3 Key Workouts to Run Faster

This is a concise training guide to the three key workouts leading to faster times from the 5K to the marathon.

Here’s what you will learn:

VO2max Intervals: How this type of workout takes your speed to the next level. 

The Tempo Run: How lactate threshold training enables you to run fast for long durations.

The Long Run: How long runs improve your performance even in distances as short as the 5K.

So if you’re looking to become a faster runner, you’ll love this short guide.

VALENCIA - NOVEMBER 16: Juanjo (number 150) participates in Valencias marathon on November 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain

Contents

Shot of sporty young woman running on mountain road in beautiful nature.

Chapter 1

VO2max Intervals

VO2max intervals 5

Chapter 2

The Tempo Run

long runs 2

Chapter 3

The Long Run

Chapter 1

VO2max Intervals

A high aerobic capacity is the #1 factor for fast race results. Here are the adaptions to VO2max intervals:

✔ Increased stroke volume of your heart
✔ Increased blood plasma volume
✔ Increased red blood cell count

That means you will be able to run faster across all your workouts with the same effort—and having a good chance to smash your personal best at the next race.

Here’s a quick and practical overview of how to improve the VO2max rating on your Garmin.

 

 

Shot of sporty young woman running on mountain road in beautiful nature.

VO2max Intervals in Practice

Your VO2max is reached when your heart rate is at its maximum. That occurs at a pace that you could hold for 6 – 9 minutes, which is around 2000 – 3000m race pace for most runners. 

Intensity: 3K pace or the somewhat slower 5K pace (at 95% of VO2max). Accumulate 15 – 20 minutes at those intensities. Running faster than VO2max sabotages the goal of this workout. 

Duration: Because of the high intensity, this type of training needs to be broken down into 4 – 6 intervals of 3 – 5 minutes each.  The work-to-rest ratio is typically 1:1 or slightly shorter for the rest period, where you will be simply jogging. 

Frequency: Once a week with 48 – 72 hours of recovery (easy running, cross-training, or rest) until the next hard workout, such as tempo runs or long runs described here. 

Before you start VO2max intervals, you should have a solid aerobic base and a foundation of running-specific muscular power. You achieve this with a high weekly volume of easy runs and Fartlek runs that include short surges at 1500m pace. Hill sprints are also a good choice. 

Your VO2max is reached when your heart rate is at its maximum. That occurs at a pace that you could hold for 6 – 9 minutes, which is around 2000 – 3000m race pace for most runners. 

Intensity: 3K pace or the somewhat slower 5K pace (at 95% of VO2max). Accumulate 15 – 20 minutes at those intensities. Running faster than VO2max sabotages the goal of this workout. 

Duration: Because of the high intensity, this type of training needs to be broken down into 4 – 6 intervals of 3 – 5 minutes each.  The work-to-rest ratio is typically 1:1 or slightly shorter for the rest period, where you will be simply jogging. 

Frequency: Once a week with 48 – 72 hours of recovery (easy running, cross-training, or rest) until the next hard workout, such as tempo runs or long runs described here. 

Before you start VO2max intervals, you should have a solid aerobic base and a foundation of running-specific muscular power. You achieve this with a high weekly volume of easy runs and Fartlek runs that include short surges at 1500m pace. Hill sprints are also a good choice. 

Chapter 2

The Tempo Run

A high lactate threshold (LT) lets you run fast for a long duration. Here are the adaptations to tempo training:

✔ Increased capacity to buffer lactate and use it as a fuel
✔ Increased contraction velocity in slow-twitch fibers
✔ Increased mitochondrial volume and density

That means you will have the stamina to sustain your goal pace for your next 10K, half-marathon, or marathon.

Here’s a quick and practical overview of how to increase your lactate threshold.

 

 

VO2max intervals 5

The Tempo Run in Practice

Lactate threshold is the point above which lactate accumulates faster than it can be cleared. That occurs at pace you could sustain for 1 hour, which is about 15K pace for most amateur runners.

Intensity: 15K pace (10-mile pace). Longer tempo runs at half-marathon pace and cruise intervals at 10K pace are also effective to improve your lactate threshold. 

Duration: A solid tempo run lasts between 20 and 30 minutes for the main segment. This should be sandwiched by easy running so that the total training time approches 1 hour. 

Frequency: Once a week with 48 hours of recovery (easy running, cross-training, or rest) until the next hard workout, such as VO2max intervals or long runs described here. 

Build up to longer tempo runs gradually. You can either precede tempo runs with lower intensities (e.g. marathon/HM pace) or break tempo runs into intervals with short rest periods initially.

Lactate threshold is the point above which lactate accumulates faster than it can be cleared. That occurs at pace you could sustain for 1 hour, which is about 15K pace for most amateur runners.

Intensity: 15K pace (10-mile pace). Longer tempo runs at half-marathon pace and cruise intervals at 10K pace are also effective to improve your lactate threshold. 

Duration: A solid tempo run lasts between 20 and 30 minutes for the main segment. This should be sandwiched by easy running so that the total training time approches 1 hour. 

Frequency: Once a week with 48 hours of recovery (easy running, cross-training, or rest) until the next hard workout, such as VO2max intervals or long runs described here. 

Build up to longer tempo runs gradually. You can either precede tempo runs with lower intensities (e.g. marathon/HM pace) or break tempo runs into intervals with short rest periods initially.

Chapter 3

The Long Run

Raw endurance enables you to run for 90 minutes and beyond. Here are the adaptations to long runs: 

✔ Larger glycogen stores in muscles and liver
✔ Strengthening of connective tissues
✔ Increased capillary density

That means it will be much easier for you to absorb harder VO2max, tempo, and race-specific workouts that will get you to the next level at any race distance.  

Here’s a quick and practical overview of how to improve your endurance.

 

 

long runs 3

The Long Run in Practice

Long runs are basically extended easy runs. As a rule of thumb, your weekly long run is 50 percent longer than your longest midweek easy run. And that makes all the difference to your fitness.

Intensity: Easy pace. You should be able to speak in complete sentences. It’s normal to have a heart rate drift of 10 – 20 bpm towards the end of a long run at the same pace. Avoid the habit of slowing down. Instead, finish the long run with 15 – 20 minutes at marathon pace occasionally.

Duration: For 5K and 10K training, 60 – 90 minutes. For HM training, you should regularly go beyond 90 minutes and the marathon requires the occasional monster long run approaching 20 miles.

Frequency: Once a week with 48 hours of recovery (easy running, cross-training, or rest) until the next hard workout, such as VO2max intervals or tempo runs described here.

Long runs should not make up more than 25 – 30 percent of your overall weekly mileage. Build up gradually to extended long runs or more demanding long run formats such as progression runs. 

Long runs are basically extended easy runs. As a rule of thumb, your weekly long run is 50 percent longer than your longest midweek easy run. And that makes all the difference to your fitness.

Intensity: Easy pace. You should be able to speak in complete sentences. It’s normal to have a heart rate drift of 10 – 20 bpm towards the end of a long run at the same pace. Avoid the habit of slowing down. Instead, finish the long run with 15 – 20 minutes at marathon pace occasionally.

Duration: For 5K and 10K training, 60 – 90 minutes. For HM training, you should regularly go beyond 90 minutes and the marathon requires the occasional monster long run approaching 20 miles.

Frequency: Once a week with 48 hours of recovery (easy running, cross-training, or rest) until the next hard workout, such as VO2max intervals or tempo runs described here.

Long runs should not make up more than 25 – 30 percent of your overall weekly mileage. Build up gradually to extended long runs or more demanding long run formats such as progression runs. 

Thanks for Reading!

I hope you have gained something from this short guide. Expect more training tips in my performance newsletter in the coming days and weeks. 

Email me about your goals and running background so I can recommend a training plan to you.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sandro Sket, CSCS

I hope you have gained something from this short workout guide. Expect more training tips in my performance newsletter in the coming days and weeks.

Email me about your goals and background so I can recommend a training plan to you.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sandro Sket, CSCS

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Preview your training plan from 8-20 weeks now!

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