Training Techniques for Faster Running

Speedwork helps train your body to handle faster pacing for longer periods of time.  It will accustom your body to the physical and mental stresses that accompany faster-paced running.  Just as weight-lifting strengthens muscles, speedwork will strengthen your heart, lungs, muscles, mind and increase your lactate threshold (the level of intensity at which anaerobic energy generation begins to rise and the resulting generation of lactic acid in working muscles causes blood lactate to rise and muscle efficiency to fall off significantly with fatigue).

Speedwork includes two basic components, the “work” or “hard” phase, followed by a “rest” or “recovery” phase.  The numbers, intensities and distances of these “hard” and “easy” phases vary according to your fitness level and end goal.

Because speedwork places stress on the body, a day of speed training should be followed by one or two easy days.  If you’re just beginning to add speedwork to your schedule, I recommend that your “hard” paced intervals not exceed 10% of your total weekly mileage.  Listen to your body!

The most common types of Speedwork follow:

INTERVALS -  Traditionally run by distance on the track, intervals can also be run by time on the roads.  A “track” example is running 400 meters (1 lap) “hard” repeats followed by 200 meter (1/2 lap) rests (easy running or walking).   A “timed” example is running 2 minute “hard” repeats, followed by 1 minutes “easy” rests.

FARTLEK -  This Swedish term means “Speed Play”.  Use your creativity!  Fartlek is incorporated into a traditional run.  Run hard (at desired intensity) for repeats in any form and length you choose.  You can pick a certain number of mailboxes, light posts, dogs, red cars…(use your imagination!) to run hard past, then run easy until you feel you’re ready to go again.  Pick another target and go!

TEMPO – These workouts are run at a “comfortably-hard” pace for longer distances/times than intervals.  Your tempo pace is generally 30 seconds slower than your current 5K pace.  Tempo runs are usually run continuously for 10-25 minutes (when training for a 5K).  However, to build confidence, you can begin doing your tempo run in “intervals” of 5 minutes.

HILLS -   Not technically “speedwork”, hard runs up a hill (with a designated number of repeats) with easy recovery down, help build strength.  There’s no doubt you’ll feel the strength-building burn in your lungs, quadriceps, calves, hip flexors and gluteus maximus.  

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