Last week we talked about playing with speed with the semi-relaxed fartlek workout. The fartlek. So fun. Now that you’ve realized that you actually can go faster and your legs won’t fall off and your heart will continue to beat, it’s time to get a little more serious. It’s time to get to work.
First, a small disclaimer: Speedwork intervals are not something you start out with your first time running. You should be fairly comfortable running three or four miles at a time and should have been running for at least a few months. Otherwise your ligaments, tendons, muscles, and whatever else is in your legs may not have properly settled into their new running form and you may be cruising for a bruising. (Did I really just type that?) But if you meet those qualifications, read on! You might find something to love in intervals. End of disclaimer.
Speedwork is similar to fartleks in that you go fast, you rest, you go fast, you rest, you go fast, you rest. But unlike fartleks, it is more structured and usually easiest to do on a track. You are running a specific distance (usually 200, 400, or 800 meters) and trying to hit a specific speed. Again and again and again and again. Shorter distances (200 meters), mean more intervals and a harder effort (close to all you’ve got). Longer distances (800 meters) mean fewer intervals and at a more sustainable pace (comfortably hard). Jog in between each interval until you have recovered enough to do it again.
Because there are so many factors involved (what distance you are training for, your current pace, your activity level, etc.) I cannot tell you how fast you should be running each interval or how long you should be resting or how many intervals you should be doing. But if you are interested in doing some speedwork and need some help figuring out the best pace and how many intervals and such, I suggest checking out the Runner’s World training calculator. Plug in a recent race finish time and it will tell you what you are likely capable of in other distances as well as training paces for various distances and types of speedwork. Here is another article about speedwork that can help you figure out how hard to push yourself, when to slow down, and when to speed up.
All this talk of speedwork is making me antsy to get to a track. I hope you’re excited about it, too. I also hope you are looking forward to next week’s installment of “If you want to run fast, run faster,” because it’s my favorite. Tempo runs. I love them.