NYC Running Mama: Getting Through Speedwork

Michele shares some mental tips she uses to stay strong during speedwork.


I have a love-hate relationship with speedwork. Intervals, tempos, tempo intervals – it doesn’t matter what the workout is, I most often loathe them while knee-deep in the middle. But I love them almost immediately after I am finished. I I love them exponentially more when I start to feel their benefits in the weeks after and then (hopefully) on race day.

Speedwork is hard. There’s no way to sugar coat it. For speedwork to be effective, you have to push yourself to the point of being uncomfortable. And then push a bit more. It doesn’t matter if you run 15:00 min/miles or 5:00 min/miles – speedwork is hard and it hurts. But it makes us faster and stronger runners. Therefore, the pain is worth it.

I always get a bit anxious the day before (and especially in the hours before) a speed session. Knowing that I’m going to push my body close to its limit makes me nervous and scared. Physically, I know my body can do it. Maybe I won’t hit the exact paces I was hoping for, but at least come close and complete the workout.

It’s the mental aspect I’ve always struggled with. I’ve had my fair share of speed workouts where I’ve straight up quit in the middle because mentally, I gave up.

I’m working on my mental strength this training cycle. These are some things I have been keeping in mind to help me get through the tough speed workouts where I want to quit:

  • This will pay off on race day. I visualize myself in the last few miles of the race. I picture the finish line and I dream of that PR I’m after. The more it hurts now, the less it will hurt on race day.
  • You can do anything for 2 minutes. I do this for longer tempo runs where I have to run hard for 25+ minutes. Instead of thinking of the total number of miles, I’ll break it up into quarter mile segments and tell myself to just get through those two minutes.
  • Don’t think about how many more sets (or minutes) you have left. One of my workouts last fall was 12 repeats of 600 meters. 12 repeats can seem daunting when you are only 1 or 2 into the workout. Focus on the set you’re in. Only think about getting to that next recovery period before thinking about the next repeat.
  • You’ll regret it for the rest of the day/week if you stop. Take it from me. Giving up during a workout will stay with you for longer than a few hours. I don’t ever want to show up to a start line and feel like I could have done more to be more prepared.
  • It’s Supposed to Hurt. It’s speedwork – it’s not supposed to be easy. Easy days are supposed to be easy. Today is not an easy day. Today is supposed to be when you work as hard as you can.
  • Female Runners I Admire. Whether it’s a friend, a female runner you follow on social media or an elite runner you look up to, think about that runner who works hard and constantly pushes herself to improve. I started doing this a few weeks ago and found that when I got tired, it was comforting and inspiring for me to think of a few females who work their butts off to get faster and stronger.