When you first start running, simply getting into a routine of running several times per week may feel daunting. When someone mentions the word “workout,” you turn the other way. Understandable. It’s scary … at first. But it doesn’t have to be. In reality, while speed work is hard, it’s also fun. And, when combined with proper rest and recovery, it’s the very key to becoming a faster, stronger, more efficient runner. Plus, it adds diversity to your training to prevent any chance of early-onset boredom. Another speed perk: frequently alternating your running pace recruits different muscle fibers, which helps stave off injury.
When you’re first learning how to run fast, though (whether it’s the beginning of the season or during the later stages of recovery after a race), approach it slowly. This means keeping the workout stress relatively low with short bursts of fast speed (think short sprints) with full recovery until your body adjusts and you’re able to handle more (think tempos, fartleks [a.k.a speedplay] and more intervals at high intensity).
As your season progresses and your fitness improves, you’ll find yourself running longer and harder—and with much more ease. Here are seven speed workouts you need to know, from early season rust-busters to peak fitness confidence-boosters and everything in between.
A quick note about paces:
FAST: Hard to hold a conversation, but something you can sustain for more than a minute AND maintain proper form throughout.
MEDIUM: Faster than easy, but you could still complete a whole run at this pace if you had to, but you probably wouldn’t want to do much talking.
EASY: This is when you’re running and chatting, life feels effortless and everything is beautiful.
And, always remember that all workouts are infinitely modifiable. For example, if you’re new to running—and running itself is enough of a speed workout—replace the hard and easy running segments with running and walking.