If you’re new to running or a seasoned road warrior, the FNB Joburg 10K CITYRUN is a great way to challenge yourself over a competitive distance – but don’t hit the starting line until you’re ready. Studies show that adding a speed session to your running routine will get you into shape faster, so you’re ready to burn up some tar come 24 September. Try these four workouts to ramp up your running fitness and speed up for that finish line.

Up-and-Down Fartleks

Fartlek is a funny name, but this training technique is a must for boosting your pace. It’s Swedish for “speed play,” meaning you vary your bursts of speed. “You can perform this workout almost anywhere,” says Andrew Lemoncello, a former Olympian in the steeplechase and assistant coach at McMillan Running Company. “I prefer to do these workouts on dirt roads since it’s easier on my legs, and the undulating terrain forces my muscles to work a little bit harder than flat road.”
Do this: first, warm up for a kay, then start your intervals. You’ll run as hard as you can for the prescribed amount of time, and recover with a jog for 90 seconds.

You’ll be able to push harder during the 1-minute intervals than during the 3-minute intervals. However, there’s no set pace you’re trying to hit. Instead, work on effort levels of pushing as hard as you can for the set amount of time. If you’re new to running or just getting back into the sport, do the first two intervals, then build up to the rest as you get more fit.

Interval 1: Sprint for 1 minute, recovery jog for 90 seconds
Interval 2: Sprint for 2 minutes, recovery jog for 90 seconds
Interval 3: Sprint for 3 minutes, recovery jog for 90 seconds
Interval 5: Sprint for 2 minutes, recovery jog for 90 seconds
Interval 6: Sprint for 1 minute, recovery jog for 90 seconds

Hill to Tempo

No runner wants to crash before the finish line, so you need a way to work through fatigue. That’s why this drill teaches your legs to handle tiring challenges over and over again.

“The hill repeats require explosive muscle contractions, burn glycogen, and make your legs feel like JELL-O,” says Jeff Gaudette, head coach at runnersconnect.net. Just when you think you can’t run any longer, Gaudette has you run at threshold pace. This simulates running pace at the end of a race when you’re tired, and teaches your body how to push through, he explains.

Do this: after warming up, find a long hill with no more than a 10-percent grade. Sprint uphill for 90 seconds at 90% effort – or about your 5K pace – with a slow jog back down the hill as recovery. That’s one round. Do 6 total rounds.
After completing the uphill sprints, run easy for 4 minutes to recover. Finish off with a two to three mile tempo run at about 70% effort – or around your half-marathon pace.

Speed-Body Combo

Get ready, because this drill throws everything at you. It incorporates a variety of training zones to build a body that’s in race shape, says Tom Kloos, head distance coach of the Bay Area Track Club.

Do this: start with a 20-minute aerobic run – running hard, but easy enough that you can keep up a conversation – and finish at the base of a 10 to 12% grade hill. Run the hill for 20 seconds, with an easy jog back down for recovery each time. That’s 1 round. Do 8 to 10.

Focus on form over speed when getting back in shape: run tall, drive your knees, and focus your eyes up the hill. As your fitness improves, you can work on increasing your aerobic run to an hour, and your hill intervals to 10 one-minute intervals, says Kloss.

And you’re not done quite yet. After your last hill, perform this quick body-weight session and dynamic core circuit. “A weak core allows the arms and legs to cause rotation of the centre of mass,” says Kloos. “This means energy is being wasted going in directions other than straight forward.”

Body-Weight Session

Do each exercise for 20 seconds before moving on to the next one.

BURPEE: From a standing position, simultaneously squat down and lean forward, and then move straight into a push-up position. Lower your chest to the floor, and in one fluid movement, explosively push yourself back up and into a standing position. Without pausing, repeat the movement.

MOUNTAIN CLIMBER: Assume a push-up position with your arms straight; bring your right knee in toward your chest. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left knee. Keep repeating this as fast as possible.

JUMPING JACK: Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Simultaneously raise your arms above your head and jump up just enough to spread your feet out wide. Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement and repeat.

SPLIT JUMP: Stand in a staggered stance with your feet a metre or so apart, your right foot in front of your left. Keeping your torso upright, bend your legs and lower your body into a lunge. Now jump with enough force to propel both feet off the floor. While you’re in the air, scissor-kick your legs so you land with your left leg forward. Repeat, alternating your forward leg for the duration of the set.