by Martin J. Trout

Getting Faster in Trail Running
5 Easy Workouts

Most trail runners spend an enormous amount of time just runningfairly slowly and usually for a long time.

There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you are fine with just grinding it out during your races, finishing somewhere around the back of the pack and generally having a good time while taking in the scenery and perhaps making new friends.

Don’t get me wrong, long slow endurance running in the aerobic zone is going to give you a lot of fitness and the possibility of completing your chosen races and, as long as the volume of running is appropriate for your athletic level, probably avoiding any injuries along the way.

But How Can We Go Faster?

If you want to run a bit faster you’re going to have to work on:

  • Your VO2max* (maximal consumption of oxygen),
  • The level of your LT* (Lactate Threshold)
  • Your neuromuscular running efficiency

For those of you who are interested in knowing a little more about what we’re training with in these faster running sessions, read our guide to Trail Running Training Words – Simple Definitions.

We’re given you the following training protocols – described below – that are all excellent tools for improving the body’s ability to deal with lactate build up during fast running and the ability for rapid absorption of excess lactate during slower intervals.

Is It Really Complicated?

The actual training methods for this are really easy and, since we’re not going to the Olympics where infinitesimal differentiations make differences between winning and losing, we can train all three of the above attributes with the same sessions.

We can do these training sessions:

  • On any kind of surface
  • On an unmeasured course as we’ll use timed intervals instead of distance
  • Using perceived effort instead of speed or pace.

When And How Often Should Include the Speed Workouts?

You can choose to include these sessions:

  • In a mid week short training run


  • You can insert them into your weekend long run.

It’s probably best not to do more than one of these a week at the beginning, but moving forward most runners should be able to include two sessions. I would suggest one during the week and the other at the weekend.

How Do We Know That We’re Working Hard Enough?

The perceived effort (Rate of Perceived Effort) will be measured on a scale of 1 – 10.

1 = a really easy walking effort

10 =  a gut busting effort with a likely projectile vomit finale.

You may like to read our guide to the perceived effort – Rate of Perceived Effort – or RPE

Rate of Perceived Effort in speed training
Rate of Perceived Effort

The 5 Easy Workouts for running quicker on the trails

#1 Workout – On and Off Minutes

  • Start with a warm-up of 20’ (RPE 3)
  • Pick up the pace to alternate 5 (or 10 for the fitter runner) x 1’ fast (RPE 8) with 1’ slow (RPE 3)
  • As you get faster and fitter you can progress to doing two or three of these sessions separated by a 5’ recovery (RPE 3)

#2 Workout – 10’ Eternities

  • Start with a warm-up of 20’ (RPE 3)
  • Run 3 times, at a medium hard pace (RPE 7), for ten minutes followed by 5’ at a recovery pace (RPE 4)
  • You can double up with another session after a 10’ easy running interval (RPE 3)

#3 Workout – Progressive to Warp Speeds

  • Start with a warm-up of 20’ (RPE 3)
  • Increase to a medium pace (RPE 5) and hold for 20’
  • Now pick up the pace again (RPE 7) for another 20’
  • Then in the last section try to hold a maximum pace (RPE 9) for as long as possible up to 5’

#4 Workout – Start and Stop Hills

  • Start with a warm-up of 20’ (RPE 3)
  • Then on an approximately 10% climb alternate 30” of fast pace (RPE 8) with 30” of slow paced jogging (RPE 4) for between 4 to 6 times
  • Slow run down to the start (RPE 3) and repeat 5 times

#5 Workout – Up and Down (especially the down!)

  • Start with a warm-up of 20’ (RPE 3)
  • Find a suitable hill to run up at a medium fast pace (RPE 7) for about 5’
  • At the top rest for a few minutes then run down at the fastest safe pace (RPE 8) you can manage
  • Rest and repeat 3 or 4 times

So there you have it. If you fancy going a little faster in your running and racing this year all you have to do is incorporate some or all of the above workouts in your training regime.


Martin John Trout
Martin Trout is an all round Adventurer, an accomplished ultra runner, mountaineer, ski mountaineering instructor and trail running coach at Endurance Training in Progress. He’s been living in Italy since the 1990’s.