Increasing your speed as you train for a race.

If the phrase “it’s not a competition” is a tough pill for you to swallow, or family and friends won’t answer your “Game night at my place?” texts, and coworkers fear you in your office fantasy football league, this post is for you. I own my competitive spirit and openly admit to marking my competition in races, then doing my best to cross the finish with them behind me. Competition is good for you. However, I have one major hitch in my giddy up: I will be the first to admit that endurance, not speed, is my strongpoint.


I’m training for my second half marathon in July and am using that training to get super (maybe overly) prepared for one of my favorite races of the Charlotte road race season: The OrthoCarolina 10k Classic on August 20th. With both 10k and 5k options, beer and food trucks at the finish line, a challenging (but manageable) course, and awesome charity beneficiaries, this will be my third year running the Ortho 10k and I can’t wait. I hope that some of you have been following along as we train together with tips and expert advice from OrthoCarolina therapists and trainers. If not, it’s not too late to join in! Catch up on my intro post and run club post. We have some great gear suggestions, music recommendations, a pre-race checklist coming up, and maybe even some special Scoop Charlotte treats on race day for those Scoop readers joining in the fun- so stay tuned!


For my fellow slowpokes out there, we have hope! I spoke with OrthoCarolina’s Aaron Hall, PT, DPT and Aaron Hewitt, PAC and got their best advice for how to safely increase your speed. “Speaking from many years of experience, pain, injuries, and competitions, the best way to increase speed is to listen to your body,” says Hall. “Your body will let you know when it is okay to run faster or farther.” Remember that everyone is different, so what worked for someone else might not be the best plan for you.


Hewitt suggests that runners looking to up their pace dedicate a day of running to speed and tempo work. “If you’re training for a 5k and the only runs you do are 3-5 mile jogs at a slow pace you’ll get better, but only to a point,” says Hewitt. His favorite speed workout for the 5k and 10k athlete alike is 400m and 800m repeats for 30-45 minutes with a 1:1 rest/run ratio, once a week.


Tempo work:

Now, let’s take Hewitt’s advice and talk tempo work (or intervals). Before I go any further, I will tell you that intervals are my least favorite thing EVER.  But, you have to vary your workouts to continue to get results and see improvements so I suppose they have their place. When I started my half marathon training, I decided to do some shorter distance interval runs to help me increase my speed. So far it has worked wonderfully and I have set multiple new PR’s for my quickest mile… so, again, intervals aren’t all bad. I GUESS.

It can be pretty easy to start with the best of intentions for an interval run and then fall victim to disinterest, distractions, or an extreme level of dislike for the nasty little bursts of speed peppered into your usually pleasurable run. I highly recommend not tracking your intervals yourself, but using a timer or interval training app to do the thinking for you. My personal favorite is super user-friendly and runs as a background app so you can run it, your music, and Nike+ simultaneously from your iPhone if you so choose. Score! It’s called Interval Timer from Deltaworks and looks like this in the Apple App Store:



You can create multiple interval workouts and save them within the app with varying warm-ups, cool-downs, high intensity intervals, and low intensity intervals. Each time your activity level is supposed to change, you’ll hear a beep and know to shift gears. I’ve tried other similar interval apps, and this one is by far my favorite.


Never underestimate the power of music:

It’s no secret that the right playlist/music can get you in a great mood and maintain motivation during your workout, so make sure that your tune game is strong before you hit the pavement. I am “one of those” and if you are anything like us, you absolutely cannot workout without music. Made it all the way to they gym and laced up only to find that your headphones are missing? That’s a NOPE. I will turn around and go home (and have).

It’s borderline snobbish, but a stale playlist can also deal a heavy blow to my motivation. Sharing new music apps, songs, artists, etc. is a great way I keep my tunes fresh and my motivation high. Apps like Spotify make it so easy to check out what your friends are listening to. Matching the BPM (beats per minute) to your goal running tempo will also help you pick up the pace. PSA: I choreograph sick dance moves in my head while I’m running. Sometimes the moves are so SICK they can’t be contained to just my mind, so if you see me doing a hair flip on Morehead Street, that’s what happened. I’m half kidding.


Get your diet right:

To keep your body running like a well-oiled machine, you have to think of it as a tool that requires maintenance. You change your oil, make sure your tires are sufficiently filled with air, and keep up with mechanical repairs on your car, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your must important “vehicle”: your body? Eat like crap and, chances are, you’ll feel like crap. Treat your body well with a balanced diet including fruits and veggies and, chances are, you’ll have more energy to perform better and run faster. If green things frighten you (ahem, you know who you are), try sneaking some spinach into your smoothie or using a unique preparation to get some broccoli up in there.


Find a running buddy:


Not only does having a partner make running a bit more fun, you’ll be surprised at how motivating it is. Usually, you both won’t burn out at the exact same time so you’re able to cheer one another through the rough patches in your training. I have been lucky enough to have both local running buddies as well as long distance running buddies, so don’t let proximity limit your options.


Cross-train with plyometrics:

Hate burpees? Me too, girlfriend. But the explosive lengthening and contracting of plyometric exercises (like burpees, jump squats, etc.) mimic the motions of running, boosting body power, and making your legs stronger “springs” to push back on the ground with. If you have sensitive joints, another form of strength training my be better for you. As always, consult your doctor before beginning a new workout routine.



Run for a purpose:

I started training for my first half marathon and blogging my training journey to raise money for the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention. When training got hard or I wanted to stop, I thought of the reason for my training and stopping actually became the tougher choice between it and pushing through. On race day, I also listed important people in my life and dedicated each mile to one of them.

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"TWLOHA is the support I wish had existed when I was struggling to stay alive. They're the cool big brother of charities. Where other charities seem to cater to parents and supporters, TWLOHA gets the teen/young adult who's searching for light in the darkness, and they meet us where we are to offer hope through empathy, relatability and encouragement. I've been working with TWLOHA since 2013 when I hosted fitness bootcamp classes to raise awareness and funds for them in 30 cities across North America. This year, I'm honored to be hosting the San Diego Run for It 5k meetup to continue raising hope from the West Coast! I'm running to honor friends who I've lost to darkness, to honor the girl I was and the woman I've become by choosing to stay alive, and for all the people who still don't know how important they are. As living proof, I run." – Amy Clover #RunForIt5k (Register now as a virtual runner by following the link in our profile.)

A post shared by To Write Love on Her Arms. (@twloha) on


Now, listen, having goals and striving to meet them is a truly noble pursuit. However. Please don’t beat yourself up over a time you’re not totally happy with. The important part is focusing on the effort you’ve put in and finding pride (as you should) in that.


Nicole Brantley
Nicole is a native Charlottean that loves the Queen City almost as much as running, writing, and type-A organization.