How to Add Speed Workout to Running to Get Stronger and Faster

Want to run faster? Great! Let’s run faster today. Then we will take a short break. Then we will run faster again a few more times. There is a whole family of interval training that runners call “speed work,” and turning it on about once a week can help you further shorten your running time.

Speed ​​work is a key part of a well-designed running program because it does things that your other workouts don’t. Light slow miles are great for capillary growth, which helps bring more oxygen to your muscles, but interval training increases sprint strength and speed and can be a great way to work on some aspects of your cardio workout . In short, adding speed training to your routine will help you get faster and stronger.

You may have done interval training before, but runners will talk about specific types of workouts in specialized jargon, for example, “I’m doing 8×400 today, would you like to go?” or “Hey, I heard you’re training for a marathon. How do you spend your time at Yasso 800 ? “

Aside from deciphering the jargon, you need to know when to do high-speed work, how to get it up and running quickly, what to do when you’re not running, and how to fit it into the overall program to achieve your goals.

Types of interval training and how to use them

There are only a few parameters that can be varied in high-speed work: what are the long intervals, how many to do, and how fast. Here are some common workouts. (Some runners would argue with calling tempo runs and uphill reps “speed work,” but I’m including them here because they’re based on interval training.)

  • Short intervals such as 100 and 200 meters challenge your muscles to build strength and power. Think of them as a workout in the gym: you build muscle (and you may have pain afterwards, especially when you first start). They are also considered high-intensity interval training, which have the benefits we discussed earlier .
  • Longer intervals , like 800 meters (half a mile), work a little less for strength and a little more for endurance.
  • Pace runs are like very long intervals of a mile or more. (They can also be measured by time; the plan might include a “20 minute pace run” rather than the number of miles).
  • Hill repetition is what they look like when you run uphill multiple times. These can be short sprints up steep hills or longer runs over long, gradual hills.
  • Fartlek and time-based workouts can be done when you are running on a road or trail and change the speed according to your clock (like in 30-20-10 workout ) or just whenever you feel like a change (this is fartlek, Swedish for ” speed game “).

All of these workouts are designed to be done after a light warm-up (jogging or alternating jogging and brisk walking for 5-10 minutes) and should be a small fraction of your weekly miles. Standard advice: Beginners should not start speed work until they have been running regularly for several months .

Try to rest about the same amount of time between intervals as you did running. (Or, if you’re following a program, it will sometimes tell you to rest for a certain amount of time.) Don’t sit down, though: walk in between short sprints and consider running in between longer intervals .

The important thing about speed work is that it can be done too quickly and as a beginner you will have to exercise a little willpower to slow down to the desired speed. You should be running 400 meters with reps slower than you would running 400 meters. Think about this: when you race, you then go home. But after you run your first interval of the day, you still have to run three, five, or seven more. So instead, try to do each repetition at the same speed. This may mean that on the first exercise you will move slower than you need to, but by the last rep you will feel pretty beaten.

How fast should you run each type of interval? An experienced runner has a good feel for his gears, but to calibrate the internal stopwatch, try using a calculator like this as a starting point. He asks for the time of a recent race. If you haven’t run a race lately, try running a mile as fast as you can (after a good warm-up, of course) and enter that as your mile time. Think of this race against the clock as your speed workout for the week – racing is hard on your body! The results will provide you with predicted race times, but if you scroll down you will see workouts based on those. One example is “5 x 400m at 800m pace” because remember that 400m at 400m pace will be running. You go to workout.

How to use the track for speed work

You don’t need a treadmill to get the benefits of speed work, but many interval workouts (measured in meters) assume you have access to one. Many middle and high schools have courses open to the community. Call the school office (or ask your local jogging friends) if they have rules or restrictions: for example, you may have to log in at the office if you come to school.

A typical track is 400 meters per lap – that’s almost exactly a mile. Then four laps make up a mile, and if you are running 400-meter reps, each will be in a circle. In the same math, 200-meter repetitions are half a circle, and 100 is a quarter circle. However, you don’t need to look at these distances: they are marked right on the ground if you know what to look for. (Lines may or may not be labeled as in the picture above). Here’s a very detailed guide if you want to play, but a few facts are enough for most of us:

  • First, find a straight line crossing the end of the straight line (end if going counterclockwise). This is the finish line. If you are running full circles, say 400 (one circle) or 800 (two circles), this line will be your start as well as your finish.
  • If you are running hundreds, look for another straight line at the other end of the straight. You will start with one and run to the other. Very simple.
  • For the 200s, things are a little more complicated. Halfway down the finish line, you’ll see a series of jagged lines. This is because the person in the inner lane has a shorter path to the finish line than the person in the outer lane, so their starting lines are adjusted accordingly. For your training, you can choose any of the starting lines; just stay in your lane and you will be running the correct distance.

Why, then, are there no offset lines for the 400s? Because in these long races, people are allowed to overtake each other. During your workout, run on the inside lane whenever you can. If you chose the outer lane and stayed on for the entire rep, you would indeed be running over 400 meters.

A few important points of sports etiquette:

  • Stay on your lane. It’s like driving in a traffic jam: no one expects you to ride without looking. It’s okay if you decide to change lanes, but look over your shoulder and make sure it’s safe.
  • Faster runners stay inside. Again, this is similar to driving and overtaking on the left. If you’re taking a break between intervals or doing a slow jog to warm up, move to the right (outward) so as not to interfere with the faster runners. But when it’s your turn to speed up, feel free to choose the inner lane.

If you want to do a track workout without a track, just consider how long it will take you to run each section – you could probably run a 400 meter interval in about two minutes. Then you can hit the road and just take the watch with you, running for two minutes at a time. You won’t be able to get the timing right, but knowing your body well enough to run at the right level of effort will make your workout just as good. You can also occasionally find a treadmill with quarter- or half-mile signs that can work for longer intervals. (400 meters is about a quarter of a mile; 800 meters is about half a mile.)

When not to run fast

Speedwork fits into a program where you work easy some days and hard others. I emphasize this because many novice runners try their best every time they go out for a run. I understand that you want to see results, so every time you try to run a little more or a little faster on your usual route. I am as a beginner too. But in reality, you will get better if you make hard workouts harder (speed work) and light workouts easier .

Easy jogging is the kind where you can laugh and talk to a friend, or just plunge into the rhythm of your favorite playlist and forget that what you are doing is exercise. You don’t breathe hard, you don’t feel like you want to die, you almost feel guilty about it being exercise because it’s easy. You need a lot of those easy miles as part of a healthy and sustainable training plan.

It takes time to learn how to find light equipment, so if this is a new idea, just try to run as slow as possible and, if necessary, take breaks for walking (but keep them short so you don’t accidentally end up doing interval training).

Find a program to help you achieve your next goal. A 5K training plan (like this Intermediate Plan from Hal Higdon ) is a good place to start. You will notice that most runs are 3-milers with no specific instructions; these are your easy runs. Longer weekend runs should also be done at an easy pace. And then Wednesday numbers that say something like “5 x 400” – well, now you know what that means, right? Five reps per lap, done after a light warm-up, probably on a school track after the kids went home for the day. Stick to this plan, and you will become faster and happier over time.


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