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A six-week guide to better speed training

After building a solid base of steady mileage, now is the time to develop and improve your speed training, which is ideal for preparing for a faster 5 or 10K.

runner silhouette

Are you looking to be a stronger, faster runner? Assuming you’ve taken the time to develop a solid aerobic base with a few weeks of base-building, there’s no better time to focus on speed training. Speed training can be done in a number of ways but is most commonly accomplished using short intervals done as a dedicated workout once or twice a week.

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These short intervals can be run as fast as 5K pace (or slightly faster) and usually not slower than lactate threshold (LT) pace (the pace you could maintain for a full hour of running). For our purposes, short intervals refer to any distance equal to or less than one mile (equal to 1.609K or about four laps of a track).

What’s the point?

The purpose of running faster for short periods of time is to improve the body’s ability to efficiently use energy as well as to eliminate the by-products of that energy production, namely lactate. Repeats of 200m, 400m, 800m, 100m/1K, 1200m and 1600m are examples of intervals done to develop speed. These can easily and preferably be run on a standard 400m track, however, running them on a road or trail with a GPS is also an option.

The following are sample workouts that should be done on subsequent weeks during the speed training phase. They are progressive in that you will gradually run a bit more distance each week. The goal is to run at the same or slightly faster pace as time goes on. Be sure to warm up and cool down before and after the workout and also add dynamic stretches and a few (5 x 100m) strides before beginning the workout.

Week 1: 6-10 x 400m@5-10K pace with 400m easy between

Week 2: 4-6 x 800m@5-10K pace with 400m easy between

Week 3: 2 sets of 400m-800m-1200m@5-10K pace with 400m/800m easy between

Week 4: 4-5 x 1200m@5-10K pace with 400m easy between

Week 5: 2 sets of 800m-1200m-1600m@5-10K pace with 400m/800m easy between

Week 6: 4-5 x 1600m@5-10K pace with 400m easy between

In addition to this weekly workout, consider running three-to-four additional times per week including a longer run (up to about 16-20K) to build endurance. You can (and should) also add strides, which are gradual accelerations up to about 90 per cent of max speed (not a sprint though) that last 20-30 seconds. Aim to add 5-10 strides to the end of your shorter easy runs.