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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.
You might be in that pool of runners trying to put it off for another day. You might still consider yourself a ‘beginner’ or not serious enough, despite your years of training showing otherwise. The reality is that once you start doing it, you will become faster than you were before.
If you are thinking about speed work, here are a few ways you can ease into it in a way that is manageable and less scary.
Tips to Get Started with Speed Training
Before you can really start your training, you need to determine where you will run. 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.
Once you have where you’ll run settled, you can dive into your speed work with the following advice:
For your body’s sake, it’s best to start out with a simple routine that you can easily adapt based on your fitness level. For example, start with high reps of a low distance and simply increase the distance while you decrease the reps. This could look like:
- Week 1 – Try 10 x 400 (400 = one lap around the track).
- Week 2 – Try 8 x 600
- Week 3 – Try 5 x 1000
Keep following that pattern 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. Though it is hard work, keeping it fun and not monotonous is key to sticking with it.
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 of the water.
Warm up and cool down every time.
Do not forget to warm up and cool down when you’re doing speed work. 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.
Depending on where you live in proximity to your track or designated running spot, you could jog there as your warm up and jog home for your cool down.
Time it right.
You’ll need to be a little strategic when planning speed work into your weekly training. It’s recommended that you 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.
One way to time it is to plan two easy run days, speed work, followed by a rest day or cross-training, and finish the week out with your long run. Whatever you do, make sure you buffer speed work with easier running days.
Remember, when you are just starting out you should take it slow and ease into it. It will only be a matter of time before you are feeling faster. And you might always dread doing speed work (it is hard, after all), but you won’t regret that you did it come race day.