Any runner that is trying to improve their running performance, should include speed work in their training plan. Speed workouts include variations to your runs such as Strides, Hill Sprints, Fartleks & Tempo Runs.
Benefits of Consistent Speed Work
Improves efficiency (burn less energy at the same speeds)
Helps you get stronger
Gives you a faster “easy pace”
Enhanced performance and faster finishing times in races
It challenges the communication between your brain & your muscles improving your overall coordination
Helps your body to recruit more of your muscle fibers
When to add speed work? When am I ready?
After you have built up your mileage of consistent running and you are comfortable with it, then add in some speed work.
Don’t make the mistake that because you are an endurance runner, you don’t need speed work. Speed work will reduce your perception of effort when trying to achieve your goal pace at a race.
Strides are accelerations you do after an easy run. Most training plans incorporate 4-6 strides after an easy run. Each stride is about 100 meters long.
To perform a stride, gradually accelerate to 95% of your max speed and hold for about 2 seconds then gradually coast to a stop. This should take about 20-25 seconds to complete.
[Think of a bell curve on a graph. Build up to max speed and hold for 2 seconds and then gradually reduce your pace to a stop.]
Run up a steep hill for 8-10 seconds at maximum effort. The key is that they are only 8-10 seconds long and you get a full recovery after each hill. Start out with 3 hill sprints 1x/wk adding 1-2 hill reps per week up to 10 reps.
Fartlek means “speed play” which can be incorporated into any kind of workout (long or short). They are time based repetitions which can be any number of reps for any amount of time. These reps are an alternating series of faster and slower bouts of running. Fartleks are very versatile and can be used for any type of race that you are training for.
Tempo runs are training runs that are run at a comfortably hard pace. This means that you are working relatively hard, but the pace is manageable for a fairly long time.
The purpose of tempo runs are to improve your endurance. They improve the speed you can keep up for a relatively long time. Tempo runs are usually built in to the middle of a training run.
These are just a few examples. Try adding one speed work out in a week. If it’s going to make your easy runs even easier, why not?