Speedwork is essential to improve as a runner. But not all speedwork is created equal. If you’re new to the sport and don’t know where to start, here are five staple workouts you need to know:
While most fartleks alternate fast running with easy running, they’re really just runs completed with varying paces. Fartleks are excellent for building speed, developing fatigue resistance and learning how to pace yourself. Plus, if you’re new to running or are intimidated by track intervals, they're a fun way to throw in surges without the pressure of the measured oval. After all, fartlek literally means "speed play."
Learning how to be comfortable amidst discomfort is a big hurdle new runners often face. And the tempo run is a key ingredient to finding your stride. It’s a run completed at lactate threshold (or the fastest you can go for a sustained period). For new runners, this could be 15 to 25 minutes; for more experienced runners, more like an hour. Note: It may take some time for you to determine your ideal tempo pace. Working with a training program or personal coach will help you get there.
Running hills increases speed and fatigue resistance, builds strength and helps you tackle discomfort because, let’s face it, running hard uphill is painful. But, oh so good! Most hill repeats are short and fast, with a downhill jog as recovery. What makes them even better for beginners is that running hard uphill puts less pressure on your joints and is, therefore, a great way to increase your running intensity while also keeping your injury risk low.
Perhaps more than any other run, when you successfully complete a progression run, you feel like you can do anything. You’ll recover quickly, too. That’s because progression runs are designed to increase your fitness while minimizing fatigue. A progression run is when you start your run at an easy, conversational pace (the same pace in which you run the majority of your daily miles) and then slowly pick it up mile after mile. The goal is to end the run at your goal race pace (or slightly slower).
Long runs are a crucial piece of any training plan; they're the staple you need to build endurance. However, unlike the other workouts on this list, long runs aren’t (usually) meant to be completed at a fast pace. It’s best (especially when you’re starting) to run your long runs at a speed in which you can hold a conversation (conversational pace). How do you decide how far to go? Aim for a distance about 20- to 30-percent of your weekly mileage. So, if you’re running 25 miles per week, your long run should be between 6 and 7.5 miles; if you’re running 60 miles per week, your long run should be more like 12 to 18 miles.
Just starting out or looking to build a base? Read our tips here and learn how to start your season off with a solid foundation.