Quick Guidelines for Speed Work

Some basic guidelines for speed work are as follows:

First, you should be consistently running a minimum of 20–25 miles per week for a year before you even begin to think about including advanced training techniques in your training schedule. If you've never included speed work as part of your training, learn as much as you can from credible sources (books, magazine articles, Web sites) so that you have the knowledge you need to train smart. It is important to confirm that this information is accurate, up-to-date, and from reliable sources.

Be sure to follow the hard-easy method of training if you intend to integrate speed training into your program. For example, do not schedule a speed work session the day after a long run or after participating in a road race. If their longest run of the week is on Sunday, most experienced runners do their speed training during the middle of the week following either an easy run or a complete leg rest day.

If you choose to participate in speed work with a group, be sure to run at a pace appropriate for your ability level. Trying to perform a workout designed for someone else (in particular, for a runner who is significantly faster than you are) greatly increases your chance of incurring an injury and can also be discouraging. To avoid injury, proper warm-ups and cool-downs are essential. These include light jogging followed by stretching both before and after the workout.

No more than 15–20 percent of your total weekly mileage should be fast-paced running. This percentage covers both speed workouts as well as races. You should not increase the volume of your fast-paced running by more than 800 meters per week.

If you elect to do speed workouts during the summer months, schedule them for the early morning or evening to avoid the hottest and most humid times of the day. Pushing the pace in such conditions increases your chance of succumbing to heat illness.

Finally, be careful of what you eat and how late you time your meal or snack before fast-paced running. Experimenting with a variety of food and drink is the best way to determine what your system can tolerate. Don't eat a big lunch if you're planning on doing a fast-paced run later in the afternoon. Instead, have small snacks throughout the day.

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