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How to Run Faster and Longer? Pace, Speed and More

If you are a runner, without a doubt, the question of faster vs. longer has been on your mind, whether you are just a beginner or have been running for a while. What is it all about? The speed that you are pushing during your run or the distance you are trying to reach? In this article you will find all the answers regarding running speed, training intensity, and much more.

Key takeaways:

Running: distance vs. speed

Running is an incredible sport requiring a relatively high level of cardiovascular endurance. While it might seem difficult at first, with the right training plan and nutrition, you'll be able to set your new personal best and achieve your desired results.

If you are a beginner to running, you might be wondering where you should place your focus — running a higher volume and pushing those miles or sprinting the whole training. In this article, we will try to navigate through the types of running workouts that will help you pursue and reach your fitness goals.

Types of running workouts

Whether you started running yesterday or have been doing it for a while, you might be wondering how to get faster and what approach to follow. With that being said, let's unfold the three most common types of runs.

Interval running

Interval running is a workout involving short and high-effort distances followed by a really easy jog. Almost every running plan includes interval workouts because they develop speed and endurance and promote fat-burning.

Interval runs should be performed at a fast, high-speed effort followed by a very easy recovery jog. By the beginning of the next split, you should feel recovered and ready for the next interval. The key to interval training is to let your body adapt and become stronger during the recovery gap.

Workout example:

  • Start by warming up with a 10–15 min easy jog (aim for a conversational running pace).
  • Run 8 × 400 m at your 5 km speed followed by 30 sec of easy jog in between.
  • Cool down with a 10–15 min run at a Zone 1 speed.
Running tip
Cooldowns might be performed barefoot on grass or another soft surface, as this might reduce the risk of stress fractures and help with landing on the front part of your foot.

Tempo runs

Tempos are types of runs performed at threshold speed — in other words, "comfortable effort." During these running workouts, you shouldn't be able to easily hold a conversation or be totally out of breath. Threshold means slightly above your anaerobic level. Pace isn't a fully accurate measurement tool when it comes to running since there are many factors that can get in the way including wind, rain, heat, dehydration, or overtraining.

Every tempo run should last longer than 20 min. If you feel fatigued, try to regulate your pace and decrease your speed.

One of the magical and not quickly noticeable benefits of tempos is the ability to run with a faster pace at a lower heart rate, meaning you have improved your lactate threshold.

Workout example:

  • Start with a 15–20 min warm up jog. Aim for a correct technique and posture, don't pay too much attention to the pace.
  • Run 20–30 min at your threshold (comfortably difficult) pace. Don't start fast, remember you need to run for at least 20 min.
  • Cool down with a 10–15 min easy jog, possibly barefoot on the grass.

Fartlek runs

Fartlek runs are a fun, usually unstructured type of workout that will help you improve not only your physical but also your mental health. "Fartlek" from Swedish "speed play" has a legitimate number of benefits, including both speed and endurance improvement, mental boost, race tactics development, and much more.

Running tip
A great way to run fartleks is to mix up in groups and alternate paces and speeds as every round the leader will change.

Workout example:

  • Run 5–10 min easy warm up. Consider including a couple of drills and strides afterwards.
  • Run 8 min hard followed by a 4 min easy jog.
  • Run 6 min hard followed by a 3 min easy jog.
  • Run 4 min hard followed by a 2 min easy jog.
  • Run 2 min hard followed by 1 min easy jog.
  • Cool down and stretch.

What does the research say?

One study from the Research Institute for Olympic Sports in Finland tested 37 endurance runners within both high-volume and high-intensity training regimes. The result of the research states that there is not a single universal training method for everyone. HRV (heart rate variability) is used to measure what kind of running workout works best for certain individuals.

What is HRV?

HRV stands for heart rate variability and is a variation in time between each heart beat. Unlike heart rate which is measured in beats per minute, HRV (heart rate variability) can only be estimated throughout certain changes in time/variability between successive heartbeats.

Although, you might know your HRV, a proper running program includes a variety of long, interval, and sprint runs as well as recovery days with no running at all. So, this answers why a perfect running plan shouldn't be focused on one particular type of running but both long/easy and short/fast runs.

How to know what works best for you?

Regardless of your running level, the only way to discover what works best for you is to try various types of running workouts. What worked for your friend might have zero effect on you, so testing and experimenting with your running routine is the only way to go.

Other important factors of each and every training program are proper nutrition and recovery. So, although you might have discovered that speed high-intensity runs enhance your time and results, keep in mind that any training requires the right fueling, recovery, and mental state. At the end of the day, try to have fun and stay creative during your runs because with enjoyment comes the result.

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prefix 3 months ago
An interesting take on this topic. As a running coach and seasoned runner myself, I wonder why you excluded the most important type of workout - easy runs. They are the basis of any training plan and help improve running efficiency, endurance, and recovery, hence eventually, allowing you to run faster and longer. Also, I wouldn't call it a fartlek workout if the hard interval is 8 minutes long. Sounds more like a VO2 max workout or tempo intervals to me. Fartlek is more about speed and endurance rather than speed endurance.