Runs that help improve your paces

When I first started running, I didn’t know about runs like the tempo run or importance of ANY speed workouts. I knew nothing about how pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can make you a speedier runner. All I knew that it was 1.25 miles to get through my neighborhood, and if I did that loop a couple times then I worked up a nice sweat. That’s all any new runner really wants from running: A good sweat, the feeling of accomplishment, and the reward of seeing healthy changes that in your own body.

Eventually I learned about all the “cool runs” there are out there, for “running” isn’t just “running”…is it? All runs are not created equal and it seems that there is/are as many types of runs as there are colors in my box of crayons. There is a LOT to learn if you are a new runner looking to increase your speed! I’ve been getting a ton of questions lately regarding different speed workouts that I do that have really been helping me to become a faster runner. Even when I don’t consider myself to be in “full training beast mode” I try to at least still put some speedier runs into my workouts. Forcing myself to do weekly workouts has improved my running sooo much its crazy.

1. Tempo Run
I can talking until I lose my voice about how much I love the tempo run. The trick is to get the paces you want to run correct-this means that you should have a target race goal. Once you have a goal in mind, you can figure out how fast you should go by using this calculator here. Tempo runs are effective because you’re setting the pace higher so it’s not quite “all out” but it’s “comfortably hard” on you. You can’t hold a conversation, but you’re able to say a couple quick words. My husband will often interrupt me during a treadmill tempo run to ask when dinner is and I will tell him “3 more miles” (which is my way of avoiding the question maybe?) I like that that the tempo run makes me work hard but not overdo it.

I know some of you like the “technical terms” for different types of runs, so I snagged this handy dandy “official explanation” off of Runner’s World:

Tempo Run

A tempo run is a faster-paced workout also known as a lactate-threshold, LT, or threshold run. Tempo pace is often described as “comfortably hard.” Tempo running improves a crucial physiological variable for running success: our metabolic fitness.

Why tempo runs work: By increasing your LT, or the point at which the body fatigues at a certain pace. During tempo runs, lactate and hydrogen ions—by-products of metabolism—are released into the muscles. The ions make the muscles acidic, eventually leading to fatigue. The better trained you become, the higher you push your “threshold,” meaning your muscles become better at using these by-products. The result is less-acidic muscles (that is, muscles that haven’t reached their new “threshold”), so they keep on contracting, letting you run farther and faster

The tempo run is effective for me because it makes me push myself and get out of my comfort zone. Pushing myself farther makes me more comfortable when I’m hitting those fast paces in my races.

How do I do my tempo runs? 2 mile w/u, 5-6 miles @ tempo pace, 1.5-2 mile cool down. Sometimes I will increase the tempo mileage a little more if I’m turning it into a midweek long run.

2. Progression runs
Another favorite of mine is the progression run. This is a type of run that allows me to slowly build and ease into faster speeds throughout the course of the run. I typically will warm up at a really easy pace for 1-2 miles, then gradually increase my speed every 6-8 minutes until I am ending on my “threshold pace” (same thing as my tempo pace) , and follow that with a cool down. I like doing these runs best when I’m running outside because I don’t care about switching the pace when I’m mid-mile, but when I’m on the treadmill, I tend to raise the speed in nice, neat increments of exact miles.

How do I do my progression runs? Last night I had to hit my treadmill because it was monsooning outside. I did 8 miles altogether starting with a warmup of 7.4 and building all the way up to 8.8, then cooled down for 1 mile. This type of run always keeps me entertained which is something I desperately need during those cold cold winter months when I’m spending more time on the old ‘mill!

3. Race paced long runs/Fast Finish Long Runs –I credit my improvements in running to efficiently nailing these two runs.

A “race pace” run is a run that you will warm up for a few miles, but instead of running a slow, easy pace, you sub that out and with miles run at your goal “race pace”. So if I’m doing a 16 mile long run, I will warm up for about 3, and then try to hit the next 11 miles at my goal race pace, then cool down for the last 2.

A “fast-finish” long run is a run where you finish the 2nd half faster than the first. This helped me a TON during my last marathon. Compared to prior marathons when I would slow to a 9-10 minute mile, I only slowed to a low 8. YES, I wish I hadn’t slowed at all, but I know that practicing faster finishes made my legs keep chugging along even though they REALLY did not want to do so. My favorite long run route goes right past my sissy’s house. I use her house as my marker for when to kick up the pace and get faster. If your body is already exhausted, this can be hard to do, but I promise you that its actually worth it!

How often do I do each of these runs? I’m going to bullet my next part because bullet points are fun (or is it just me that thinks that??)
-I do a tempo run every week, whether I want to or not.
– I will do a progression run once a week. I don’t always do it for the entire run, sometimes it is just half of the run. Honestly, these happen most when I’m trying to keep myself entertained.. #winterissoveryverylong
-Once a month, I sub in a “race pace” long run. Every other long run that I do, I attempt to execute it with a “fast finish”.

I promise you that by including some/one of these runs on a weekly basis will help your running! At the very least, it gives you something to do than just plain-old easy runs!

What’s your favorite speed-increasing run?


31 thoughts on “Runs that help improve your paces

  1. Pingback: What Helped Me Run A Faster Marathon - Running Out Of Wine

  2. I would say tempo runs are my most ENJOYABLE speed workout! but I feel the most accomplished doing interval runs because they’re hard hard hard for me. So I’ve just in the past three months started incorporating speed work and am still figuring everything out. I always do my tempo runs at goal race pace. But that sounds like thats what your race pace long run is? Any insight would help! Thanks for sharing all your tips!

  3. Definitely agree, the only way to get faster is to do these types of runs. I love tempo and progression runs!

  4. Ohhhh twinie you know my faves but here they are anyways lol tempo runs and I’ve in love with the progression run this season.

  5. Speed intervals are my favorite, then tempo runs. It seems interval work has improved my speed more than any other type of fast workout. Plus, going by intervals instead of miles makes the workout go by much faster, at least in my experience! I rarely do any sort of progression/fast finish on my long runs, but I need to try it more. Of all the speed work runs those seem to be the most difficult to master.

  6. My favorite is the fast-finish long run! I can’t always get it right, but when I do I feel so accomplished! It’s the best feeling when you can increase your speed even when your legs are starting to tire 🙂

  7. I love progression runs and find them the most enjoyable way to put speed into runs. Tempos are my second favorite although it is sort of love hate with them. Race pace long runs intimidate the crap out of me, but there’s no better feeling in running for me than finishing a run like that!

  8. Don’t forget track workouts! Track workouts are my favorite followed by tempo runs, both feel quick and rewarding! I wish I had read more about the different types of runs in laymens terms, instead of reading about lactic threshold blah blah when I first started running, great tips!

    Loved the “3 more miles comment” haha.

    • I didn’t include track workout in this post because that’s really a whoooole different ball game! There are a whooole bunch of track workouts that I absolutely love to do, they’re so challenging but I love the feeling of accomplishment when I’m done.
      Reading about lactic threshold makes my eyes glaze over!

  9. Perfect timing for me! I was trying to do an at pace training run yesterday, and I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for (you meddling kids) headwind the entire return of my out and back. FOILED AGAIN.

  10. I definitely agree! I know that tempo runs have helped me improve my speed, especially in longer races like the half marathon and marathon. I think I do a lot of progression runs without necessarily trying because I always start out my runs slower and finish faster. But I think being able to do that is really important for races!

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