Posted by: Joe English | March 31, 2009

Training — The Basics of Speed Workouts

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

As runners get a few races under their belts, there will come a point when they ask that magic question: how can I get faster? The answer is often to “do more speed work”, but figuring out how and why to do it may be more elusive.

What are Speed Workouts?
The group of workouts called “speed workouts” can be broken down into three main types:
— Fast Interval Training – running short distances (200-1,600M) at high speeds
— Long Interval Training – running slightly longer distances (800-2,000M) at medium-high speeds
— Tempo Training – running at an elevated tempo for periods of 10-20 minutes or longer

In both types of Interval training, the use of the word “interval” is the key. An interval means that the workout includes a short, hard, effort with a rest period before starting the next work interval. Breaking the distance down into these short intervals, allows the runner to run faster than they would be able to run if trying to run for a longer distance.

Tempo Training is a third key workout type that can include intervals of running hard interspersed with jogging recovery, or can include one solid block of running at an elevated speed. The key to an effective tempo workout is to keep the tempo up for a longer period of time and to run faster than in a typical workout.

Why do Speed Workouts?
In order to run faster on race day, runners must run faster in practice. Running faster, whether doing high-speed intervals or elevated tempo runs, provides the intense high-quality training that develops running efficiency. When runners become more efficient at running at high-speed over short distances they are training themselves to run faster over longer distances. It is the addition of speed workouts to the “long runs” that, when put together, allow runners to improve their performances.

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