Almost every runner reaches the point where they are comfortable covering a certain distance, maybe a 5k or a 10k, and are now wondering how can they get a little faster. Throw the question out in the average club setting and the immediate response will be “you need to do speed work”.

Now for the majority of us, the words “speed work” bring to mind images of skinny high school boys hurtling around a synthetic athletics track at high speed and collapsing in agony afterwards.

Doing “speed work” need not be that scary though! Plus, you don’t need a track! With a smart progressive approach you too could be enjoying the euphoria of personal bests. No more just sneaking in the cut-off!

“Speed work”, is simply a) Learning to run with less effort and b) Challenging your comfort zones in order to push your body to new fitness levels.

And there are many ways in which this can be accomplished without ever going near an athletics track.

In this first part I am going to give you two add-ons to your regular runs in order to prime your body to run with less effort and prepare you to be able handle so called “speed work” sessions. (Remember the smart progressive approach)

First spend about 3 weeks getting comfortable with these. Then, in part 2, I will provide some ideas for actual “speed work” training sessions to start challenging those comfort zones.

This is your “speed work” priming:


These are super easy to incorporate after your regular run on any day.

What to do: Find a flat even section of road/grass that is 50 to 100 meters long. Start out slowly and gradually pick up the pace until you are almost sprinting, but not, by the end. Resist the temptation to go flat out. Remember your body is not used to going faster than a shuffle jog! Your top speed should be fast, but controlled. Take a relaxed walk back to your starting point. Repeat for 4 to 8 strides.

Tips: (a) A common error is to suddenly try and take very long steps. This will lead to over striding and actually slowly you down. Rather focus on faster steps and lifting your feet. Imagine a metal rod through your ankles and think of quickly stepping over the rod.

(b) Run nice and tall. Imagine a piece of string is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you up.

(c) Use your arms. For your legs to move fast, your arms need to be moving fast too. Bend your arms at a relaxed angle and think of pushing your elbows backwards fast.


Doing a few basic running drills before or after your regular run (you can include these with the stride outs mentioned above) will teach your body to run “easier”, meaning, you will be able to run faster with less effort.

A few of the basics to start with are: Easy skipping, butt kicks, high knees, fast feet, straight legs and carioca.

You might want to chat to a coach to help you get going on these. Or check out youtube for some ideas. The following is a great link to four basic drills to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYeeLPmFBH0

Even if you don’t do them 100%, the effort will improve your rhythm and your body will adapt to find an easier way of moving.

Do each drill 2 to 4 times over a distance of 20-50 meters with an easy walk back in between.

Look out for Part 2 and let me know how you get on!

Coach Kathleen