Run Faster with 3 Simple Speed Drills

It takes more than just consistent mileage to help you get faster and run your best races. Some distance runners have natural speed, and others don’t. However, no matter where you fall on that spectrum, it’s critical to incorporate speed training with speed drills into your training plan. You’ll see the efforts pay off when you find yourself sprinting towards the finish line with an epic kick at the end of your next race! 

When I was in high school and college, I could run a pretty quick 400m race even though I was primarily a distance runner. However, as I got older, I realized I needed to do more speed drills as my natural speed started to fade. Read on to learn about three speed drills you can incorporate into your training program to increase your quickness.

Run Faster with 3 Simple Speed Drills

Bringing speed training into your regular running plan doesn’t have to be cumbersome. You can add them into your warm up, infuse them into the middle of your run, or tack them on to the end of your workout to help improve your speed–without adding much time to any single workout. 

Let’s explore three of our favorites:

Speed Drills: High Knees

Think of the high knee exercise as running in place while driving your knees up as high as you can. It not only helps improve your speed, but they are also great for your running form, leg strength, and flexibility. 

woman runner doing high knee drill

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Drive your right knee up as far as you can, the quickly set it back down on the ground. 
  3. Switch and do the same with your left knee. 
  4. Aim for 30 seconds of three to four sets. 

Remember, the point here is to go fast (while staying controlled) to improve speed. You should be getting your heart rate up, making it a great race warm up exercise, too. 

Speed Drills: Carioca

It might sound a bit like karaoke, but this is a speed drill rather than a fun post-race entertainment activity! It involves a little footwork and will improve both your speed, hip flexibility, and range of motion. 

man runner doing carioca exercise

Here are the steps: 

  1. As you start moving laterally to your right, cross your left leg in front of your right leg.
  2. Then, cross your left leg behind your right leg. 
  3. As you go, swivel your hips and raise your arms for balance
  4. As you get comfortable, quicken your pace. You want to be able to go as fast as possible while keeping good form. 
  5. Do the carioca for 20 seconds on one side. Repeat on the other side. Complete three to four sets. 



Speed Drills: Butt Kicks

You could almost think of butt kicks as the opposite of high knees. They are a fast-paced agility drill that gets your heart rate up, improves speed, and increases running efficiency by warming up your quads and fostering quick turnover. 

woman runner doing butt kick exercise

Here’s how to do them: 

  1. Start with a short running stride, almost as if you were running in place. 
  2. Lift your knees only slightly and aim to bring the heel of your running shoe directly under your butt. 
  3. Switch legs rapidly and keep your foot speed quick to promote turnover and improve speed. 
  4. Do three to four sets of 30 seconds each. 

Bonus Speed Drill: Strides

Strides were one of my favorite ways to boost my speed after a regular training run in college. I also used them to warm up before a race and start feeling the speed I’d need to use during the race. 

Strides are simple. My favorite way to do them is by ending my run at the track and taking my shoes off, doing them barefoot in the grass. However, you can incorporate them into your run and you certainly don’t have to take your shoes off. Just be sure not to do them before your muscles are good and warmed up. 

Simply sprint at about 80-90 percent effort for about 15 seconds. Jog back to your starting point (or jog forward if you are doing them during a run) to rest for about 30 seconds. Do another sprint for 15 seconds. Repeat six to 10 times to increase your turnover and develop killer speed. 

To wrap up, let’s follow along with Coach Holly in her video that will take you through an excellent 15-minute speed workout that will have you running faster in no time: 

Now that you know some simple ways to increase your speed and improve your running form with speed training drills, don’t stop there! Download our new mobile app to gain access to coaching advice, daily video workouts, injury prevention tips, and complete training programs that will make you a better athlete and help motivate and inspire your training program every day!