Test your speed. Training with someone slightly fitter than you can help you go harder, a Santa Clara University study found. Pick a pal who's faster than you or find one: Search meetup.com for running groups, or scout a group at joggingbuddy.com.
Talk it out. Gabbing on the run is a good indicator of how hard you're working. Ballpark your intensity with this talk test:
- Easy effort (40 to 50 percent of max): You can recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Training zone (60 to 70 percent of max): You're a bit breathless but can say sentences like "Let's go to the beach."
- Pushing it (80 percent of max)" You can grunt a few words, like "One. More. Lap."
Be a dynamic duo. Try this two-person stretch post-run to really loosen tight hammies and calves: Lie faceup with right leg up. Have your buddy kneel to your right and grasp the back of your right leg, then gently press the leg toward you until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat. Swap roles.
"Some friendly competition can help you rev your pace more than you normally would," coach Christina Lucy says. Try her built-for-two interval session, below, with a pal, and play your way through your usual loop.
|0:00 to 5:00||
Dynamic stretch (alternating high-knee jog, butt-kick jog and walking lunges)
|5:00 to 15:00||Warm-up jog (easy effort). Catch up on gossip before it's time to put the pedal to the metal.|
|15:00 to 30:00||Fartlek intervals (training zone). With your buddy, pick up the pace for 15 to 20 seconds every few minutes — take turns calling the shots on how fast and how far. If one partner is speedier, separate during the quicker intervals and catch up during easy-effort jogging|
|30:00 to 40:00||Race ya! (pushing it) Pick a marker — a tree, a bench or a mailbox — in the distance (about a football-field's length or farther away) and race each other there; do an easy jog together back to your starting point. Complete about six sprint-recover sets.|
|40:00 to 45:00||
Cool-down jog and stretch.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, June 2014.