6 Track Workouts to Improve Your Speed

Ready to ramp up your running speed? These track workouts are for you. They are a way to intensify a running workout and are designed to help develop speed in your running. They can also rejuvenate your running routine with the introduction of a new pace, new milestones to pay attention to, or new people to train with.

Female athlete in starting position on sports track during sunny day

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If you are new to track running, make sure to follow some common track rules of etiquette. Run in the right direction for the track you are using, reserve the inner lanes for the fastest runners and the outer lanes for the slower joggers or walkers, and never stop in the middle of the track. 

Your track workout efforts should pay off. One study showed that trained distance runners who participated in speed work had significantly improved 3,000-meter runs and an increase in the time it took for them to reach exhaustion. Add some of these fun workouts and you're sure to see improvements in your race times.

1

Push the Straightaways

This is a great intro workout for those who are new to track workouts. It's simple. After a couple of laps at an easy pace to warm up, start to push the pace on the straight sections of the track (known as the straightaways) and then recover (at an easy pace) on the turns.

If you're training for a specific race, such as a 5K, you can do your race pace on the straightaways. Start with four laps and add another lap each week until you work your way up to 10 laps.

2

Ladder Intervals

This track workout will help build your speed, confidence, and endurance, no matter what race distance you're training for. If you're not sure what your 5K (3.1 miles) race pace is, use a race pace estimate calculator. Beginners should start with one sequence, while more advanced runners can repeat the sequence once they've worked through it.

  1. Warm-up: Five minutes at a walk/slow jog
  2. Work interval: 400 meters (1 lap) at 5K race pace
  3. Rest interval: Recover (easy pace) 400 meters 
  4. Work interval: 800 meters (2 laps) at 5K race pace
  5. Rest interval: Recover (easy pace) 400 meters
  6. Work interval: 1,200 meters (3 laps) at 5K race pace
  7. Rest interval: Recover (easy pace) 400 meters
  8. Work interval: 1,600 meters (4 laps) at 5K race pace
  9. Rest interval: Recover (easy pace) 400 meters
  10. Cooldown: Five minutes at an easy pace
3

Mile Test

Doing a timed mile on a track is a great way to assess your fitness and give yourself a goal to work toward. Run a hard mile (4 laps) at a fast but steady pace. You want to go as fast as you can, but maintain an even pace for each lap.

For example, if you are aiming for a 6-minute mile, your goal would be to run each lap in 90 seconds. Make a note of your time and use it as a benchmark to test yourself against every month as you ​​​train to run a faster mile. Try to run all four laps at the same pace instead of starting out too fast and slowing down.

4

Fartleks

Fartlek is a Swedish word that translates literally to "speed play." While other track workouts are more prescriptive, fartlek workouts can be more intuitively-guided and based on how you feel in the moment. Try to be creative in the challenges you set up for yourself. You can decide to run at near-max exertion for one lap and then slow down to rest for another lap. Or you could run as fast as possible until the dog across the park stops barking.

Try to really push yourself during the hard intervals, as if you're in your final ​kick to the finish line.

5

Mile Repeats

Mile repeats are one of the best speed workouts you can do to improve your race times and build your running confidence. Here's a workout you can do once a week:

  • Start with 2-mile repeats (1 mile equals four laps) in the first session. Run each mile at your 10K or half-marathon pace.
  • Recover (at an easy pace) for a half-mile (2 laps) in between repeats.
  • Make sure your breathing and heart rate have recovered before you start your next repeat.
  • Add another mile repeat the following week. Try to maintain that same pace (10 to 15 seconds faster than your realistic goal marathon pace) for each one.
  • Try to work up your way up to six repeats if you're an advanced runner; intermediate runners may want to stop at four or five repeats.
6

Tempo Runs

Designed to help you run faster with more endurance, tempo running involves running at a consistent effort and speed over a longer mileage. After you warm up, begin running at a pace just under the pace you want to perform at on race day. Unlike other more variable track workouts, tempo runs should fall into a rhythm. Continue at this pace for 20–40 minutes. Don't forget to cool down.

Getting Started With Track Workouts

A track is the perfect setting for speed workouts. The surface is ideal for speed, and you can easily set up workouts based on laps. Adding track workouts to your training routine can boost your speed and enliven your regimen.

To start, do only one speed workout per week. You can add a second one as you build fitness. If you've never done any kind of speed training, make sure you first understand the rules for speed training. You will want to first establish a good running base. Always warm up, and when you pick up the pace, don't start too fast.

Focus on your running form as you do your speed work. Be sure to do a cooldown at an easy pace, and enjoy the next day as a rest day.

A Word From Verywell

Running track workouts is a challenging and enjoyable way to shake up your routine and experiment with different pacing, which can lead to increased speed on all your runs. If you’re just starting out, build up a base level of fitness before embarking on speed workouts. You certainly don’t need to be a speed demon in order to achieve a variety of fitness goals with running. For those more advanced runners, speed workouts could be your ticket to a new PR

If you have any questions or concerns about how running fits into a balanced fitness routine for you, talk to a healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where can you do track workouts?

    The obvious choice is a running track, either in your community or at a local school. But if you don’t have access to a track, don’t fret! Fartlek workouts are ideal for road running, as you can challenge yourself to run fast based on landmarks like street corners or lamp posts. Treadmills allow you to precisely measure distance as well as a track would. Even running on a level field would give you a natural interval set for many track workouts.

  • How can you have better track workouts?

    One key to getting the most from track workouts is making sure you have adequate rest. Performing track workouts should probably not be an everyday habit because you need time to rest for optimal performance. Warming up is also a key to getting the most from your track workouts. Fuel your workouts with adequate nutrition, avoid too much alcohol or caffeine, and make sure you are well hydrated. 

  • What are some indoor workouts for track runners when the weather is bad?

    You can approximate many of these workouts on a treadmill by using the odometer to measure distance for straightaways and ladder workouts, or calculate rough distance with a pace calculator. You can also try tempo running with surges of effort to intensify the tempo workout. 

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4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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