Year-Round Speed Training for All Runners

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

By: Linda McShane, Charm City Run Training Coach

If you’ve ever been on a running team or in a training group, you know what speed workouts are. They include tempo runs, fartleks, and various intervals on the track and on hills…and they are usually very challenging!  Most training programs include one or two speed workouts per week that vary in intensity depending on where they are implemented in the training cycle. 

But what about speed work for those of us who are in between training cycles? Do we need to grind out 800 repeats on the track during our off-season? Answer: Only if you love hard speed workouts!

Recreational runners who run for general fitness and fun don’t need speedwork, do they? Other than runners who want a PR, who should include speed training in their running regime? Answer: EVERYONE should include speed work into their running routine!

Why? Because speed work:

  • Increases strength and power,
  • Can improve fast twitch muscle ability, which we lose as we age,
  • Improves your running form – which leads to better running efficiency and decreased risk of injury,
  • Can be used by beginner, intermediate, and elite runners.
  • Doesn’t need to be challenging, intense workouts if you’re not preparing to compete.

Two of the best ways to incorporate safe and “easy” speed training into your weekly routine is with strides and short hill sprints.


Strides may be the simplest practice to plug into your weekly running routine.  Strides (aka stride outs, striders, accelerations) are 100 meter accelerations in which you gradually build speed for about 30 meters, accelerate to about 95% of your max speed (“speed with control”), and then gradually decelerate to a stop. You then walk back to the start, making sure to give yourself a complete recovery (90 seconds) and complete a total of 4 – 6 reps. These can be done after an easy run or a slow long run.  They can also be done before a hard workout or race.

Since they’re short, strides don’t require too much effort and they’re actually easy for most people. They can be run on a field, track, road, or sidewalk. 

Why run strides? Besides increasing your speed and strength, here’s a short list from Jason Fitzgerald: 

  • They help you loosen up after a slow distance run
  • Strides serve as a transition to faster workouts – especially for beginners learning how to start running
  • They increase your running economy by reinforcing proper running form (i.e., they make you more efficient)
  • When done barefoot, they develop foot and lower leg strength with only a small risk of injury
  • They metabolically prepare you to run fast before a race or hard workout
  • They only take a few minutes


Another great way to add speed work to your weekly runs is by adding short hill sprints once or twice a week after your easy runs. Hill sprints are exactly as they sound. You run up a steep hill as fast as you can for 8-12 seconds. Complete 4-8 repetitions and walk for about 2 minutes between each rep.  

When running uphill sprints, take a few lead-in steps to accelerate smoothly. Hit your top pace for 5-8 seconds and then decelerate. At maximum speed, keep your eyes forward, pump your arms like a sprinter, and keep your stride quick!

The beauty of these sprints is that they are short enough to prevent muscle fatigue and soreness, yet long enough to produce real results!  The incline of the hill means that less impact is absorbed by the runner, which reduces risk for injury due to less strain on ligaments and tendons.

Check out the following links for more information about strides and hill sprints from two of my favorite world-class running coaches:

Jason Fitzgerald on Strides, Jason Fitzgerald on Hill Workouts, Steve Magnus on Sprint Training Part 1, Steve Magnus on Sprint Training Part 2


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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