One of the most frustrating things I encountered when I was a new-ish runner is that everything was targeted either at individuals who just started running (as in they may have just gotten off the couch last week) or towards die-hard experienced runners.
Here are some speed workouts for those of you who find yourself in the middle.
Both of these types of runs are easy to do on the treadmill, but also work well outdoors. They have endless variations, so follow the basic format provided below and make them yours!
Note: Before all speed work, I recommend warming up for a minimum of a mile and more if possible. I find that a 2-3 mile warm up is my sweet spot, but that may not be yours. Like all things in running, experiment until you find what works for your individual needs. Same with a cool down—at least a mile, but more if you have the motivation, energy or the time. I find that my body feels best after a 2 mile cool down but sometimes running 2 slow miles after a hard workout is the last thing I want to do. If I had to pick which was more important, I would say warming up is essential and a shorter cool down will work.
Ladders are great workouts in my opinion because you can tailor them to your needs. As your fitness and mileage increase you can either increase the amount of repetitions on the ladder or make each individual part longer or faster.
My go-to ladder is this:
30 seconds on followed by 30 seconds off, 1 minute on followed by 1 minute off, 2 minutes on followed by 2 minutes off, 1 minute on followed by 1 minute off, 30 seconds on followed by 30 seconds off. Repeat the sequence 2-4 times or whatever your hear desires.
Make this workout work for you. The on is fast and the off is as slow as you need to go in order to gear up for the next repeat (no walking). It’s great for the treadmill because there is no particular pace you are setting it at. You can speed up and slow down as you need to during the fast sections, or you can work on keeping a steady pace.
The typical fartlek is an unstructured workout. You run fast for any amount of time or distance and then you slow it down, doing it all over again for as many times as you like. It’s a great workout but you have to be mentally strong. Don’t stop running fast whenever you want to slow down sooner than planned. I can be mentally strong some days but other days I’m a complete wimp, so structured fartleks are a favorite of mine because they leave no wiggle room for quitting. I have many of my runners incorporate these into their race training because of how flexible they still are, even though they are structured.
This one is very similar to the ladder, only instead of going up the ladder and then back down, you go down and then repeat.
An example is 2:00/2:00/1:00/1:00/:30/:30/2:
Speed work should be hard, but it’s not racing. I do believe there are times that you should simulate race pace and race effort. But if you do this in every speed work session, you will end up burnt out. Speed work is to help you improve as a runner, but it’s not meant to kill you.