Speed training workouts are designed to make you run faster by providing your body with the correct stressors to make it improve it’s systems. In order to be effective speed training workouts need to incorporate both fast running and active recovery.
The thing with speed workouts is that running that same one week after week will not get you the best results. You should change your speed workouts from week to week and consider that you won’t see results from the workout you do today for another four weeks.
Traditionally training blocks are created on a four week basis with building volume with the first week of the next block being lighter volume and intensity to allow the body to recover from the block of training. This lighter week is where the big improvements happen and your body becomes ready for the next incremental level of volume and intensity.
Interval workouts come in many different forms and flavours which incorporate fixed periods of running at faster speeds based on either time or distance. What distances and times you choose should be based on what distances you’d like to race and what your current level of fitness is.
You can choose to do your speed training workouts on the trail, field, track, road or footpath. What matters is the level of effort and the challenging nature of the workout you are doing.
Many athletes prefer to do their speed workouts on the athletics track but trail runners will likely prefer to do theirs on a trail somewhere.
Running a speed workout on the trail is a great way to get some practice in for running fast on the trails.
One great way of approaching this is called a fartlek which involves running based on a period of time or just based on fun. If you’re working to fun then just do about 20 minutes of alternating between fast and easy running for periods you choose (try picking things to run too once the pace is feeling hard).
If you’d prefer to do your fartlek by time then you should setup a watch to beep every 30 seconds and use that to time 2x 2:30, 2x 2mins, 2x1:30, 2x1mins, 2x30sec. If you have a watch with workouts then you can setup this speed training session directly.
This is a really fun speed workout you can do and is really useful as a secondary speed session during the week.
Now for those wanting to do intervals on the track, there are just so many options. You can run distances at a single pace or break the intervals into sections (like 300 hard, 100 float, 200 hard, 100 float, 100 hard) for 800m intervals.
Intervals can be anything from 200m up to 1600m although most people stick with 300m - 1000m intervals as for distance runners anything under 300m is probably a little dangerous.
One of my favourite workouts is 1, 8, 6, 6, 4, 4, 2 which you might have guessed is 1000m, 800m, 600m, 600m, 400m, 400m, 200m. The reason workout is so fun and challenging is that athletes are given a timecard which determines the time they are given for each interval (including rest).
The challenge is that each interval must be run faster, the doubles in the middle are deceptively hard from this perspective.
As with all your running, remember that it is supposed to be fun. As speed workout is not an A race so don’t work too hard. It should be challenging but not to the level of one of your hardest race efforts.