There’s some truth to the adage, “the only way to run faster is to run faster.” Putting a little structure behind that saying is the difference between faster times and wasting time. We asked Coach, IronMan™, and World Champion, Jamey Yon for tips on how to safely add speed workouts to your training schedule.
For starters, Yon says not every running plan or program needs speedwork. But if you want to get stronger, faster, and fitter, then adding speedwork is the way to go. Yes, you’ll be able to get to the finish faster, but there’s more to it than that.
“You’ll increase your running efficiency and economy for race day,” says Yon. “Speed work increases muscle strength and endurance, and promotes higher oxygen uptake.” Running faster trains your body to send more blood to the muscles and increase lactate threshold; or the point at which your muscles can go before they get fatigued.
If this is your first go-round with speedwork, you’ll want to ease into it. Yon says the risk of getting injured is low if you approach speedwork conservatively.
Yon recommends adding one faster workout or speedwork session per week to start; keeping total speedwork distance to about 10-15% of your weekly mileage. If you average about 20 miles, then that’s about 2 to 3 miles total. That speedwork could take the shape of intervals, hill repeats, build-ups, tempo runs, fartlek runs, or other fast-paced training.
And remember, recovery is key to successful speedwork. Your goal is consistent output over the workout. Start with keeping recovery time after each interval to equal time of the work just performed. In other words, if you’re running 400’s on the track at 2:00 each, then take 2:00 walking or light jogging as recovery in between. If you can’t run that next 400 in 2:00, then you’re probably running too fast.
“Keep your HR to 80-85% max when first starting or perceived effort. After four weeks you can increase that to 85-90% of max HR or perceived effort. Never ever go above 90% max HR or perceived effort in training.”