After you’ve run a few races and got to the point where you want to do something more to improve your performance, you’ll want to start incorporating speed training techniques into your training schedule.
There are five main techniques that I’ll be presenting on this page.
Some of the more complicated techniques will be discussed in further detail on separate pages.
One point to keep in mind is that when you incorporate any of these speed training techniques into your running, you should always start with a 10-15 minute warm-up, and finish with a 10-15 minute cool-down.
Running time trials is a simple way to find out if you’re getting faster.
The basic idea is to choose a course and a distance and run it as fast as you can.
Record your timing– this is your benchmark, and you will compare subsequent runs with this benchmark.
Continue your training, as usual, then after a couple of weeks, repeat your time trying to find out if you’ve improved.
Running time trials will help your body adjust to your racing speed.
You can read more on the time trials page.
Recreational runners typically think that interval training is reserved for elite runners, but this isn’t the case.
Any runner with a solid conditioned foundation can benefit by adding interval training into their running program.
In it’s purest form, you will run a specific distance at a breakneck pace.
Then you’ll jog or walk to recover. Then you will repeat this several times.
The effect is the same as with time trials – you are trying to get your body accustomed to running at a faster pace so that on race day, you will be better prepared.
Interval training is typically done on a track.
That’s the simple explanation.
The reason that interval training gets a reputation of being exhausting is that as you improve you will begin to vary the distance that you are running, the number of times you repeat the intervals, and also the speed at which you are running.
This takes a little bit of planning, but anyone can do it. You can learn more on the Interval Training page.
If interval training seems a little bit too structured for your liking, you might want to try a Fartlek workout instead.
Fartlek is a version of interval training with a lot less structure.
A Swedish coach developed the Fartlek technique.
The word itself is Swedish and means “speed play.”
Fartlek differs from interval training because it is not done on a track.
It can be done anywhere – on the road, on trails, cross-country, or a treadmill.
Instead of running at a fast pace for set distances, you might instead run between one landmark and another.
Then you will jog slowly to the next landmark.
And repeat the process over your running course.
Fartlek is fun because you can choose the venue and run at various speeds.
Do it on forest trails or country roads, or in your local park – it’s your choice.
You also get to decide how to vary the workouts in terms of distance and speed.
The benefits achieved with Fartlek are similar to what you get with interval training.
A tempo run is a cross between a time trial and an interval workout.
You run them at a slightly faster pace than you would run a time trial because you’re doing them over a shorter distance.
I’ve included some samples of tempo run workouts on my tempo running page so you can have an idea about how to do these workouts.
Another way to get your body ready for a race is to run some laps.
The distance of the tune-up races will be less than the range for the event you are training for.
For example, if you’re training for a half marathon, then your tune-up race distance should be 8K or 10K.
There are a few things you’ll want to remember.
First of all, you don’t want to run a race every weekend.
Run your tune-up race about a month before your big event.
If you’re training for a marathon or half marathon, you’ll want to run your tune-up race a little bit slower for the first couple miles and then pick up your pace for the remainder of the competition.
You should be feeling very strong at the finish of the race.
Speed Training: Final Thoughts
If you are ever confused about how to do speed training workouts, talk with a running coach or an experienced runner to get some clarification.
Typically just a few minutes of discussion will get you on the right track.
Remember that speed training of any sort is meant to help you with your race performance.
If you are ever in doubt about the speed you are running, slow down the pace until you feel comfortable.
Speed training does place additional stress on your body, and you will need to pay close attention to make sure you are not overdoing it.
You don’t want to get injured or sick as a result of doing this training.
Once again, when in doubt, slow down.