Easy 15-minute running workouts to make you stronger and faster

Why you don’t need to run miles to improve your long-distance times – as explained by an expert.

You’ve ticked off Couch to 5K, and maybe got a good few Parkruns under your belt. You might even be regularly going out midweek as the running bug takes hold. And now you’re thinking seriously about how to run faster and clock up some PBs. So where do you go from here? Does it really mean going out for longer and longer runs to build up your stamina and performance?  

What if I was to tell you that running for just 15 minutes a day is all you need? It might sound counterintuitive but, trust me, thats the perfect amount of time you need to achieve great things.  

As a coach, I’ve used this time window to good effect and over many years, with everybody from total beginners to athletes who have competed in the World Championships.  Here’s what you need to think about. 

A woman in workout gear running along a road with autumnal trees in the background.Credit: Shutterstock / Maridav

15-minute workout to improve running form

The likes of swimmers, dancers, tennis players and cyclists spend a fair amount of time learning correct techniques. But runners tend to just get on with it and, in many cases, don’t spend enough time working on posture, stride length, relaxation and focus.

Your running form matters, though. The good news is that this doesnt take too long to perfect if you can devote just 15 minutes once a week to the drills below, you will soon see results.

Doing these drills will help you keep a much more relaxed, biomechanically efficient running form for when you do want to run distances. 

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The drills

Once a week, shorten one of your runs to just a few minutes, then spend the next quarter of an hour working on form: 

  1. Walk nice and upright for about 20m (65ft), concentrating on keeping your hips high and focusing into the distance. Repeat three times. 
  2. Now jog the same distance, using the same relaxed upright form youve used for walking. Repeat three times. 
  3. Walk, lifting your knees nice and high, for the same distance again. Keep upright, straight and look into the distance. Repeat three times. 
  4. Now do the same exercise but at slightly faster pace. Concentrate on upwards rather than a forward motion. Repeat three times. 
  5. Finally, walking again, push off your toes as you walk another 20m to really work your ankles. Focus into the distance and remain nice and upright, hips high. Ankle mobility is hugely important in keeping perfect running form. 

15-minute running endurance workouts

Just a quarter of an hour of running training can have surprisingly positive effect on your endurance. Running a faster longer run, or indeed feeling easier on your regular run, isnt all about logging more and more miles. Instead, include these very simple ideas into your weekly or fortnightly programme and youll see the difference very quickly. 

A mature couple running through a forest in the autumnCredit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

The drills

  1. For the final 15 minutes of any run (you do need to have run at least five minutes to warm up), try to run each two minutes faster than the previous two. Start much slower than you usually would and increase the pace so you’re running much faster than an average outing for the final two minutes.  
  2. Twice a week, reduce your run time to 10 minutes, but immediately you finish, run 10 x 100m very fast with a 100m recovery walk back each time. Try to think about the form youve learned in the exercises you do once a week. 
  3. Run easy for five minutes, then run hard for 30 seconds followed by a 30-second jog or walk. Repeat 10 times.  
  4. You could, of course, run 15 minutes a day and reap all the benefits of running that the sport provides. There is, however, some risk as running is high impact and, as ever, doing something every day can be a bit demotivating. Better, set yourself a goal of 10 days running, followed by three resting. In that way youll allow your body to recover and rebuild, and youll be improving all the time.  

15-minute running interval workouts to increase speed and strength

In the same way HIIT (high intensity interval training) has become massively popular in gyms, and is very effective in getting you fit quickly, so interval training (alternating intense work rate with periods of rest) can help you with your running.

There are limitless options available but, as a rule of thumb, use a longer rest (three or four times the length of time youve run) if you want to build speed, and the same length of time down to as little as half of that for endurance and strength. A few examples are outlined below.

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The drills

  1. 5 x 3 minutes with 1 minute’s rest. A classic training session that works your oxygen-carrying ability as well as helping improve your speed.  
  2. 3 x 5 minutes with 1 minute’s rest. This is more of an aerobic workout that will also make you stronger mentally. 
  3. Sprint for 20 seconds and jog for 45 seconds (back to where you started from) for 15 minutes. This mixes speed and endurance in one workout and is surprisingly tough.  
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Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins

Published:

Paul Larkins has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors. But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide.