Now is a time when many runners are looking forward and making decisions on how best to structure their training plan for the next season. Most will begin by building a solid aerobic base which means mileage is still relatively low. As such, it’s also an ideal time to begin to develop and improve speed training.
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“Short” intervals usually refer to anything less than one mile—about 1600m/four laps of a track—and are often run as fast as 5K pace (or slightly faster) and usually not slower than lactate threshold pace—between 10K and 10 mile pace or that which you could reasonably maintain for a full hour of running.
The purpose of running this fast is to improve the body’s ability to produce energy while in a near anaerobic state and to eliminate the by-products of that energy production (namely lactate). Running at these paces should feel somewhat uncomfortable and so teaches you (i.e. your body and brain) to run through discomfort. For those who train predominantly for longer distances, this then makes running at half and marathon pace feel “easier.”
200s, 400s, 800s, 1200 and 1600m repeats are examples of intervals done for the purpose of developing speed. These are most easily done on a track but can also be done on roads or trails using a GPS.
The following examples are sample workouts that could be done on subsequent weeks during the speed phase of training. The idea is to progressively increase the volume of training in a safe and effective manner that does not risk injury or burnout.
Week 1: 6-8 x 400m@10KP with 400m easy between
Week 2: 4-5 x 800m@10KP with 400m easy between
Week 3: 2 sets of 400-400-800-1200m@10KP with 400m easy between/800m between sets
Week 4: 4-6 x 1200m@10KP with 800m easy between
Week 5: 2 sets of 800-1200-1600m@10KP with 800m easy between/1600m between sets
Week 6: 3-5 x 1600m@10KP with 800m easy between
Although we suggest running at 10K pace for the workouts, you should be prepared to run a bit faster or slower depending on your goals and how you feel at the time. Remember that you should always plan to finish the last interval as fast as you ran the first and each interval should be run at a similar pace.