Just one speed session a week can improve your overall times and ability! Improving your speed isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers or taking a magical pill, but it can be as simple as including a speed session into your weekly training. Speed work teaches your body to run faster for longer periods of time. The benefits are that you get stronger mentally and physically and this all leads to better performance and better love for running. There are three different ways to tackle speed work, in fact it’s worth switching between them for variety and to avoid boredom.
Types of speed work
The first kind is called tempo running or threshold running. It’s running just a little bit quicker than your race pace, but for shorter periods of time. Tempo running teaches the body to deal with the demand at that speed. An example of a 60min tempo session would start with 20mins easy running, 20mins mins at tempo and finish with 20mins easy.
2. Interval training
The second type of speed training is called interval training. It involves a shorter, faster series of speed work with longer rests between each interval. It’s like doing fast repeat of shorter distances, at a fast pace with rest in between each. An example of an interval session would 4x 800m intervals as a fast pace with two minutes of recovery between each.
Finally, the third form of speed work is called the Fartlek, otherwise known as speed play. It’s similar to interval training, except you never actually stop and rest, recovery is considered running at a slower pace. To try it on your own, run a normal run route and run faster/slower sections within the run. Use things like blocks, street lamps or road blocks to determine when you run fast or slower.
Can I do it on my own?
Speed work is kind of like dieting, you can absolutely do it on your own but just know, deep down, that you’ll be less inclined to cheat, skip the hard parts or get lazy if you’re doing it with a group of other people. Speed work is very precise in regards to the structure of the session, and if you’re in a group you’re also less likely to stray too far from that structure.
Try this on your own
A great speed session is to do a descending time set that increases in speed. So run the following intervals:
1 x 5min
1 x 4min
1 x 3min
1 x 2min
1 x 1min
Take a walking 2 min recovery between each (either walking or standing still).
Increase your speed for each change in time, which means that by the time you reach one minute, you should be going as fast as you can hang onto.