I have just started really trying to implement speedwork into my weekly running. I guess I use the term ‘speedwork’ loosely. I really just mean running at a harder pace than normal.
Trying this kind of workout can be scary. I still get anxiety before my runs. I want to hit my paces I have set out. I don’t want to fail. I am coming to the terms with having a goal, if I don’t hit it, keep trying. A little bit of faster running is better than nothing.
How do I start?
- On your next run, try a fartlek run. (Everyone goes, funny word, I know, har har har. But really, it isn’t that funny. I don’t get it. Yes it’s got fart in there, but are we really that stupid to think this is the funniest thing ever? Ok, sorry, rant over. Back to it.)
What is a fartlek? It is pretty much running easy, then running harder, then running easy, and so on. Start your run as normal, then if you see a letterbox up ahead, or a telephone pole run harder to that, then slow down until you see something a little way up the road to run faster to. Just keep repeating it for as long as you like. This is one of the easiest ways to transition into speedwork. You don’t need to worry about pace, you just get out there and go.
- If you want to start repeats, say 5 x 400m, start on a treadmill.
Now it can be a little confusing, you are running at ‘6.0’ or ‘8.5’ instead of minutes per mile. (Those numbers are miles per hour) If you know what pace you want to hit for your ‘fast’ portion and your recovery, you can go ahead and google it. (Or try this link here) For example, my 5k pace is 7:58 min/mile. (This was my last 5k race, and I have read about running your current pace, not your goal pace for speedwork – injuries can happen if you go too fast too soon.) So, my pace equals around a 7.5/7.6 on treadmill. My easy pace I decide to run at 5.5 (or somewhere around the 11 min/mile range.) Another option is just jumping on the treadmill and figuring out what the min/mile pace is when you are running.
On the treadmill there is generally a setting for intervals, this is the best option to use, and why it is a great idea to know your treadmill level before you hop on. You can just enter the two paces you want to run at, (e.g. 7.5 and 5.5) and then it just just a one button push to change between the two. And now it is simple, if you are doing 400m repeats, all you need to do is run at 7.5 for 0.25 miles on the treadmill and then press the button to slow you down to your recovery pace for how long you want to recover.
I do find it easier to either do both my fast portion and recovery in the same units, both in miles or both in minutes. For example, Run fast for 0.5 miles, recover for 0.25 miles. Run fast for 3 minutes, recover for 2 minutes. Then just try to remember how many repeats you have done!! This is also a great workout if you can only run for 30 minutes, warm up, run fast/slow on repeat, then cool down for the last 5 minutes, all in that 30 minute period.
- Use your tech! If you have a GPS watch you may be able to set up intervals on it.My Garmin allows me to set my interval (for distance or for time) and how far I would like to run, and then the recovery period (also choosing from distance or time). You then choose how many reps you need to complete. It also offers a warm up and cool down period. I love using my watch, because I can see how fast (or slow) I am running, and I don’t need to remember what repetition I am on. I believe the newer watches even lets you put in a pace range and it will beep at you if you head out of that range.
- Then there is the track. Now, I’ve actually only ever been to a track once to work out, but I loved it! It felt so serious, and that you were there to work! I need to try to get access to my local high school track. Anyway, this is another option if you have a track close by. Each lap of a track is 400m, so it is super easy to figure out how far you need to run. 2 laps = 800m, half a lap = 200m. This works really well if you don’t have a GPS watch, you just need a timer and you can figure out your pace. Again, the only issue for me is remember how many I have run! (And also, if you are running many miles it may get a little tedious.
What distance should you run?
The answer is generally all about what your goals are. Are you training for a half marathon? Is there a 5k time that you want to beat? Intervals can be 200m, they can be 1000m… They can even go outside of those. Generally speaking, your 400m – 800m intervals will be done at around 5k to 10k pace, for anything further they can be performed at half marathon pace, or just under. You can work on 1 mile repeats at your (half) marathon to dial in what it should feel like. Heading over to Runner’s World is also a great place to start looking at interval plans for your goals.
Again, these are just some of the options that I am working on. This year I am trying to do one speedwork session in a week. I will get faster!