Speed work: your guide to running fast
Are speed workouts absolutely necessary? Well, that depends on what your running goals are. If you are aiming to run faster, then yes, speed work should be included in your overall running program. Just looking to get in shape and not worried about setting personal bests? Then, yes, you might want to focus on just covering distance.
In this post, we’re assuming that you do in fact want to run faster. Since that is the case, we’ll be looking at what you can do to run a faster 5k, a faster mile, or even just train at a faster pace.
In late 2018, I dug deep into what “what pace you should run your intervals at and how long those repeats should last”. It was a well-received post and had in my opinion a really good breakdown of each of the common running paces: tempo, threshold, interval and speed. You’ll want to read it as it defined each pace, gave workout samples, and did a good job of explaining what you might want to know about creating interval workouts. The link is below.
Why Speed Training is Important
For a marathon runner to run a good marathon, it’s expected that they run some of their miles at threshold and tempo paces – the pace they are likely to run/sustain over the marathon distance. To become even more efficient at the marathon distance, speed training in the form of repeats might be a good addition to a marathon program. In the case of a marathon runner, speed work is anything just faster than marathon pace. This might be something “only” as fast as half marathon pace and might go as fast as 5k pace. The goal of running these slightly faster paces is to make marathon pace feel easier.
Not running a marathon? No problem! Speed work becomes even more important the shorter the race distance. Maybe a 5k is more your pace? Try running repeats at slightly slower than, at goal pace, and slightly faster than goal pace. The same principles apply as with the marathon runner: we want to get more comfortable running at paces just slower than, at goal pace, and slightly faster than goal pace.
In sports other than running, like football, baseball, or soccer, speed training is still an important component to the sport. The faster and more efficient these athletes are, the higher the likelihood they will outrun or outrace their opponent.
Besides obviously being faster because of speed work, speed training also helps burn more calories. A good interval workout, like repeat 400s or a ladder workout will burn so many more calories than an easy run for the same time.
Factors that will Improve Speed
Good Running Form
Good running form is the foundation for healthy, good running. Without it, injuries are more likely to crop up:
Bad running form can expose runners to poor mechanics, bad efficiency and overuse injuries. About 50 to 75% of all running injuries appear to be overuse injuries due to the constant repetition of the same movement.
Here’s how you can improve your running form: practice good form with running drills, like A skip, high knees, glute kicks and fast feet.
During a run, focus on having a strong core, which you can practice post-run, and think about being light on your feet.
There is a saying that goes “the bigger the base, the higher the peak”. I think this is really true when it comes to speed work. The bigger the fitness base you have, the more quality work your body is capable of handling. Before starting speed work, I suggest you spend at least 1 month building a consistent base of running mixed with strength training and cross training.
Speed Workout Sessions
Local speed sessions coming up shortly:
Interested in registering for speed sessions?
Speed sessions in Cherry Hill & Marlton. Details here.
Need a running coach for your next race?
A coach will create the training plan so you can focus on your running goals!
Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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