No matter the distance you’re aiming for, 5K to full marathon, or just get faster – truth of the matter is, short speed work drills are not just for track athletes
Here’s how to incorporate some result-guaranteed speed work into your running, to well . . . get faster.
Follow this speed schedule for 5 weeks: Wah-lah! Keep reading.
Whether you’re an 800-meter runner who knows you need to develop some wheels or a marathon specialist who rues not having them, as a distance runner of some sort you most likely recognize the value of basic leg speed.
While it’s well established that you need to dedicate the vast majority of your training for events from 5K and up to aerobic development and a sizable fraction to lactate-threshold work, you’re probably sold on the idea of doing short repetitions — say, 200s and 400s — to develop what most coaches and athletes like to call “turnover” when they’re not inclined to use words like “speed” (a term a lot of us graciously relinquish to the sprinters of the sport). I like to think as turnover as the number of times the heel of your shoes comes up towards your glutes.
The downside of repeats even this long, however, is that even with a 1:1 or even 1:2 work-to-recovery ratio, they invariably result in serious-to-debilitating muscle fatigue. You know the feeling the next morning, when you get out of bed and think “oh hi speed work”. Although relatively recent research has found that lactic acid itself is not the direct acting biochemical criminal it was once presumed to be, its accumulation is nonetheless correlated with muscle fatigue of the sort that rapidly leads to an obligatory reduction in, or cessation of, work. In plain terms, you rig up, hit the wall, get handed a refrigerator, etc.
Side note: Personally, I find that a little protein in my post run routine helps the fatigue, maybe it’s mental, but whatever works right? And if it’s works like other runners and producers say, I’m going to allow myself the tools that help. There are many popular brands. My (sheri;s) go to has always been: Vega, it’s plant based and lower in sugar, tastes great in water, which most of us need anyhow. Personally I love the berry “recovery”. If you have one you love, let us know, we are open to runner suggestions! It’s the best group to ask!
So what’s the answer? That is, how can you get faster without your leg muscles experiencing that not-so-fresh feeling?
The most common way distance runners work on basic speed is by executing short, fast bursts that are brief enough in duration and punctuated by long enough recoveries to preclude the buildup of lactate. Commonly called strides, striders or stride-outs, they take the form of 10- to 20-second accelerations to near-all-out sprint speed, and are normally done at the end or within an easy recovery run, although seasoned competitors might do them to prepare for an interval session or other track work.
Add them to the end of your short run, tempo run, or even LSD (long slow day). It adds up, doesn’t take all that long to do, and makes your regular ol’ running feel easier.
As with everything else in training, if you’d like to integrate sprint workouts into your routine:
- You should do it gradually—start with only a couple 15-30 second repeats, taking ample time to recover between each. Over the course of several weeks, you could work your way up to more repeats for loner amounts of time, or distance and time them.
If you prefer a plan over 4 to 5 weeks to really run your fastest mile, we do that too. We already have it put together, and in January, 50 women tested it out. It’s now ready to go, with tips to your inbox every day for 4 weeks. You start with a timed mile, do the progressive speed drills, from walk, jog, or running (whatever you level when you start) to run, run faster, or speedier by the end of 5 weeks. You do the work, follow the plan, the rest works itself out. We call it: The Advanced Run Program. Do it alone with friends and the best part is you choose when to start – just don’t forget to start! Who doesn’t love a 5 week goal that makes you faster.
Try these speed workouts out:
4 x 600m-400m-200m @ 5K race pace or slightly faster (5-10 seconds per mile, tops!) with one minute to 90 seconds jogging recovery after each faster effort. Take 2 to 3 minutes in between sets. It’s 3 miles-ish.
On the shorter side of things:
16 x 200m @ 3K race pace (5K race pace minus about 15 seconds per mile) with 60-90-second recoveries will help you work on your turnover and tucker you out at the same time. (source Competitor Running.
Things to remember:
Use Appropriately — One to two workouts per week of this type of effort is more than sufficient. It can be two tempo runs or an interval session plus a long run with a tempo finish. Regardless, remember that recovering from this type of work is just as, if no t more important, than the work itself.
Be picky and Race Specific — The closer to your goal race the more race-specific your workouts should become. Keep the intervals short and to a single session, driving the rest of your hard efforts into the tempo finish runs.
To sum it all up: All of your training (tempo, speed, LSD) exists to create stress on your body; your body responds to this stress by getting fitter. Don’t get sucked into heading to the track because everyone else is, or worse yet, into chasing a marathon time that’s out of your league. Make running fast both fun and effective by doing the right type of hard work for what you personally are training for.
Sheri and Teresa