Stride It Out1 of 7
Why: Get your legs and lungs primed for faster, longer efforts by adding strides at the end of easy runs a few times a week for at least 2 to 3 weeks before adding speed workouts.
Who: From Sabrina Grotewold, former Active.com running editor
Find a flat, traffic-free space of 100 to 200 meters. Start the stride at a jog and gradually build to about 95 percent of maximum speed and hold that effort for 2 to 5 seconds before slowing to a stop. Walk for about one minute to recover before the next stride. Start with four strides after easy runs twice a week and gradually increase the number of strides until you can complete 10 strides 3 to 4 times a week.
"Play" With Speed Indoors or Outdoors2 of 7
Why: Fartleks prepare you for longer, more structured workouts down the road because they combine short bursts of harder efforts with short rest periods. You're the boss when it comes to fartleks; you decide how long (or short) each interval should be.
Who: From Jay Johnson, former coach of national champions
If you're indoors, you can simply get down to your threshold pace and run it for a few minutes, then back off to a pace that is faster than your easy pace, but still slow enough that you recover a bit. My college track coach called this pace "steady." Then you repeat it--faster running followed by steady running. I like to just go by feel and say, "For 50 minutes I'm just going to play with pace." Fartlek is a Swedish term that means "speed-play," and I assign it for athletes because I want them to learn where their aerobic threshold is by playing with pace.
But if you're someone who needs more structure, you can do a workout where you run five-minute blocks of time. You can run two minutes at your threshold pace, then back off for three minutes, then repeat. We call that "two minutes on, three minutes steady."
Complete a short warm-up and cooldown that consists of 10 minutes each of easy jogging.
Random Treadmill Intervals3 of 7
Why: Unpredictable incline and speed changes provide a more complete workout than a steady pace on a flat surface, because they force you to work different muscles.
Who: From Sarah Lorge Butler, senior editor, Running Times
Just a little variation in your run helps the time go by much faster. Try a 10-minute warm-up, 20 minutes of random intervals, and a 10-minute cooldown.
If you don't have much time for a run, you'll get an extra burst of intensity in a short duration. Plus, a mystery workout is a healthy change for obsessive runners who like to plot out and then log every split.
Mini Workouts4 of 7
Why: The goal of any mini-workout is to mimic the longer version of the workout. As you get in better shape (which will happen quickly), the workouts will start to get longer to more closely mimic the demands of your goal race.
Who: From Jason Fitzgerald, running coach and founder of Strength Running
Run 2 x 5 minutes at tempo pace (a "comfortably hard" pace, or what you could hold for an hour).
Complete 6 x 30-second hill repeats at 10K pace.
Run a 5K or 10K Without Training Specifically For It5 of 7
Why: Since much training advice is based on a runner's 5- and 10K times, knowing your personal benchmarks at these distances can help you tailor your speed workouts more effectively.
Who: From Don Kardong, Olympic marathon runner
Entering races now and then without completing distance-specific training first will help you learn to run at a constant pace over a longer period of time (instead of just running easy all of the time). Races provide a competitive environment for you to push yourself; you're more apt to run at a faster pace during a race than you would during a normal easy run in the park. Learning the 5K or 10K pace you're capable of now will reveal what paces you can train at reasonably come spring.
Up Tempo6 of 7
Why: Tempo running trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently.
Who: From Gale Bernhardt, Olympic triathlon coach
A classic tempo run is a sustained, comfortably hard effort for 2 to 4 miles. Gale Bernhardt uses this four-week progression for tempo-newbies. Do a 10- to 15-minute warm-up and cooldown.
Week 1: 5 x 3 minutes at tempo pace, 60-second easy jog in between each one (if you have to walk during the recovery, you're going too hard).
Week 2: 5 x 4 minutes at tempo pace, 60-second easy jog recovery.
Week 3: 4 x 5 minutes at tempo pace, 90-second easy jog recovery.
Week 4: 20 minutes steady at tempo pace.