by Kaitlyn Morgan, Runners Roost Race Team Member and Lifelong Endurance Coach
Many runners from beginners to experienced ultra runners, line up at the start line with the goal to PR, place, or finish with a goal time. While there are many schools of thought on how to train for racing, there is one key component to training that plays a huge part in successful races- speed work. Or simply put, challenging yourself to run at different speeds with the ultimate goal of being able to run faster. Just like individual runners, speed work comes in many shapes and sizes. It depends on the the person and the race distance. For some, speed work may sound intimidating. While it might feel like you have to hit your prescribed goals remember, the real reason to do speed work is to build the machine. As you’re doing speed work, don’t sweat the small stuff, like missing a mile split, or not hitting the workout exactly, Know that you got out the door and laid down a pretty tough effort. Below are a few key speed workouts that can be utilized often by runners of all abilities from beginners to advanced, well seasoned athletes. These workouts are described in a manner so you can build on them as you gain fitness and confidence in your training.
The Basic Hill Builder:
I have a saying for all of my runners… “Hills pay the bills”. Often you will see a block of hills earlier on in a training program rather than closer to a key race. This is to help you build strength. Running uphill not only builds strength and endurance, but if they are shorter hills at 5k-10k effort you are utilizing speed as well. Here is a basic hill workout you can incorporate into your running plans.
First, find a hill that’s pretty decent for climbing like Ruby Hill- Denver, Butterfly Hill- Cherry Creek, back side of the Bluffs- Lone Tree, no trail fire roads unless they are fairly mild no need to kill yourself just yet 😉
-15-20 min warmup: keep it easy here, think jog
-4-5 x 45 second hills at 5k effort and JOG back down (what this means is 4-5 times you are run up a hill at 5k effort. If you don’t hit pace don’t worry, be are more concerned about the effort, then recovery jog down.
-15-20 min cool down.
This won’ be a super long workout, but it will fire up your legs and lungs quickly. If you are feeling good about your hill duration, the next week go ahead and add on another 15 seconds to your hill so then it becomes a 60 sec hill climb.
Speed Play; aka Fartlek:
We have all heard this word before and it can be a beloved workout for some or dreaded for others. Either way, it is one of the most fundamental runs to build pace recognition, endurance and to have a little fun. This can be a hard training run for some because they like the hard structure of 1:00 fast, 2:00 easy, etc. I like to mix it up a bit and add in some “play time” in a training run. Remember, Fartlek translated means “speed play”, and that’s exactly what this work out is, play. Hands down, this is one of my favorite workouts. The minimal structure allows the runner to find a way to play and have some fun, while getting in a good training run.
For a 30-40 min “free fartlek”, first find a route you LOVE and I mean love. Whether it’s Bear Creek Lake park, the Highline, Magnolia ( extra credit for this one) or your favorite trail, start with that!
-Run about a 10-15 min warm up to get the body lose and relaxed, again think JOG!
-Run 15-20 min moderate mixed with 20-45 second moderate to hard efforts (5k-10k) with jog recoveries… Keep this relaxed and in a sense free form. Recover for as long as you need, take your time no rush here and then pick it up have some fun.
-5 min easy just let the body, breath and legs settle back in.
The reason this workout can be fun and challenging is the freeform of it. Though when done right aka you had FUN you will feel like you had a solid work out done. Run from mailbox to box and vary your speed, or tree to tree, mix it up!
These can often me mistaken for a fartlek however the interval is a set structure of time and or distance of hard running with easy recoveries. intervals can be shorter efforts and or longer efforts dependent upon the race and training goal. this workout can be easily added upon and is great for keeping the mind in check and keeping you feeling like a rock star.
This workout can be done on flat trail, path, pavement or treadmill. I jokingly call it this a “turn and burn”… don’t worry it’s a really fun run. As you increase in your training program you can add in more sets if the pyramid. Essentially you run hard for 1 minute, then 2 minutes then 3 minutes with equal amounts of recovery time in between.
-10-15 min warmup easy JOG
•1:00 minute HARD effort, with 1:00 min easy jog
•2:00 minute HARDish effort, with 2:00 min easy jog
•3:00 minute Moderate effort (no need to push too hard) with 3:00 min easy jog
•2:00 minute hard, with 2:00 easy jog
•1:00 minute HARD ( with EVERY thing you have left)
– then take 10 minutes to bring it on home with a jog
If that felt super comfortable and you had a ton of gas left in your tank repeat the 1-2-3 one more time and stop at three.
These are three basic starting blocks to speed work that you can modify as needed. If you can only do 3 reps, then only do 3. Never push yourself into a place where you can injure yourself. I do encourage you to get a little comfortable with your new friend “discomfort”, say “hi” to him every so often and really dig when if feels like you can. Anther good rule of thumb with speed work is to start with one primary day of speed a week. If you are also planning on a longer run in the week, give yourself a rest day and don’t go out and try all three of these in the same week. Plan to take them one week at a time and you will benefit more. If you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are two more advanced workouts for runners who may be getting close to a peak week in marathon or ultra training. This is just a little taste of some variety you can throw at your self if the standard tempo, interval and hill workout are getting stale.
Hill Grinder: AKA oh Hill NO! – mainly for our ultra athletes or those looking to gain hill climbing fitness
2 mile warm up
3 x 5 min hill climb jog back down recoveries – 10k effort not pace, on a fire road like Green Mtn. Lakewood.
5-8 min easy JOG
1 mile hard trail effort
2 mile cool down
Moderate spec run: aka Let me see you “Work”
3 mile relaxed
2 miles-1:00 hard, 1:00 easy
2 miles relaxed
4 tempo down
Both of these workouts vary paces and mix in two types of speed work. Please be safe trying these workouts and if you don’t feel like you can finish them don’t push! Do what you can! And keep working on it. Both are fun to accomplish as well as tough on the body.