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Top 9 Running Workouts to Build Speed and Endurance

Reading Time: 5 minutes 12 seconds


DATE: 2022-06-14

Approximately 18.1 million Americans run road races every year according to data collected by Running USA. The race with the most participants is the 5k, accounting for 8.9 million of these entries.

Creating running workouts can help clients better prepare and compete. They do this by providing benefits in both speed and endurance.

Reasons to Improve Running Speed

One of the most compelling reasons to work on running speed is that it enhances your body's ability to use oxygen. A VO2 max test indicates maximum oxygen uptake when engaged in an intense workout. ‘Running economy' refers to the body's ability to convert this oxygen in a way that contributes to forward motion.

Speed training also helps create stronger bones. For instance, research shows that they help improve the structure and strength of the tibia bone. Also known as the shinbone, the tibia is located in the front of the lower leg. The stronger this bone, the lower the risk of fracture to this area.

Regularly doing speed work also increases running speed. This is beneficial for clients who want to place in running races. Some clients use max speed to monitor their progress over time.

Why Running Endurance Matters

Adding endurance training to a speed workout provides additional benefits. For instance, the American Heart Association shares that improving aerobic capacity is good for the circulatory system. It reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Improving your running stamina via aerobic endurance exercises also boosts metabolism. Research indicates that it does this by increasing a specific metabolic hormone. This hormone is known as fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). And it is a different hormone than the one instigated by weight lifting.

Some studies have further shown that endurance athletes tend to live longer. A review of 13 such studies revealed that their life expectancy was increased by as much as 6.9 years.

Clients that Benefit Most from a Speed Endurance Workout

Not every client wants or needs a running workout. For instance, some people don't like to run. Others can't run due to illness or injury.

Those training to run a 5k, half marathon, or full marathon would benefit from a workout designed to improve speed and endurance. If your client is training for a triathlon, running training can provide advantages as well.

Running Workouts to Build Speed and Endurance

What type of workouts lead to the ability to engage in longer, faster runs? Here are nine to consider.

#1: Sprint Workout

There are many benefits associated with a sprint workout. Speed and endurance are two. Sprint training also helps build muscle and burn fat.

Because sprint drills require maximum effort and speed, it's important to do a proper warm-up. This helps reduce injury risk. It also prepares the body for intense, physically-exhausting exercise.

To add sprints to your client's running regimen, start small. Pick an item or object that is 20 meters away and have them run toward it at half-speed. Once they master that, increase the speed followed by increases in distance.

Swinging their arms helps increase their sprint speed. So too does increasing their stride length.

#2: Hill Workout

An animal study found that hill running helps increase lactate threshold. This refers to lactate that accumulates in the blood faster than your body can remove it. This can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, and increased weakness.

For clients living in flat terrain, hills can be mimicked with a treadmill workout. By lifting and lowering the running platform, the same effect can be achieved.

#3: Interval Workout

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves alternating between short bursts of intense effort and slightly longer, yet lower intensity. Some clients like interval workouts because they provide many benefits without spending all day in the gym.

One example or a good interval workout for runners is the ladder run. This involves running for a specific distance at a faster speed (the workout interval), doing a one-minute jog (the recovery interval), then running the distance again (another workout interval).

#4: Long Run Workout

For clients interested in running a marathon, a long run workout is a great way to improve endurance. It trains their body to sustain an elevated heart rate and more stress on the body for a longer period of time.

Long run workouts also help improve run pace. Marathon pace is important because starting too fast can cause the body to burn out. Long runs help them better identify the speed they need to run to make it to the finish line.

#5: Easy Run Workout

Many running workouts require going full-out, even if for short periods of time. There are also benefits of running at an easy pace. These include increased performance and improved mental health.

The goal pace for an easy run is roughly half to three-quarters of a 5k pace, which ranges from 8:00 to 9:40 minutes. This helps support optimal capillary and mitochondria development.

#6: Tempo Run Workout

What exactly is a tempo run? It's a run that feels difficult, but not too hard. The goal of this run is to push your body in a controlled, sustainable way. These types of running workouts are generally 30 minutes or less and cause labored breathing at the beginning before the body adjusts.

Tempo pace is slightly slower than a 5k pace, by about 30 seconds per mile. Warm-ups and cool downs are important for a tempo run.

#7: Progression Run Workout

As the name suggests, progression runs involve starting slow, then speeding up. This helps boost endurance, reduce fatigue, and aid in recovery.

Another benefit of progression runs is that they let the body warm up before increasing speed. This reduces injury risk and contributes to a more successful workout.

#8: Fartlek Workout

Unlike many of the other types of running workouts, a fartlek workout is not structured. The runner switches from moderate to high intensity in an unpredictable fashion. The benefit of this type of workout is that it enables the runner to vary the exercise based on how they feel.

One way to do a fartlek workout is to change running speeds every time a new song begins on their playlist. Another option is to look for landscape markers and run as fast you can toward them before slowing down to recover.

#9: Recovery Run

It's not uncommon for endurance athletes to do a recovery run within one day after engaging in an intense training or competition. These sessions involve short, easy runs that increase heart rate to roughly one-half of the client's max.

Recovery runs help reduce the risk of overtraining. They give the muscle and tissue time to heal from more intense exercise sessions.

An Effective Speed Endurance Training Program Offers Variety

When creating a running program for clients, variety is key. Running drills can be performed 5-6 days a week, but varying the type of workouts provides clients optimal results in both speed and endurance.

Also consider other types of exercise that can cause improvements in these areas. For instance, there's value in including strength training in a running regimen. The stronger the muscles, the faster the run. Strong muscles also contribute to strong bones, reducing fracture risk.

Another option is yoga. The Yoga Journal reports that engaging in yoga helps runners in several ways:

  • improve range of motion

  • reduce stress on the body

  • increase running confidence

  • lower injury risk

If you'd like to help your runners more, the ISSA offers Yoga Instructor Certification. In this course, you will learn the philosophies behind yoga, as well as how to teach the various forms. Upon completion, you will be able to design yoga sequences for your students based on their individual goals and needs.

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