Speed Training & Running Speed Exercises

If you want to run faster, there is simply no substitute for speed training.  You can log all the miles you want, but if you don't add in some speed training you will simply be getting a lot of practice at running slowly.

In addition, speed training is now becoming something that non-racers do, as the general public finally catching on to what pro athletes have know for years – that repeated short bursts are far more effective than continuous steady paced training both for improving fitness and losing weight.

Thus you will now find speed training used as the cornerstone for general fitness programs (e.g. Phil Campbell's "Sprint 8" program), for weight loss, and by strength training athletes looking to boost the body's output of HGH (Human Growth Hormone).

However, it is runners who will benefit most from this type of training, whether they are planning on running a 5K or a marathon – the benefits include not just improving your speed, but also improving your running form.

If you are new to interval workouts, it is best to start out easy and build up over time.  Initially, you should start with short sprint intervals of around thirty seconds.  As your speed and strength increase, you can gradually increase the length of your speed intervals up to a maximum of two minutes. 

The other key element of interval workouts is the recovery period.  Typical ways of measuring this are:

• Distance: Many people recover by walking or jogging slowly back to the starting point, then sprinting again.
• Time:  For a 30 second sprint interval, people use a recovery period of 30 – 90 seconds.
• Heart rate:  If you are using a heart rate monitor, you wait until your heart rate drops to a certain rate before beginning the next sprint interval – for most runners, around 120 beats per minute indicates that you have recovered enough to do the next sprint.

A typical interval workout might look like this:

• Warm-up:  10-15 minutes easy running
• Intervals: 8 x 30 seconds, easy recovery between sprints
• Cool-down: 10-15 minutes easy running

Intervals can be included at any point in the training cycle.  The traditional view is that you should build endurance and strength first, then add speed as you approach race day.  However, many coaches now believe that by only adding intervals near the end your training means that you spend too much time running slowly.

The modern view tends to be that by including intervals from the start of your training you not only get fitter more quickly, you also learn to run fast from the start of your training.

Whether your goal is to get fitter, run faster, or lose weight, interval training should be a regular part of your running program.  Running intervals once of twice a week is quite simply the quickest way to achieve your fitness goals.