Expert advice to help you increase your pace.
It might sound obvious but to become a faster runner, you need to practise running fast regularly. As a triathlete, you should be looking to do one speed session per week throughout the winter, preferably on a track or a measured circuit.
Failing that you should use a running watch that measures pace and distance. To help you run at the right intensities it is important to have a good idea of your current race paces for 3km, 5km and 10km. If you haven’t raced for a while, aim to do a flat 5km race or a self-timed 3km time trial to give yourself some accurate timings.
You can then do an online search for running calculators to get estimated times for the other race distances.
Structure your training
Every speed workout should consist of the following six elements. If nothing else, make sure you include the warm-up, main session and warm-down.
1) A warm-up of easy running. About 10 minutes.
2) Dynamic exercises to take your joints through a good range of movement and mobilise muscles. Try five to 10 minutes of leg swings, skipping, zigzag running and step-ups.
3) Running drills to develop coordination, teach or reinforce good mechanics. Aim for a few drills done really well. Try butt kicks where you bring your heels to your buttocks with each kick or barefoot running on the spot, best done on grass or indoors on a mat for around 30 seconds.
4) Running strides to rehearse the speed of movement of the main session. These are short progressive sprints. For example, four to sixx 60m build-up runs to 80 per cent maximum intensity.
5) A main session consisting of several hard efforts (see box).
6) A warm-down of easy jogging, normally about five minutes.
Three Run Sessions
Once you’re warmed up, you can move on to the main session. There are three types to choose from. The session you pick should depend on the race distance you’re targeting, your current strengths and the timings of your races.
Either way, don’t attempt all three types in a single week or you’ll burn out. As a triathlete it’s better to focus on one type of session and do it once a week for six to eight weeks before moving onto the next.
1) Anaerobic Workouts
These involve short, fast efforts with relatively long rests. By training at these paces you develop your ability to apply quick force to the track or road, increasing your stride length and efficiency. The volume of these types of sessions is relatively low – a maximum of 3km and often less.
If you already have a good endurance base and you’ve done some longer track workouts you will find that it doesn’t take many of these speed sessions to produce a rapid performance improvement. Just six to 10 workouts will move you on significantly, provided you are fresh and fuelled when you do them.
- Session 1: 10x200m with 90secs rest between reps
- Session 2: 7x300m with 2mins rest between reps
- Session 3: 6x400m with 2mins 30secs between reps
2) Aerobic Speed
If you want to run a faster 5k or 10k race, these are the bread-and-butter sessions that will help you get there. They involve fast repetitions with relatively short rests. Keep the volume of your main set to around 5km and your pace at around your best for 3km. Start with short repetitions and build the length of time you are running at this pace.
Here are some examples of how to progress your main sets:
- Session 1: Two 10x200m with 20secs between reps and 4mins between sets
- Session 2: Three 5x300m with 45secs between reps and 4mins between sets
- Session 3: Two 6x400m with 60secs between reps and 3mins between sets
- Session 4: 12x400m with 1 min rests
3) Aerobic Endurance
These sessions will help you to maintain a fast pace for longer, so you can stay strong all the way to the finish line. The volume stretches to 8km and the speed towards 5km race pace.
You will be required to run for over three minutes in each repetition, all at high heart rates.
Examples of fast aerobic endurance sessions include:
- Session 1: 8x800m with 2mins rests
- Session 2: 6x(800m/400m) alternating 2mins rest and 1min rest
- Session 3: 8x1km with 2mins jog rests
- Session 4: 6x1200m with 2mins rests
Try to keep it interesting and challenging by changing the sessions and combining elements at different paces. Record your times and build up knowledge that will help you gauge how fast you might run on race day.
If you’re new to this, don’t do too much on your first few outings. Build it up over a period of months and take notice of any unusual muscle pain. It’s important to listen to your body.