Speed work. That one phrase can strike fear into the hearts of runners everywhere. Everyone understands the general concept that to get faster, you have to run faster. However that doesn’t mean that we look forward to speed work. As runners, we ignore it as long as we can, until we realize that if we are really serious about getting faster, we need to just do it. I, too, put off speed work as long as I could…but then once I started doing it, I got faster. If you are thinking about speed work, here are a few ways you can ease into it. One tip—if you can find a track, that will make things much easier. If you don’t have access to a track, simply find a flat stretch of road with no cars where you can measure out distance using your watch.
- Start simple. A simple routine that you can easily adapt is to start with high reps of a low distance and simply increase the distance while you decrease the reps. For example, during your first workout, try 10×400 (400 = one lap around the track). The following week try 8×600, then 6×800, 5×1000 and so on up through mile repeats. Once you’ve done that, try doing ladders (400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1600, 1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400) and other fun combinations to mix it up.
- Do NOT forget to warm up and cool down. It’s imperative that you get your body primed for hard running with a slow and easy mile (or more) warm up. The same thing goes for the cool down. Don’t skip it, even if you’re tired. My local track is about a mile from my house, so I run over to the track for my warm up and then run home for my cool down.
- Stick speed work in between easy days or rest days. Don’t run hard, do a crazy track session and then run hard again on back-to-back days. Give your body a chance to recover. Personally, I have two easy run days and then speed work and then a rest day. That sequence works for me, but whatever you do, make sure you buffer speed work with easier running days.
How fast should you be going during your speed work sessions? That can really depend. You want to be pushing yourself but not so hard that you can’t do all the reps at that same pace. That might be 5K pace for you or that might be 10K pace. If you can’t hit all the reps at your target pace, then you should adjust. Same thing if you are blowing your target pace out the water. Take it slow, ease into it and watch as you get faster! I still dread speed work (because it’s SO hard) but adding it into my routine has been a game changer for my running.