Whether you've been running for a few months or a few decades, you'd probably love to hit a PR at your next race, right? While running with good form and building a solid aerobic base are fundamental to running performance, there are a few training tips that can help you get faster at any distance once you've got those basics down. Here are three workouts suited to newer runners that can help you safely and smartly whittle seconds off your average pace.
Tempo runs train your legs to hold a faster aerobic pace. It can be hard to know what your tempo pace should be, but common guidelines include running at a "comfortably hard" pace (about 15 seconds slower than your 5K race pace), or running just at the point above which your breathing becomes irregular. This is not a conversational running pace, but neither should you be struggling to take in enough air.
If you find yourself lifting your ribcage or breathing out of rhythm with your stride to take in enough air, then you're going too fast and you should back off the pace a bit.
Depending on the distance you are training for, your tempo runs may last 20 minutes or 80 minutes (or longer, if you're more experienced and training for a marathon or an ultra-run). You should be able to sustain the pace for the duration of the effort (you'll have to run slower than tempo pace to accommodate a run of longer than 45 to 60 minutes).
If you can't do that, then slow down a bit by adding a few seconds to your target pace on your next scheduled tempo run.
"Fartlek" actually means "speed play" in Swedish, which should give you a good idea of what this training run entails. Best suited to days when you're really feeling good, fartleks give you the opportunity to push your pace up to or above tempo run pace. Rather than sustaining the pace for a set time or distance, you run as fast as feels comfortable for as long as you like. Of course, there should be an easy warm-up of a half-mile or more at the beginning of this run, but beyond that there really aren't many rules.
Generally, this will be a mid-distance run with free-form bouts of tempo running or even short sprint intervals scattered throughout. It's a fun way to log miles and play around with what your body is capable of.
Fartleks are especially beneficial for beginners because they train you to pay close attention to your body. Learning when you can increase the pace and for how long, as well as understanding when it's time to back off again, are important skills on race day.