Seven Ways To Improve Speed Without Increasing Mileage

3. Practice Step Cycles.

Just as alternating hard days and easy days will make you fitter than doing a moderate-effort run every day, alternating hard and easy weeks of training will do the same. A multi-week training period in which the running workload is intentionally varied from week to week is called a step cycle. The idea is to start a step cycle with a week of training that is challenging but manageable, then increase the workload slightly the following week, and then either increase it slightly again the third week and reduce it sharply for recovery in the fourth week or go straight to a recovery week in week three.

Four-week step cycles typically work best for fitter and more experienced runners. Three-week step cycles are appropriate for most runners. It’s not only the total weekly mileage but also the challenge level of the hardest runs that should vary in a step cycle. But, focusing just on mileage, here are examples of three- and four-week step cycles:

3-Week Step Cycle (Beginner)
Week 1: 20 miles
Week 2: 24 miles
Week 3: 16 miles

4-Week Step Cycle (Advanced)
Week 1: 60 miles
Week 2: 64 miles
Week 3: 68 miles
Week 4: 50 miles

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