Improve My Running Speed

by Dennis


I just came across your triathlon training site a few days ago and must say it really provides lots of useful info. I request your advice on my overall speed during my exercise. (or lack of..:-))

Last year I have participated in my first Olympic triathlon (off-road) with 6 months of training and this year I am about to participate again. It all started as a nice way to exercise and lose/keep off some weight. I always exercise by myself, typically 4-5 times a week (1 time swimming, 1-2 cycling and 2 times running).

I don’t follow a specific schedule, I just go out
and exercise, no intervals or anything (before my triathlon ambitions I typically ran 1-2 times a week for 10 km).

Although I have noticeably improved my endurance over the last year I am struggling with increasing my speed. Specifically my running is
disappointing. (Individual run of 10 km (road) at 51:30 with average heart rate of 160-165 b/min).

If I look at all the material I can find on the internet my heart rate comes across high and my time is regarded as beginner running. Can you advise me on what to do to improve my skills?

I really appreciate your feedback.

Dennis Schoonakker, Netherlands

Intelligent Triathlon Training Replies:

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the question and kind comments about our site.

What you are aiming to do is increase your second threshold speed (LT2) which is probably about 11.5-km/h judging by your 10-k time. Heart rates are not really comparable with others as they are specific to you, certainly not comparable in the way you have alluded to in your message.

Your LT2 heart rate is probably about 160-165-b/min (i.e. it is tied to your LT2 speed). What you will find is that even elites will have a LT2 heart rate in this range, however the speed associated with that heart rate will be much higher.

As you get fitter your LT2 heart rate probably won’t change much, but the speed at which you run at that heart rate will increase.

There are two obvious things that you can do to help improve your speed.

The first thing to do is do a bit more aerobic mileage, say increase your runs to 3 times a week, trying to maintain a heart rate of ~ 150-b/min or less and for between 40 – 70-min a session.

Judge how much to do by how tired you get, and don’t increase the run duration too much in one go. So if you are used to doing 45-min runs, increase your longest run by no more than 5-min a week. This further consolidates your base and allows you to do better and more, quality speed work.

The second thing would be to introduce some running at a pace faster than LT2.

For example after a warm up, try 3 minutes at 12 to 12.5km/hr followed by 1 minute at 9km/hr.

You should find your heart rate won’t quite get to 165b/min in the first rep, but don’t worry it will rise to greater than this after 2 – 3 reps.

What you are trying to do is adapt your body to running at a slightly higher speed, then allowing a little recovery but not complete, then repeating. This will help to drive your LT2 speed up.

You can increase the duration of each faster repetition as you get fitter, but keep the ratio of fast to slow at 3:1.

Drop this in once a week, aiming to accumulate about 20 – 30 minutes of faster running. As you get more and more comfortable with the speed, start to increase it, but not too quickly!

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