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3 Workouts to Improve Your Run

As the season progresses and we get a few races under the belt, we find a reason to want to go faster. Whether it’s getting a personal best, winning your age group or picking off that nemesis, you want that little extra bit.

The run is the prime place for quick improvement without drastic changes to your program.

Here are three great workouts for building killer speed over the Olympic distance run:

Mile Repeats

Frequency: Once per week.

Workout: 6×1 mile or 10x1K or 5x2K

If you have not done anything like this before, you should begin with fewer repeats (such as 4×1 mile and build up to the full volume of this workout). You may consider choosing a different rep-to-distance format each week to avoid monotony. Also, you don’t have to do this on a track. If you have a park or road with a measured distance, this would be preferred since–as a triathlete–you won’t be running on a track.

Rest: 1:1; in other words if your interval pace is seven minutes, then your rest should be at least five minutes and up to seven minutes.

Pace: 10K pace or slightly faster. Do not exceed faster than 100 percent VO2 max pace. If your splits are not consistent and you slow down throughout the workout, you are running too fast. Start conservatively and build into it. It is OK to speed up, but if you start slowing down you are missing the objective the workout.

Purpose: Physiologically this type of workout serves to build aerobic capacity–make you more efficient at race pace. You can either run faster over a given distance or you can run further at a given pace.

When I was in college running under legendary coach Joe Vigil at Adams State College, every Thursday was “Religion Day.” Thursday was mile repeat day. And you could count on them every single week of the season “religiously.” We knew it was on when coach would lumber out of his truck, with a stopwatch around his neck and announce, “Gentleman, today we get tough.” However, “Religion Day” may also have meant a bit of prayer on our part hoping that just once we might have a week off. Somehow that never happened.

As a freshman, Thursday was not my favorite day of the week. In fact, I dreaded it. I would stress the entire day waiting for 2 o’clock to roll around. When it finally did, I made the rookie mistake of going out too hard early in the workout in trying to hang with post-collegiate pro runners and our upper-classmen (most of whom were All-Americans, National Champions or both).

I would end up suffering like a dog though the second half of the workout, which totally destroyed the workout’s whole purpose.

As I matured and eventually became a triathlete, I grew to love mile repeats for the simple reason that they work. And they will make you fast. It’s a tough workout–one that will take a few sessions to get right–but nothing will give you the strength and efficiency to finish strong like good ol’ mile repeats.


Frequency: Once per week in addition to mile repeats. Don’t do in the same week as hills.

Workout: Four sets of four 400’s followed by four 200’s. As in, run four 400’s then four 200’s. Rest five minutes and repeat three more times. The 16 400’s and 16 200’s combine for a six mile total workout distance. This workout can be mentally demanding. It is a good idea to start with half the workout (2 sets 4×400, 4×200), and add a set each time you do the workout.

Rest: One to two minute jogs for the 400’s. Jog an easy 200 for the 200’s. Take five minutes very easy between each set.

Pace: Run these faster than 10K pace and closer to what you can do for 5K. This will feel slow early in the workout but will catch up with you.

Purpose: This workout is ideal for high-end aerobic training and lactate tolerance. It pushes the envelope of the maximum pace you can hold for a 10K. This is a great workout to do with friends. Just be sure you keep focused on hitting the pace that is appropriate for you. That said, don’t be afraid to push each other. You have to challenge yourself to find out what you are capable of, so don’t let the pace drop throughout this workout. Consistency is the key.

If you don’t have a track available, don’t worry. This workout can be done by time as well. Your 400’s will become two minute runs and your 200’s one minute runs. Keep the rest at two to three minutes for the two minute runs and one to two minutes for the one minute runs.

This type of workout is what will make triathlon race pace seem relaxed. The key is to maintain the pace and not get lazy toward the end of the workout. Maintaining the pace of this workout will help you feel like you can just keep accelerating at the end of a triathlon.

Hell’s Hills

Frequency: Once per week in addition to mile repeats, but not the same week as 4x4x4

Workout: Five to 10 repetitions of a steep 200M hill or a hill taking 45 to 60 seconds to complete at a fast pace.

Rest: A very easy jog to the bottom of the hill, this should take around 5 minutes.

Pace: All out and as fast as you can go–no excuses. Hammer from the very start and don’t slow down. This is hard.

Purpose: This workout builds maximal power, strength and speed. It will also benefit technique and stride by increasing knee drive and toe off. While not scientifically proven, this will make you tough. It requires a very hard effort, and you really have to gut it out. This toughness will benefit anyone from a 1500M runner to an Ironman racer.

I think it was my first high school cross country coach who termed this type of workout Hell’s Hills–and it is freakishly appropriate. Do this with as many of your closest friends–or most hated enemies–as possible.

After a heated argument, this might be the perfect relationship therapy for you, your significant other or the both of you. My point is that this is a full on, no holds barred, hammer yourself into the ground, think you’re gonna puke, “Frozen tundra of Lambo Field” type of workout.

The basis of the workout is really quite easy. Pick about a minute long hill, preferably one that’s steep. It should have 50 meters of flat leading into it to build up your speed. Then charge the hill like Mel Gibson in “Brave Heart,” and don’t slow down.

Of course, you will slow down. You will have to slow down because your legs will beg you to stop while your brain tries to grasp some vague reason to continue on. When done properly, you will reach your stopping point, bend over panting for air and–if you’ve done very well–go to your knees.

You’ll suck air for a minute or so, feel better, stand up, and think, “OK, only eight more to go.” This is an awesome workout. While it is hard, it’s beneficial in numerous ways from the physiological systems it works to the psychological effect of knowing you’ve done this type of workout.

As triathletes, we rarely get to really push ourselves 100 percent. This workout gives you that chance. Go at it tenaciously.



Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 18 years as a runner, cyclist, mountain biker, cross country skier, and primarily, triathlete. Jimmy has a degree in exercise science from the University of Colorado and is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. Jimmy became a freelance writer in 2000 while competing and covering the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship. Since that time Jimmy has been head editor at two magazines, been published in numerous publications within the endurance sport, recreation, and travel segments. Currently Jimmy is competing professionally in off-road multisport. In his spare time Jimmy passionately follows Formula 1, Moto GP, and is an avid cook.

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