A couple weeks ago we talked about how to safely increase your mileage. I believe that working on increasing mileage needs to happen before you start tackling running faster. Once you’re comfortable running longer distances there are many workouts you can do to improve your speed. Many speed workouts take place on a track. It’s easy to calculate your splits, you’re running on a flat surface, and when you think of running on a track, running fast always seems to come to mind. Well I am not the biggest fan of running on a track. I find running in circles extremely boring and find myself dreading doing the workouts. Luckily there are many ways to incorporate speed workouts into your running routine that don’t require going to the track.Below are my three favorite speed workouts!
What did she say? Fart-what? Yeah yeah, I know, it’s a funny name, but it’s a fun workout and one that is great if you are new to speed. Fartlek is a Swedish word that means speed play. Essentially what you are doing is picking up your pace “running fast” for a short period of time or distance. Depending on my training schedule I’ll do a fartlek run once a week. Sometimes I’ll do five repetitions of running 2 minutes fast with two minutes easy in between. Then I’ll increase the time and run 3 minutes fast with 2 minutes easy. Other times I’ll do a ladder and start with 1 minute fast, 1 easy, 2 minutes fast, 2 easy, 3 minutes fast, 3 easy, 4 minutes fast, 4 easy, then work my way back down the ladder and finish with 1 minute fast, 1 easy then repeat the whole thing again. This type of workout can be worked into any run and doesn’t require being on a track.
Tempo runs are probably my favorite type of speed workout. A tempo run is also referred to as a lactate-threshold run and can be described as a comfortably hard workout. When I do a tempo run I’ll usually do 3-4 miles at tempo pace and sometimes with a couple minutes of easy running in between each mile. Tempo runs work because you are increasing how long your body can run at a certain pace before it fatigues. The pace you run at can be measured in a couple ways. The easiest is the talk test. You should be able to ask a quick question such as “are you ok”, but a conversation shouldn’t be possible. Another way to determine how fast you should be running is to add 20-30 seconds to your last 5k race pace. As you do these runs your body works up a higher threshold meaning you’ll be able to run faster and farther at that increased speed.
A progressive run is just that. You are progressively increasing your speed over a certain distance or time. I’ve done it both ways, but tend to prefer doing it by distance. I’ll run one mile at a certain pace, then the next mile pick it up another 10-15 seconds, then repeat that again. With each mile you want your pace to progressively get faster. Progressive runs are great because they introduce speed gradually instead of you running all out as soon as you start your workout. It gives your muscles an opportunity to warm up and get used to the faster pace and will ultimately help prevent injury as well.
As you can see, running on a track isn’t a requirement if you want to introduce speed work into your running routine. While a track does have it’s benefits any and all of these three workouts can be worked into any run no matter where you are. Plus, they are far less monotonous as running in circles on the track!