Speed Training for Running

A friend of mine who runs and does CrossFit asked me to write a little bit about speed training in running. After we’ve been running for a while, it seems like we reach a “base” per mile rate. I feel like I’m at that stage right now. It varies depending on the course and the length of the run, but for the most part, I’m not getting any faster!

Kara from It’s a Dog Lick Baby World (and whose daily musings alone are a hilarious enough reason to subscribe to her blog) recently posted about her speed training work. From my own (very minimal) experience with it and from the way she describes it, speed training really sucks. It’s painful, and no one really wants to do it, but it’s part of a training plan that helps you get faster.

On a basic, non-jargony level, speed training is essentially like HIIT, but with running. You’re performing at a high intensity sprint for a period followed by an active rest. If you’re doing it the non-fancy way (read: no dreadmill, no GPS watch, no whatever else), you can choose landmarks along your run and sprint to them as fast as you can. Once you’ve reached the landmark, you slow down to below your normal pace.

For fancier people who like to keep track of things and be really highbrow, this type of training is called fartleks (pauses for laughter). It’s apparently Swedish for “speed play” (pauses for more laughter). If you want to be serious about it, you can sprint and jog at timed intervals or distances. If you don’t live near a track, a dreadmill can be useful for this. You can control exactly how fast you’re running and at what distance, etc.

I have found a few really good interval workouts on Pinterest for use on the dreadmill. One I really like goes like this:

Interval training

The key for this one is to vary the half mile run between full out sprints and medium-intensity jogging. I hate to recommend a particular time or distance for the sprint since everyone’s different. For those of you who want a running-only speed plan:


From there, you can start increasing your sprint distance and shortening your “rest” distance.

Do you speed train? What plan do you follow?

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