Speed Training for Running

Written By: Jason Peters, General Manager, O2 Fitness – North Chatham

Whether you’re competing in running/triathlon races, trying to improve on your personal best or just get more pleasure out of running, working on these speed training techniques can definitely help.


Cadence Work:

To go faster, you have to teach your body to, well, move faster.  That can come from heading to a track or finding a nice, flat area to run.  You’ll first want to get a watch and count the number of times your right (or left) foot hits the ground in a minute.

You can do this by counting ten seconds and multiplying by 6 if you don’t want to do this for the full minute.  Once you get that number (ex. 75 steps in 60 secs), for the drill, you will increase the number of foot impacts quite dramatically (110+ per minute).  For me, this drill always feels a bit odd…like I’m chopping around the track, but trust me, this really will benefit you over time.

My cadence work will typically look like this:

Warm-up 1600 (1 mile), stretch

1600 Cadence work – If you’re on a track, you would jog easy around the turns and once you straighten out, increase the cadence to the higher number for the straights.  Repeating for the mile.

  • GOAL – Quick turnover of foot striking.  Dramatically higher tempo than your normal cadence.
  • BENEFIT – Teaches your body to perform a quicker foot strike and turnover during your stride.
  • FREQUENCY – Perform this type of workout once per week.  I typically combine in within another longer workout.

Hill Repeats:

Uphill running strengthens a wider variety of leg muscles than level running does, resulting in greater power and speed. The high knee lift involves increased power in the quads, leading to a quicker, more powerful foot strike. Find a moderately steep hill or road that allows you to run between 50 and 200 meters in length.

  • GOAL –   Attack each climb with a decent intensity.  At the top, turn around and recover as you walk/lightly jog back, giving yourself at least 60-90 seconds between reps.  Start by repeating 10 times, increasing the number of reps as your fitness progresses.
  • BENEFIT – Increased power, explosiveness and flexibility.
  • FREQUENCY – Perform this type of workout once per week.  Twice as your fitness progresses.


During a trip to the track, try to work in a few of these into a workout about once a week to see your speed increase.  These are all based on teaching your body to be more powerful, explosive, quick and efficient during your stride, while also working on your lateral stability in the hip-joint.

  • High-knees – Instead of your normal running stride, try to lift your front knee as high as you can comfortably get it and alternate each leg.  This teaches you to open up your front leg for your stride, and also strengthens the achilles and calf of the bounding, rear leg.
  • Bounding – I call this the moon-man walk.  The goal is to literally bound off of each leg as high and far as you can.  Try to focus on a light landing though, as you don’t want to injure yourself on impact.  Lift the front leg high and get the knee up and out on each take-off.
  • Butt-kicks – If you were to jog in place, but move forward just a bit, the goal is to carry your rear leg through as far as you can, and even kick your own butt if you are that flexible in the quadriceps and hip flexor.  Forward movement is not the focus here.
  • Karaoke Drill – While standing sideways on a track, start by striding directly out beside your body, propelling yourself down the track (in a lane), then at impact, cross the rear foot in front of the front foot.  At impact, kick the initial front foot out forward again, then, again at impact, kick the rear foot behind the front leg.  Be careful with this one at first or you might trip yourself up.

Base Training:

When thinking of going faster, few think about one of the most important factors in your training routine…the good old base run.  I always make sure to include a long, easy base run each weekend while I’m training.  No matter what distance you’re training for, your body will benefit from these efforts; resulting in a much more efficient system.

  • GOAL – Slow, steady run over a longer distance.  Keep a general heart rate of no higher than 80% of your maximum heart rate.  Max heart rate is calculated as 220 – age.  Therefore, for a 40 year old individual, for this type of training, they would look to keep their heart rate at about 144 bpm.  If you can maintain this rate for the majority of your run, this will significantly help your cardiovascular system prepare for more intense workouts.
  • BENEFIT – Trains your cardiovascular system, builds a stronger mind-body connection for proper gait, strengthens the system to be able to hold up over a longer, tougher race.
  • FREQUENCY – Once per week.  I typically tag this workout on the end of my week on a Saturday or Sunday, but do what works for you and your schedule.

Give these speed tricks a try for about 4-6 weeks and I’m sure you’ll notice some dramatic improvements to your stride, efficiency, power and most importantly, SPEED.

Have fun and go fast!

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