Before you beeline it to the nearest track in search of speed, build up to at least six months of consistent running or 20–25 miles per week, suggests coach Stephanie Liles of TriAttic in Tallahassee, Fla. When you start, limit speedwork to one session per week. Try this if you’re new to interval training:
• Do a local running race. “I always encourage my athletes to do 5K races for speedwork,” Liles says. “It definitely pushes you to run harder than you would if you were training by yourself.”
• End each run with a series of strides (20–30-second accelerations) or incorporate hill repeats (running fast up a hill and jogging down) into your weekly routine. “Both of these workouts are highly repeatable and will build the strength needed to become faster,” Rutledge says.
• Try a fartlek (Swedish for “speedplay”)—add in brief accelerations followed by easy recovery, based on seconds (15–60 at a time), or objects, like running hard to the next lamppost or mailbox.