Whether you are a beginner or have been running for some time, at some point runners think about how they can incorporate speed into their training. Logging miles is important to gain the endurance necessary for running successfully, but if you want to be fast you have to practice running fast!
Pushing the pace recruits different muscle fibers and places demands on your body in different ways than conversational paced endurance runs. Therefore, speed should be introduced in short controlled efforts before moving forward with harder workouts.
If you are new to any kind of speedwork, and have only logged miles thus far, but would like to introduce speed I recommend starting with STRIDES, then moving to MINI WORKOUTS.
Strides are 20-35 second hard sprints usually done at your mile race pace. They are helpful in that they are a perfect building block for speed, but also beneficial for the experienced runner looking to gain that extra finishing kick in a race. Strides are typically performed after an easy run or before a big workout or race. How are they done?
If you are a beginner, try these after an easy run. Begin your stride by easing into a fast pace, but not a sprint in order to avoid injury. After about 5 seconds you should reach full speed and begin to focus on staying strong but controlled. Focus on your breathing and a strong arm swing. Concentrate on landing on your midfoot to forefoot. Continue to stay relaxed at this top speed and then gradually slow yourself over the last 5 seconds.
Take a full recovery between each stride, about 2 minutes. Strides are not meant to be a hard workout, they're intended to work on speed and mechanics. Starting your next stride fatigued can cause a breakdown in form, which in turn can put you at risk for injury.
Strides are great for incorporating speed without committing to a lengthy workout. A few strides a few times a week goes a long way! Because they are 20-30 seconds, they are perfect for introducing speed. Lastly, they are a great way to stretch out your legs after an easy run or teach you to find that speed for a final push!
Once you are regularly working strides into your training and you feel comfortable, you can tackle a mini workout. Mini speed workouts are just as they sound, they are adapted from longer more sustained efforts. A few examples would be track laps, a short tempo, or hill repeats. Try 4-5 intervals of 400 meters at 5k effort (see link below for pace calculator) Or instead of tackling a full tempo run (a building up of a hard effort that you sustain for a period of time), try breaking it up into 2 intervals of 5 minutes at 10k effort, and add a cool down. You could also try a simple hill workout. Keep the intervals short. Try 30 seconds up the hill at 5k or 10k effort, and walk down as a recovery. Repeat this 6 times.
Once you feel you are familiar with the effort required during these mini workouts and you are stronger, you can increase the amount and the duration of these efforts and try a more advanced speed session.
If you are unsure of your training paces I recommend using this vDOT calculator developed by Olympic coach Jack Daniels. If you haven't completed a race, run a mile at your best effort and enter in that time. I do NOT recommend guessing your paces. Training at paces you aren't ready for will only set you up for injury. It is also very important to train at paces based on your current fitness level NOT where you hope to be.
LINK TO CALCULATOR: