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Speed and endurance are two performance aspects that most runners train to increase. Whether your goal is to run a faster 400 or to improve your marathon time, workouts specifically tailored to maximize speed and endurance can greatly boost your overall performance. Unfortunately, many athletes get stuck in training ruts or neglect one aspect or the other, but to run your best you must include a variety of workouts in your training program.

Improving Endurance

Step 1

Build up distances slowly. One of the biggest mistakes runners make is trying to increase mileage too quickly. Allow your body to adapt and improve endurance by increasing the length of long runs by no more than one mile each week.

Step 2

Complete slow long runs. Once a week, perform a long run at about 80 percent of your race pace. The distances of your long runs will vary according to your goals. For example, the long run of a marathoner will be substantially greater than that of a 5K runner.

Step 3

Perform long tempo runs in a steady state, at about 10 to 20 seconds slower than your 5K or 10K race pace. Tempo runs should be some of the hardest workouts you perform, so keep your runs relatively easy the day before and after these workouts. Aim to increase the length of your tempo runs by about five minutes each week.

Improving Speed

Step 1

Perform plyometrics. These types of exercises, which emphasize and develop explosive strength, are extremely effective for improving speed. Include plyometric exercises that focus on the lower body, such as box jumps and hurdle jumps, at least once a week.

Step 2

Run up hills. Hills challenge and build your explosive strength. Running uphill builds leg strength and aerobic capacity, which will improve overall speed. You can run hills in a variety of ways, such as choosing a hilly route for any distance run, or using them to perform hill drills and intervals.

Step 3

Run sprint intervals. No speed training regimen would be complete without intervals. Use a measured course to do intervals based on distance, or a stopwatch to perform timed intervals. The length of intervals can vary, as can your recovery between them. For example, try running 100-meter or 200-meter sprints with a 400-meter recovery between sprints. Or maximize interval intensity by performing tabata workouts that use a 20-second sprint and a 10-second recovery. If you want to improve endurance while you’re speed training, minimize your rest periods.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember to make every workout count. Never begin a training session without a clear purpose and goal. If you’re training for a specific event, create a training plan that details goals for every workout and stick with it. Keep your training interesting and avoid plateaus by mixing up your workouts. You’ll experience much greater gains in endurance and speed if you consistently vary your types of workouts, exercises and intensity levels.
  • Always consult your physician before beginning a new exercise program, and listen to your body throughout every phase of your training. If you experience aches or pains that linger, avoid the urge to train through them. The old adage, “no pain, no gain” is a surefire recipe for injury. Running can be tough on the body, so make sure you allow your body time to recover from intense workouts. Including cross-training activities such as swimming and biking is an effective way to avoid overuse injuries and aid in recovery.

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