Speed Work Defined


Fartlek, a Swedish term that means “speed play,” improves your running speed and endurance. Fartlek running involves varying your pace throughout your run, alternating between fast segments and slow jogs. Fartleks are unstructured and alternate moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. Additionally, it is a workout that improves mind-body awareness, mental strength, and stamina. Pace: Undefined- run at a faster pace than your LSD, that you can sustain for each interval. Examples may be follow the leader, light pole to light pole, etc.

Steady State

Steady State workout is a great way to ease into speed work. Steady runs are used to add a slight amount of fatigue to the legs as we enter into more challenging workouts in coming weeks (trust us, these are coming!). Finally, SS runs build our aerobic strength. Pace: A range of 10 seconds faster to 20 seconds slower than marathon pace (this is all based around marathon pace). This should be comfortably hard; NOT tempo and NOT easy. You will run 20-50 minutes at this Steady State pace.

Tempo Run

Known as a “bread and butter” workout for endurance training, tempo runs are an essential building block used for us to work on developing and maintaining both speed and strength. Zeroing in on and maintaining the tempo pace for this workout fine-tunes your mental toughness and stamina as, mentioned above, this is a TOUGH workout. This workout will likely feel not too difficult at first, but as you look to maintain this faster pace for the tenure of your run, you will begin to feel fatigue and enter the phase of battling mental toughness. Goal yourself to be able to maintain level pacing throughout the run in the tempo phase. Tempo pace can also be referred to as your lactate threshold pace. This is ~30-45 seconds faster per mile than your goal race pace. This is to be run comfortably hard and NOT easy. You likely will not be able to easily carry on a conversation.

Progression Run

A progression run is simple on paper: it is a run that progressively gets faster over time. What this does is two-fold: 1) forces runners to start slowly as a means to teach mental patience and 2) allows the body to fully warm-up before running at a harder effort. Many runners are too eager to hit the gas pedal on their runs, and progression runs will help them become more disciplined. Runners who regularly incorporate progressive runs will actually speed up towards the end of a race when everyone else is trying desperately to hang on.

A progression run workout may be the most challenging workout faced for many of you. To ensure success, make sure you are truly starting off slowly enough.

Strides and/or Pickups

Strides (also known as pickups) consist of short bursts of swift running. Strides are an easy to perform running drill to improve your form and mechanics. The main goal is to increase your stride length while maintaining a quick foot turnover. It is simply going from running easy to increasing your speed by lengthening your stride for about 20 to 30 seconds and then slowing your speed down. Allow time for active/running recovery before your next pickup.

How to Do Strides:

  1. Complete your scheduled miles on your training calendar at an easy pace. Strides are best completed after your run, not during.

  2. After your run, you should stretch lightly or walk it out for a few minutes to bring your heart rate and breathing down before you start the strides. If strides are new for you, start with a total of four and gradually build up to six or eight over time.

  3. Begin your stride by easing into a fast pace over the first 5 seconds. It is important to ease into the pace to prevent injury.

  4. After 5 seconds, you should have reached full speed. Begin to focus on staying relaxed and letting your body do the work. Keep a relaxed face, make sure your arms aren’t flailing, and work on landing on your midfoot (closer to your toes), not your heel. It should feel like a controlled fast pace rather than a sprint. Continue to stay relaxed at your top end speed and gradually, over the last 5 seconds slow yourself to a stop.

  5. Take a full recovery between each stride, which should be about 2 minutes. You can stop to catch your breath, walk or slowly jog in place on the way back to the starting point. The purpose of strides is not to get in a hard workout or to have you breathing hard. Strides are designed to work on speed and mechanics, so starting your next stride winded or before you are fully recovered will not be beneficial to the training adaptations.

What are the benefits of strides?

1. Strides help you work on your mechanics in short increments. It’s easy to focus on form when you’re only running for 20 to 30 seconds and you’re not overly tired. Not only does it help you create mental cues to stay on your toes and feel relaxed, but it makes the process more natural for the body during the race.

2. As distance runners, most of our time is spent running at slower speeds to build our aerobic systems. Strides offer you a great way to add some speed work into your training plan without having to sacrifice a whole day of training.

3. Strides are a great introduction to faster, more rigorous training. Beginning distance runners may not be used to going fast or doing speed work, and strides are a gentle introduction for the body and will help you get used to the feeling of running faster.

4. Strides can serve as a great way to stretch out the legs after an easy session. During marathon and half marathon training, the legs can get stale with the mileage. Strides help break up the monotony and add a little spice to the training and your legs. A few stride sessions will help get your marathon weary legs feeling fresh again.

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