Speed Training for Beginners

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All about the basics of speed training

This article is owned by fetcheveryone

Speedwork is only one aspect of running and although many runners get good results from speedwork do not neglect base enduarnce. Maintaining a good base with long runs and slow runs is important while incorporating speedwork sessions into your schedule.
I. Basic Principles of speed training
There are two things that determine your running speed -- rate at which your legs move, and the length of your stride. To make your legs move faster you can do drills (aka the ministry of silly walks) and speedwork. Speedwork involves running at a faster pace than your general daily running pace. This can vary all the way from desired marathon pace to near sprint depending on your individual race goals. Most speed workouts will improve your running form (efficiency) and leg-turnover, making it feel more comfortable when running at faster paces.
II. The warm-up
If you don't warm up, you'll injure yourself. A gentle jog for 10-15 minutes is adequate followed by light stretching. This routine can also be followed by 'strides' (half a dozen or so) if you are going to be running much faster than your usual everyday pace.
III. Types of speed training - Strides, Fartlek, Intervals, Tempo runs, & Hill repeats
1. Strides
This is the most basic of all speed workouts and is an essential tool for all levels of runners, from the beginner who is training for their first race to the most advanced runner looking to hone their running form.The important part of strides is technique, they should be run about 80% of maximum speed over about 80 metres concentrating on lifting the knees and keeping all the limbs moving in a forward and back motion as opposed to moving laterally. An improved running technique helps with running efficiency and prevention of injury.
Strides are generally run after a recovery or general aerobic run and are primarily a tool to help the body get used to running faster and with a faster stride rate. The most important part of the strides workout is too run hard but relaxed. You should really focus on eliminating any tension during your strides and over time running faster will become more comfortable and you will be more efficient.
2. Fartlek
3. Tempo Runs (or threshold pace training)
Tempo training and threshold pace training are two different names for the same thing. The purpose of tempo runs is to build speed endurance, or to stress the bodies capibility to clear blood lactate, not to overstress it. In other words tempo training should be done in a "comfortably hard" state not a "hard" state that pure interval training should be carried out at.
To determine what pace you should be running tempo runs at add 10-15 seconds per mile on top of your targetted 10K pace. For example if you run a 40 minute 10K, your pace per mile is roughly 6:27 per mile, so for your tempo runs you should target 6:37 - 6:42 pace.
A typical tempo run would be, one mile slow warm up, 4 to 5 miles at tempo pace, then one mile cool down.
There is also another form of threshold pace training called cruise intervals, or tempo intervals. Again these have the same benefits of tempo running, but split the tempo run into sizeable chunks.
So a typical tempo interval session would consist of, warm up jog, strides, 4 X 1.5 miles at tempo pace, cool down jog.
The 10K time that you use to calculate your tempo pace should be based on what you believe to be your 10K time now.
If you have never ran a 10K, there are sites like Link (roll over me to see where I go) that can help you predict what your 10K time might be just now. Use the calculator to enter a recent race time and it will give you an expected 10K time.
If you have never raced before, the best advice would be to build up a good endurance based (steady running) and get a few races under your belt before embarking on speed training.
Hollywood's Note - If you live anywhere near South West London, then the BPTT runs (Link (roll over me to see where I go)) are a brilliant way of doing tempo runs.
4. Hill Repeats
5. Intervals
The key to interval sessions is consistency, you should complete the last rep at the same pace as the first rep. As indicated above use the McMillan Running site to find your 5k / 10k pace times and it even tells you what pace you should be completing tempo intervals in or what times you should be covering set distances in.
Here are a few examples of interval sessions (distance recovery can be substituted by time instead):
a. Ladders - 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1200m, 800m, 400m with 2 minutes recovery between each.
b. 16 x 400m with 100m recovery
c. 6 x 800m with 2 min recovery
d. 3 x 800m with 400m recovery; 4 x 400m with 200m recovery and 5 x 200m with 200m recovery
e. 800m, 200 recovery, 1000m, 200 recovery, 1200m with a 400m recovery. Then 400m / 200 recovery, 600 / 200 recovery and 800m with 400m and finally another 800 / 200 recovery, 1000 / 200 recovery and 1200m
f. 7 x 1000m with 90 sec recovery
g. 10 x 500m with 30 seconds recovery
h. 5 x 2k with 3 minutes recovery
I. 6 x 1 mile at 10k pace
j. 5 x 600m in 3:15 (includes recovery, the quicker you run them the longer the recovery you get) followed by 3 x 1000m in 5:45 (includes recovery)
k. 16 x 400 in 2:00 (includes recovery time, start next 400 as soon as 2 minutes is up)
l. 4x400 in 2:00 (inc. recovery) 4 x 600 in 3:00 (inc. recovery) and 2 x 800 in 4:00 inc. recovery
m. 6 x 4 minutes at 10m pace, 2 minutes recovery between each
n. 3 x 10minutes at 10k pace, 5 minutes recovery
o. 5 minutes effort / 2 minutes recovery - at just under 10k pace * 6
p. 1 minute fast, 1 minute recovery, 2 minutes fast, 2 minutes recovery. Do the same for 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes.
q. Build ups - 5 mins at half mara pace, straight into 5 mins at 10k pace, straight into 5 mins at 5k pace, 5 mins recovery and repeat
r. Marathon/5k pace session - 25 laps of the track - odd numbered laps are done at target marathon pace, even numbered laps are done at 5k pace. If you fall off the pace take a jogged lap recovery and then start off from where you left off.
IV. Frequency
Start off with no more than once a week! You don't want to over do it. More advanced runners can begin to add multiple speed sessions per week, however, these should be each of a different type, e.g. do not do 2 days of intervals or 2 hill workouts in one week. I generally break my speed work into one day of intervals or hills, and another day doing a tempo or fartlek run.
V. After Speed Training Sessions: the cool-down and stretching.
It is very important to cool-down after a hard speed session. A nice 10-15min jog or run/walk willl allow the body to deliver much needed oxygen to the stressed muscles and to bring lactate in the blood down to pre-run levels. If the cool-down is ignored you will become stiff and stretching will not be as effective.
Always perform adequate stretching, speed sessions place a lot of stress on the muscles and connecting tissues, it is important to stretch thoroughly afterwards to help fend of injury. Stretching before the session should consist of range of movement type work and static stretches (with this being held for no more than 10 seconds), as you are preparing your muscles to do what they will do in the session. The stretching afterwards should involve holding static stretches for longer periods (about 30 seconds) as you are trying to return them to something like their pre-exercise length.
VI. Success stories / case studies:
note: please share your personal successes/failures here if you like
Hollywood's (limited) interval experience...
The way I first did intervals was on my own. Basically I used my Garmin to measure a 1 km course and then ran it 4 times taking a couple of minutes rest between each time... did that once a week and it seemed OK.
Then a I found a track (the free one in Regents Park - next to the zoo!) and I did a quite similar type of interval session but using the track for distance... still all on my own. I also toyed briefly one rainy day with a treadmill based speed session, but I think I scared the gym as well as myself!
Then I briefly joined in some group sessions at our local track. Basically I went along to a couple of the Ranelagh sessions and joined in. The thing I noticed most about these sessions were:
1. They were really short - there was never any more than 20 minutes of speed work within the session (which seemed a really short workout compared to my marathon training experiences)
2. The group thing really helped - there was always someone there to keep you honest and trying.
Then I settled on my club interval sessions which is where I'm now to be found most Tuesdays... What we do varies week to week (and season to season) but a typical session might be something like:
1 warm up jog - 10->15 minutes.
2.1 run on a flat path in one direction for 3 minutes (the aim is to get as far as possible)
2.2 rest one minute
2.3 run back for 3 minutes (the aim is to get back to the starting position)
2.4 rest one minute
3 Repeat 2 three times more - or repeat it twice more and then try some shorter sprints (i.e. try four or six 1 minute runs with 30 seconds rest rather than the last 3 minute run)
4. Cool down jog (everyone jogs home or back to their cars)
And that is it
- so it normally involves at most 25 minutes running.
- the group thing helps as it gives you people to try to keep up with (or beat) on the way out, and people to try to catch (and keep behind you) on the way back.
- also the group thing helps as there's a little social pressure to turn up instead of staying home and watching TV with a beer...

Recent Updates User Comments
Dec 2006 No.8 ™ Needed to put the "disclaimer" at the top
Dec 2006 No.8 ™ Added a couple of interval sessions (well 18 to be exact)
Nov 2006 Hollywoof! Added some interval stuff - but don't really have the expertise to write the main text block - sorry!
Oct 2006 Mikuro Corrected spelling... ;)
Sep 2006 Boab Added more to tempo training that has surfaced from forum thread.
Sep 2006 Boab Updated some bed grammer of Tempo running.
Sep 2006 Boab Expanded on Tempo Runs.
Aug 2006 The Primal Hammer
Aug 2006 The Primal Hammer Cleaned up formatting of article, added lots of additional material; Cool-downs, more on strides, more to intro, etc.
Jul 2006 30yearsandstillrunning Added the paragraph with details on how long to hold stretches for.
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