Friday, August 19, 2016

Speedwork Made Simple

Runs feeling a little monotonous?  Trying to improve your pace?  If you are running regularly and have a good pace, you might want to consider throwing in some speedwork.  For many, the concept of "speedwork" can seem a little intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.  Here are some easy options to consider.
Fartlek (Swedish for "speed play") is as fun to say as it is to run because it's unstructured.  If you want to do a fartlek run, make sure you do a proper warmup first, pick a point in the distance and then put in a medium-hard effort to get there.  Once you get there, return back to your easy pace.  When you have recovered and feel like it, choose a new point and pick up the pace again.  This is also fun to do with a group, where each runner gets a turn choosing when the pickup starts and ends.

Intervals are slightly more structured, but also help you become a stronger runner.  If you want to run intervals,warm up first and then pick a time or distance.  For example, you might run one minute hard followed by three minutes of easy running/walking to recover.  Alternately, you could run 0.1 miles hard followed by 0.25 miles easy running/walking to recover.  The key is to alternate hard and easy efforts for the same set time or distance.

Tempo Runs help you increase your endurance and speed because they are about sustained effort.  Once you warm up, you begin running at a medium or "comfortably" hard pace (i.e. not able to have a normal conversation, but not gasping for breath either).  Keep this pace for the duration of your run until you reach your cool down.
Are there other forms of speedwork?  Absolutely, but part of why I love running is its simplicity and these are the least complex options.  These three are the ones that I go back to and rotate between, and they really do work!  Someone once told me that if you want to run fast, you have to run fast.  That doesn't mean go out and kill yourself every day, but if you do want to get faster and stronger, you should introduce some harder efforts into your routine in the right way at the right time.

Your body will adapt remarkably quickly, but the key is also to make sure that you're giving it time to really recover between these tougher runs to avoid injury (speedwork and long runs are both considered harder efforts).  Especially if you're newer to running, you don't need to do more than one day of speedwork a week (I still don't do more than one day a week).  Listen to your body and start to get to know what feels "easy," "comfortable," and "hard."  This is also great training, physical and mental, if you decide to do any races.

So get out there, try something new, and have fun with it!

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