Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. How we test gear.

5 Speed Workouts Every Beginner Should Try

Add these to your running routine to make getting faster more fun.

speed workouts
RealPeopleGroupGetty Images

When you first start running, it’s important to focus on getting into the exercise habit—making your run or walk a regular part of each day, finding times and places to exercise that feel convenient and comfortable, and finding a way to enjoy it so you keep it up long-term.

But as you become a more seasoned runner, you may aim to get fitter and faster. You can simply add time to your workout as you get stronger, or increase the distance you cover.

Another approach is to add some structured workouts to your routine. These workouts, which involve running-specific intervals or time or distance at a specific pace, can help you develop endurance, speed, and stronger legs and lungs. But most important, they can keep your exercise regime from getting stale, says coach and exercise physiologist Susan Paul. And by breaking up the distance into smaller intervals, you can cover more distance overall.

“If you just go out for 30 minutes over and over every day, it can be very boring,” says Paul. With structured workouts, “the time goes by much quicker. They engage your mind, and the body goes along with it.”

Below Paul recommends five speed workouts for beginners, whether you’re just starting to run or returning to running after taking time off.

It’s important to note that some of these workouts are best done on a track. Yes, tracks can be intimidating, but just because you’re at a track does not require you to run fast. A track is an ideal setting for a beginner because it’s flat, traffic-free, and the distance is measured. If you don’t have access to a track, a treadmill or any flat traffic-free stretch of road will work.

How to use this list: Try one of the speed workouts below each week. When you’re ready, increase the time or distance of each of these workouts by 10 to 20 percent. Stay alert for aches and pains (beyond typical muscle soreness) that persist during your run and after you’re done.

Join Runner’s World+ to become a stronger, faster runner!

1. Straights and Curves

Sports, Track and field athletics, Athletics, Athlete, Running, Recreation, Sprint, Individual sports, Race track, Sport venue,
Chris Hinkle

How to Do It:
Walk for 5 minutes to warm up. Then run the straight stretches of the track and walk the curves. Repeat that cycle twice. Leave water at a spot that you can drink after you finish each loop. On the run segment, get into a rhythm that feels comfortable, says Paul. “Don’t sprint.” As your fitness improves, you can start to pick up the pace.

If you don’t have access to a track, you can run this on the road. Just use different landmarks to mark your walking and running intervals. You might run to a tree, mailbox, telephone pole, or stop sign. Then walk. Once you catch your breath, pick another landmark to run to. Then walk to recover. Repeat the cycle two or three times.

What It Does:
This helps you get your body and mind accustomed to picking up the pace and running faster for short periods of time. The short intervals make the bouts of hard work seem doable. With each walk break you have a chance to recover enough for your next bout of hard work.

2. Gear Shifter

speed workouts
David Jaewon Oh

How to Do It:
In this workout, alternate between your easy, medium, and fast paces. Use this guide to find each gear:

      Easy: Conversational pace; a pace where you could chat with a friend running alongside you. This is a rhythm that feels like you could maintain it all day long if you had to.

      Medium: This should be faster than your easy pace, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re speeding. You would prefer not to hold a full conversation, but if someone asked you a question, you could answer in two- or three-word sentences.

      Fast: Quicker than your medium pace. In this gear you should be able to say one or two words but, if someone asked you a question, it would make you mad because you wouldn’t want to expend the energy to answer them. Don’t sprint all-out or push to the point of pain, or where you feel you’re going to pull something. You should feel like, “I’m okay, I just don’t want to do this for very long.”

      • Warm up with 3 to 5 minutes of walking.
      • Ramp up to your easy pace (see above) and hold it for 2 to 3 minutes.
      • Shift into your medium pace and sustain it for 1 minute.
      • Shift into the fast pace for 30 seconds.
      • Repeat the cycle 2 or 3 times.
      • Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.

        What It Does:
        This workout will elevate your heart rate, boost your fitness and calorie burn, and keep you from falling into a rut with the same easy pace.

        “It makes running fun, ups the intensity, and recruits different muscle fibers,” says Paul. “It’s like adding spice to a recipe.”

        By getting used to what different paces feel like, you can get more benefits out of all your workouts going forward, whether you’re doing a recovery run or racing in your first 5K.

        “If you’re aware of your running pace, you can control your effort based on the distance or the purpose of the workout or in the race,” says Paul. What’s more, it can help you stay injury-free. If you run the same pace all the time, you recruit the same muscle fibers, in the exact same way over and over. That, says Paul, sets the stage for many common overuse injuries, like runner’s knee and IT band syndrome.

        “If you mix up your paces, you recruit different muscle fibers, and some different muscles,” says Paul. “You get more balanced out.”

        3. The Even Steven

        Sports, Running, Athlete, Athletics, Sprint, Recreation, Outdoor recreation, Individual sports, Sky, Track and field athletics,
        Chris Hinkle

        How to Do It:
        Walk to warm up, then run three laps around the track. Try to run each loop at the same pace, within five seconds faster or slower than the previous loop.

        What It Does:
        This workout builds endurance and teaches you to maintain a steady, consistent effort, which is what you’ll want to do in your first race. “Runners of all abilities tend to just start running as fast as they can, until they tire out and have to quit,” says Paul. Knowing that you have three loops to do, you’ll learn to start your first loop slower and get into a rhythm that you can maintain for all three loops.

        This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

        4. The Long Run

        Outdoor recreation, Running, Recreation, Long-distance running, Mountainous landforms, Ultramarathon, Individual sports, Endurance sports, Wilderness, Tree,
        Chris Hinkle

        How to Do It:
        Want to stretch out your workout for longer? Take walk breaks before you need to at even intervals to push your usual run a little longer. That may mean running for just 20 seconds, at first, says Paul. You should be running at a pace that’s easy enough to hold a conversation she says. “If you can’t, slow down.” On the other hand, if you’re running so easy you can sing, pick up the pace, she adds.

        What It Does:
        This helps you build endurance without getting injured or discouraged. Taking walk breaks will help ensure you don’t get too tired to quickly.

        5. Destination Run

        speed workouts
        David Jaewon Oh

        How to Do It:
        Covering the same old route can get downright old. Run or walk to someplace nearby that you usually drive to and that involves going farther than you usually do. Go to the grocery store, meet a friend at the gym, and arrange to get a ride home.

        What It Does:
        This builds endurance, and it’s fun. “It feels like you’re on an adventure,” says Paul. And it really changes your perspective. Never noticed that hill before? You will now.

        This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at
        Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
        More From Love to Run Guide