Pedal To The Metal – Speed Training Tips For Runners
Speed Training Tips For Runners
One of the great things about the sport of running is that it allows for all different types of people with different running goals. For some runners those goals don’t include winning any races or getting any faster. For most runners though I think there is a desire to set a new PR (personal record) or just run faster than you did in your previous race. Even if you aren’t interested in breaking any speed records speed work can help to increase efficiency and build strength to help you late in races when you start to get tired.
Race Pace Runs – Race pace runs are one of my favorite speed work tools and I think one of the most effective because they are the closest thing to simulating your actual goal race. To do race pace runs you need to be very close to the shape that you want to be in on race day. Don’t try these runs too early in your training or you will be more prone to injury. When doing a race pace run you should be running right at or slightly faster than your goal race pace. I use two different methods when doing my race pace runs. The first method I choose is to run a distance that is about 90% of my goal race distance and run the first half at about 80% of goal pace and then run the second half right at or slightly faster than goal race pace. The second method I use is to run about 70% of my goal race distance at my goal race pace. These runs will help to get your body used to running the pace that you want to run on race day.
Hill Running- Hill workouts help runners to build strength and muscle mass in their quads and calves. When running hills you are using your body weight as resistance similar to a weight lifting workout. Running hills requires good form and will help to train your body to run as efficient as possible. Any wasted movements will only be amplified on hills. When you are running hills focus on maintaining good form and good straight forward arm motion. Try to take small quick strides and keep your head up. Start slowly and build up to hard hill workouts. A good basic hill workout would be to do 1/4 mile hill repeats. Start with a 1-2 mile easy warm up jog and then do 1/4 mile of hills and jog back down slowly and repeat 4-5 times. Do this workout once a week and try to build up to 8-10 repetitions over time. Another benefit of hill running can come in running some downhill workouts. The downhill portion helps you to get used to running fast and developing a quick leg turnover. Downhill training also helps you to build stabilization and core muscles. Especially if you will be running a race with a lot of downhill then you want to make sure that you work in some downhill training.
Fartleks – The word fartlek is a Swedish word which means “speed play” and when doing a fartlek workout that is exactly what you do. Fartleks can be inserted into your runs at any time and help to build speed and your ability to surge at different times during a race. The idea behind a fartlek is a speed workout with a little less structure than a traditional workout on a track. You can have a lot of fun with fartleks and they will help to add some variety with your daily runs. During your run pick a landmark that is a short distance ahead and run hard to that landmark and then slow back down to your regular pace. Keep repeating this throughout your run. This can be especially fun if you are running with a competitive group. You can feed off of each other and take turns picking the landmarks. If you are running on a treadmill then you can do this by increasing your speed for a short time at different intervals throughout your miles.
Strength Training – There are a lot of old myths out there that say strength training is not for runners and will just build unneeded bulk which will slow you down. This myth is just not true. If done correctly strength training can actually be a key component of a speed training program. A distance runners strength training program should be a fairly high repetition lower weight program and should be a full body program. The body functions as a unit and neglecting any part of the body will provide a weak link in the body system. Aim for balance in opposing muscle groups, for example the tibialis anterior (shin) vs the calf muscle and the quad vs the hamstring. You need a good balance in these opposing muscle groups to maximize efficiency and especially to avoid injury. You should perform exercises that will help to build long, lean toned muscles and help you be balanced and stable. When strength training you should make sure to train slowly and deliberately and maintain good form. Proper strength training will help to build explosive fast twitch fibers to give you that edge when you need a finishing kick in a race and will help to build stabilization and core strength which is so important late in a race when you start to get tired in your legs, back and shoulders.
Tempo Runs - Tempo runs are designed to improve your anaerobic or lactate threshold, which determines the running pace at which lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles, which causes fatigue and reduces muscle fluidity. Tempo runs are a 20-40 minute run which should be done at about 85-90% effort level. This effort level is typically about 10-20 seconds slower than your 10K race pace. I will typically do a one to two mile warm-up followed by either a 30 minute tempo run with no break or two 20 minute tempo runs with about a 1 minute break in the middle. If you do take a break during tempo training you should keep it to one minute or less to keep blood lactate levels constant. I would recommend doing your tempo runs on flat ground to help maintain an even steady pace. You should not be sprinting or giving all out effort during a tempo run but it should be a hard workout. I think tempo runs are one of the most important training tools that you can use both to become faster and build endurance.
Intervals – Intervals consist of running 400 meter to 1 mile repetitions at somewhere between 5K and 10K race pace depending on the distance of the interval. The main goal of intervals is to increase aerobic capacity. Recovery time between intervals should be equal to or slightly less than the time required to run the interval and should allow you to perform the next interval at the desired pace without having to give a full 100% effort. Intervals probably won’t do a whole lot to help you run a faster half marathon or marathon time, other than maybe with a finishing kick. Intervals would be primarily be a great tool to help you become faster in shorter distance races such as a 1 mile race or a 5K
Repetitions – Repetitions will primarily help with shorter distance races such as an 800 meter or 1 mile race and won’t help a lot in marathon, half marathon or even 10K training. These are the shortest and the fastest of the speed developing runs. Repetitions are usually somewhere between 100 and 400 meters and recovery between runs should be somewhere between 90 seconds and 5 minutes depending on the length of the repetition. You should run repetitions between about 10 and 30 seconds faster per mile than 5K race pace again depending on the distance of the repetitions.
A good speed training schedule should include a variety of these runs and should be done consistently. For example run hills or mile repeats on Tuesday, and tempo and race pace runs on Thursday in addition to your medium effort and long distance runs during the week. You won’t see results immediately but be patient and stick to it. If you will be consistent then you will see a difference in your running.