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Need for speed

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Add speed workouts to your regular running routine to help you become a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.

Runners racing

What are speed workouts, and why are they important?

All levels of runners can benefit from speed workouts. And guess what? You don’t have to be fast to do them.

Speed workouts are made up of intervals run at a faster-than-normal pace. Running fast can help you improve your overall speed and help your easy run feel even easier.

Incorporating these intervals into your regular training can help improve your running economy (meaning you can run faster with less effort), increase your power, and amp up your turnover, or how many strides you take in a minute.

Two female runners stretching
Runners racing
Runners in action

Three speed workouts for you

Whether you’re prepping for your first 5K or training for your next marathon, regular tempo workouts can unlock some serious speed and help you become a better runner.

Here are three workouts to try, including why they work and modifiers to mix things up:

Hills & sprints combo meal

The workout:

5x 200 meter hill sprints, followed by 5x 200m flat sprints

How to do it:

Head to a hill that’s also somewhat close to a track or flat stretch of road. The hill should ideally be between 200 – 400m long and steep enough to be challenging, but not so steep that you must change your stride.

After a thorough warm up, charge up the hill at 95% effort and jog back down. Turn immediately and start back up again. Once you’ve finished five hills, head for flat ground and repeat the same effort. Without the hill for resistance, you should be able to go a little faster.

Why it works:

When you follow a hard effort (sprinting uphill) with a hard effort but less resistance (sprinting on flat ground), you’re working on both power and speed, both of which will contribute to more efficient running at slower speeds.

How to switch it up:

Try adding more intervals or make each interval a little longer.

Runners casually running on a running track

Pyramid scheme — the good kind

The workout:

1’, 2’, 3’, 4’, 5’, 4’, 3’, 2’, 1’ (rest intervals are the same as the work intervals)

How to do it:

After a thorough warm up, run hard for 1’ (one minute), and then jog easily for one minute. Then repeat with two minutes of hard running and two minutes of easy running.

Repeat this structure working your way up to 5 minutes of hard running followed by 5 minutes of easy jogging, then ease your way back down. As the intervals get shorter again, try to increase your speed.

Why it works:

With a range of short and long intervals in the same workout, you’re practicing holding a certain level of intensity for different amounts of time.

With as much rest time as running time, your body also can recover to maintain the intensity for each interval, which helps train your body to get more comfortable at those paces.

How to switch it up:

Switch from time to distance if you’re on a track and want something more predictable. Try 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, also with equal rest.

You can also tailor this workout to your experience and fitness by cutting out the longest portion of the pyramid or repeating that long portion.

Runners in good mood
Runners in good mood

400m intervals — a classic

The workout:

400m repeats with 200m rest

How to do it:

After a thorough warm up, run a hard but sustainable pace for 400m, followed by 200m rest — think easy jog, not a walk.

Repeat as many times as desired — as few as four repeats for new runners, or as many as 16 – 20 repeats for advanced runners or those training for the marathon distance or longer. Aim for an even pace throughout the workout.

Why it works:

The combo of relatively short run intervals with slightly shorter rest helps build aerobic capacity, which in turn helps improve your endurance.

How to switch it up:

Depending on your current fitness and your goals, you can work on speed endurance by adding intensity, or you can use this workout to practice sustaining a manageable goal race pace with just a little rest — with the added benefit of practicing the mental focus needed to sustain a steady pace over a longer distance.

Tired runner laying on the grass
Runners racing on track

Keep it fun

Speed work is hard work, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Runs are always better with friends, so enlist some other runners to do speed workouts together.

You can gamify these workouts by creating relay races or adding different aspects of friendly competition.

Runners keeping it fun

Gear check

Gear distractions are unwelcomed in any running situation, but they can get particularly prickly when you’re moving fast. Avoid clothing that can restrict movement and cause chafing. Close-fitting, breathable material built for working hard is the way to go in terms of apparel.

Lightweight shoes made for going fast are a good choice for speed workouts.

We recommend these three shoes to help you pull away from the pack:

Hyperion Tempo

Its advanced DNA FLASH midsole technology provides ultralight energy return. The combination of energy return and underfoot softness reduces impact, so you can train harder, more often, with less overall fatigue.

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A runner lacing up the Hyperion Tempos

Hyperion Elite 2

This speed shoe’s Rapid Roll technology — the curved sculpting of the heel and toe of the midsole — combined with the carbon fibre plate is constructed to propel you forward with effortless speed.

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The Hyperion Elite 2

Launch 9

BioMoGo DNA cushioning adapts to your stride, weight, and speed to help reduce impact on your joints. Air-injected rubber at the front of the outsole grips the surface and propels you forward.

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The Launch 9

Looking for more gear to help you pick up the pace? Brooks offers an entire speed category of running shoes.