If you have been doing the Speed work priming in part one of this blog for a few weeks and are feeling comfortable going a little faster than usual and are injury free, then you are ready to start including some faster sessions into your training week.
Below I provide four different types of speed workouts together with an easy, medium and advanced example of each.
Before embarking on your speed sessions, please take note of the following guidelines:
- Always follow a speed session day with a very easy running day.
2. Allow at least 72 hours between speed sessions. For your average club runner starting out with faster training, I advise only one speed session every 7 to 10 days.
3. Always precede the session with proper warm and finish off with a cool down.
4. Follow the 3R’s of recovery after your session.
5. Strengthen your immune system as you are adding an extra load to your body that it is not used to.
6. I recommend you reduce your weekly mileage for a while until your body is used to the added load of the speed sessions.
7. Training on softer surfaces (grass, gravel) will allow for less stress on your body. Make sure the surface is even though, you are more likely to step in a hole at high speed than when jogging.
8. Don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Focus on effort and remember to enjoy yourself!
Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning “Speed play”. And it is exactly that. The session involve alternating between faster and slower segments of running. These can be as structured as you would like (thus the play!). You can make use of landmarks or time to determine your fast / slow segments. The great thing about fartlek is that it can be done anywhere and is very easy to incorporate into your regular routes to add a bit more intensity.
Hills are in my personal opinion the best go to for improving speed. They are relatively safe as the incline keeps you from sprinting too fast and together with speed they also improve leg strength and running form (both important contributors to speed). Almost a triple whammy.
When deciding on which hill to use for your session, go for a gradient where you are able to get up to good speed and run without compromising form. Something you need to ascend at almost walking pace or on all fours is not going to benefit you.
- Look ahead not down at the ground.
- Think of staying as tall as possible (think high hips).
- Work hard with your arms driving the elbows backwards.
- Take shorter fast steps.
- Relax your feet, think “soft toes”, and focus on driving your legs forward from the hips and glutes as opposed to pushing hard with your feet and calves.
- You don’t want to be “sitting” up the hill, think of running your hips forward up the hill.
Intervals are the most structured of the speed sessions. Here you are repeating a specific distance at a specific pace with specific rest periods. Intervals are made more, or less, challenging by varying the number of repetitions, length of repetitions and the rest period. Because the total distance of the session is broken up into smaller chunks, you are able to run at a faster pace than if you ran the distance in one go (for example you will be able to run 5x 1km with a break between at a faster average than running a continuous 5km), thereby training your body to be able to handle a quicker pace.
They are really great for simulating your goal race pace and for learning how the pace “feels”.
Most important is that these need not be done on a track! With today’s technology it is quick to measure out a loop in your favorite park or even around your block.
These are longer more steady runs often run at around half marathon or marathon goal pace. The run would start out easy and gradually pick up to a hard effort, that is fast but sustainable for 30 minutes or longer. You are working hard but below the red line. i.e. You can tell me your address and phone number should I ask!
Tempo’s are great for developing the mental strength to sustain a pace in long races and also for learning what your goal pace feels like.
Let me know how you get on. If you would rather take the guess work out and have an expert coach guide you through your speed training, then check out the TrainSMART virtual coaching package here.
Onwards and upwards!