run at an easy pace with successive increases in pace until you are running at a hard effort. This is not a tempo run or race effort, it is designed to increase aerobic endurance by gradually increasing pace.

The Fartlek Session

A Swedish word meaning Speed Play, Fartlek sessions are a great way to add some interest to your training, improve speed and build endurance. Unlike intervals where you typically stop or walk for recovery, Fartlek involves continuous running varying pace throughout the workout. You can do structured workouts using time or distance (say, 1 minute easy running, 1 minute hard) or unstructured runs using the surroundings (trees, lamppost or even cars) to act as the trigger for the change in pace. Either way, they can be a flexible way to workout using a high intensity session to push limits or low-intensity session when tapering for a race or easing back into running post-injury.

The Kenyan Hill Repeat

Kenyan Hill repeats involves continuous running up and down a hill at a solid steady pace for a defined duration. Unlike hill sprints where once at the top of the ascent you would jog back down while recovering (and gulping for air), with Kenyan hill running you turn immediately at the top and run back down the hill at a consistent pace. For example, if it takes two minutes running up the hill it should take two minutes running back down; you’ll need to push on the climb and relax and lengthen your stride on the downhill.

The Fast Finish Long Run

This is a great workout for more advanced marathon runners and builds resilience and mental strength. The run starts at a normal easy long run pace but for the last third the pace gradually increases until the last miles (or kms) are run at nearly maximum pace. It is gruelling but very race-specific training and should only be done a few times during a marathon training cycle.

Yasso 800s

Named after the legendary running guru, Burt Yasso, for many this is a staple workout and an indicator of marathon performance. The thinking is that if you want to run a 4hr marathon you should aim to be able to complete 10 x 800m with each 800m effort taking four minutes - with four minutes of recovery in between. Starting a couple of months before race date building up from four or five to 10 over the duration, this should be done alongside regular marathon training. Surprisingly, it appears to correlate well to finish times and has become a go-to training session for aspiring marathon runners.

The Pace Optimizer Workout

It's important to remember that speed is simply a product of cadence multiplied by step length. By working on these two factors it is possible to improve run economy enabling you to go faster or further for the same amount of effort. The Pace Optimizer feature in NURVV Run takes a previous Quick Run as a benchmark and then uses real time coaching to prompt changes in cadence and step length. With audio, visual and haptic feedback all a runner needs to do is focus on the coaching to achieve the goal.