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Get faster, no speedwork required

Run faster, without traditional speed workouts

A friend and I were talking half marathon training the other day. She’s run a couple half marathons and wants to PR in the distance in the fall, but she has a problem: she hates prescribed speedwork. If a training plan calls for 800m repeats or tempo runs, she won’t do the workout. It’s just not her thing.

But is speedwork vital to getting faster? Many people would argue that runners need to do this type of training to take their game to the next level. After all, if you want to race faster you have to run faster during training to get there, right? However, there are other workouts that can aid in increasing your pace, too.

  • Hit the hills. No one likes running uphill – it hurts! But regularly doing hill work makes you stronger, which could result in faster race times. Think about it – if you’re used to running up inclines, flat sections of road will feel easier, so you’ll be able to speed up. What’s more, you’ll also be able to tackle hills during your race more efficiently which can also lead to a quicker overall pace. Here’s more on hill workouts.
  • Plyometrics. Plyometrics are bounding exercises, think burpees, standing long jumps, and skip-ups. Research shows plyometrics can improve muscle strength, stride power, and athletic performance when you do them regularly. Add plyometric drills to two workouts per week for optimal results. Get more details on plyometrics here.
  • Cross-training. Swimming, cycling, and other exercises that get your heart pumping can be a runner’s best ally. Doing other types of aerobic workouts will strengthen your cardiovascular system without putting too much stress on the muscle groups you rely on for running. The key is to cross-train intensely for it to benefit your running speed. Walking around the block or hopping on the elliptical for a steady state workout won’t cut it. Do something that’s high intensity, like a spinning class. 
  • Strength training. This is a no brainer. Stronger legs equal faster legs. Even the pros know this secret and hit the weights as part of their training. Don’t know where to start? Try these 7 must-do strength training moves for runners.
  • Simply run faster. Hear us out – this isn’t as obvious as it seems. If the idea of organized speedwork overwhelms you, try Fartlek runs. Fartlek means “speed play” in Sweedish. For Fartleks, you simply add short spurts of speed to your runs. The next time you’re out for an easy 4-miler around your neighborhood, challenge yourself to pick up the pace between mailboxes or sprint to the next stop sign. Return to your easy run pace and then challenge yourself with a speed pick-up again. Do Fartlek runs weekly, and you’re bound to see some positive results come race day.

Has anyone successfully gotten faster without doing speedwork? What tricks did you use?

 Written by Jen Matz.

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