Kickin It Up a Notch

Intervals and other types of speed work are essential to improve running speed.
…Frank Shorter

We are six and a half weeks out from race day, which means it’s time to push ourselves to the next level in our training. In other words, in order to run fast we have to train fast.

trackLately I’ve been adding speed work back into my routine one day a week. Whether you are working hard for a PR, or just want a quick-paced enjoyable race day, speed work can benefit you. It’s also a great way to maximize your workout time – you can exercise for a shorter amount of time, but reap more benefits… a very high ROI if you will.

However it does take a bigger toll on the body so before beginning speed work, it is best to have at least a year of consistent running under your belt, and be clocking at least 20 miles a week.

Adding a variety of runs into your routine teaches your body different lessons:
• Easy mileage runs condition you for the long-haul.
• Tempo runs teach you proper pace, keeping you on target for your goal time while keeping rabbit feet under control (that phenomenon where you go out way too fast due to adrenaline and lots of people around).
• Speed work develops fast-twitch muscle fibers which develop quick leg turnover (quicker leg turnover = more steps per minute = faster time without a greater effort).
• Fartleks and hill repeats increase speed and strength, and thus muscular endurance (the ability to be stronger for longer… i.e. NOT running out of gas).

Here are some of my favorite ways to kick things up a notch:

Favorite Tempo Run
10 min warmup (very easy pace)
4 miles @ goal race pace
10 min cooldown (very easy pace)

Favorite Long Track Workout
15 min warmup
6 x 800m (2 laps around the track) @ 20-25 secs under 10k race pace* or at 5k race pace
*e.g. if your goal time is 46 minutes (or 7:24 per mile), then you would run 3:30 for an 800 – which translates to 7:00 miles.
Jog 1 lap in between each, then rest for 45 secs before beginning next interval
15 min cooldown

Favorite Short Track Workout
15 min warmup
Jog the curves, sprint the straights of a track for 8 laps.
15 min cooldown

Head to your local high school track and let me know what you think about these. Don’t be shy – you’re allowed to use our public school tracks. These are your tax dollars at work after all! No track access?

No Track Access Workout
15 min warmup
Run 30 secs @ mile pace (the quickest you think you could run a mile right now)
Jog or walk easy for 30 secs
**Do these 30” on 30” off intervals for a total of 10, 15 or 20 mins depending on your strength level.
15 min cooldown

Confused about how to figure out your goal pace? These Cool Running calculators are invaluable – I use them all the time!


Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can. …Lowell Thomas


A lot of people are intimidated by speed work. But there are definitely ways to tailor these workouts to, and help improve, runners of all levels. Check out these helpful resources:

speedwork guidelines 
demystifying speedwork
speedwork for beginners
speedwork for intermediate runners

Far from a front-runner, I still find that doing speed work once a week is a tremendous asset to my training. Do you find yourself intimidated by speed work, or will you get out there and give it a try? What up-tempo runs do you prefer?

One comment Add your comment


May 19th, 2010
7:56 pm

I’m glad you’ve addressed the subject of speed. As I continue to add miles I seem to actually be slowing down. I’ll add runs specifically to improve my speed and hope for the best on race day.