Catch Me if You Can

Summer time and warm weather are a great time to work on improving your speed.  I’m a firm believer that you body gets comfortable at one pace and in order to get faster you need to show it what that feels like!  There are several different approaches you can take to increase your speed.  Whether your goal is a faster 5K, a better pace in a longer race, or the ability to sprint to the finish –  here are some strategies for speed training.

1. Fartleks- Funny name but an effective workout. Fartleks can be done on any of your normal runs.  Here’s how it works:  Let’s say you are going to run a five mile loop. You’ll want to use the first mile to warm up.  For the next four miles- intersperse 4 or so pickups. What I like to do is select a street sign, tree, house – something I can see in the distance than pick up my pace til I reach that point.  Here’s the key- once you reach your destination- DO NOT STOP! Continue your run at your regular base pace.  The distance of your fartleks can vary and the terrain can as well. It’s actually good to try some uphills, downhills and turns.

2. Track Workouts or Intervals- Some folks prefer the discipline and precision of doing speed work on a track.  You can pick whatever distance you want to focus on – mile repeats, single laps, half laps, 1/2 mile repeats or even do a ladder approach. You’ll want to time yourself on each go with the goal being to finish the last one as well as you did the first one. Here’s a sample of what a track workout could be:

  • 400 repeats (1 lap around the track)  – After warming up, you will do 4-6 laps for time with a lap in between each one for recovery. Your recovery lap can be at any pace as long as you keep moving. After completing your first timed lap – that is your goal time that you either want to beat or maintain for the remainder.

Another option:

  • Ladders on the track – for those that like variety!  Warm up and then you’ll start with a 100 yard dash, then 200 yards, 400 (1 lap), 800 (2 laps) and maybe even a mile (4 laps). You may choose to challenge yourself by going up and down the ladder –  after completing a mile you’d do an 800, 400 and so on. Again the goal is to maintain your speed throughout and finish strong. This workout will kick your butt if you do it properly!
3. Train with a Faster Runner- If you can find a friend or group that runs a little faster than you do – join them for a run.  You may not be able to hang for the whole run but the more time you stay at their pace, the more you are learning to run a faster pace.  You may want to join on their easy run day and your hard run day.  And it’s ok to let your friend or group know what you are trying to do – increase your pace.  They will be more likely to push you and encourage you  if they know that’s your goal!
4. Garmin Pace Buddy – If you happen to have a garmin running watch, there is fun training feature called the training buddy.  You can select a goal pace and program that in as your ‘buddy’s pace’.  As you are running the watch will show you how you are doing compared to your buddy- how far ahead or behind you are in time and distance.  It’s pretty motivating to see you are only a few seconds off or that you are ahead!
5. Make your own competition – I like to find competition during my training runs.  This means when I see someone running ahead of me, I’ll push myself to catch up.  Same goes for walkers, bikers – really anyone out there can be my competition.  It makes me work harder to reach and pass my goal and of course you can’t slow down the second you pass them!  This is good practice if you are planning on racing and want to place in your age group.
6. Sprint to the Finish- Regardless of what distance you are running or where you are running (track, trails, treadmill or street) finish your run like it’s a race.  Imagine someone is coming up from behind and sprint your little heart out to the finish.  Start you sprint anywhere from 50 yards to 1/2 mile out.  That quick turnover your legs experience at the end of your run will get them conditioned to work hard when fatigued during a race.
These are just a few ways you can add a little speed to your workout!  The key is teaching your legs how it feels to turn over quicker and getting your heart conditioned to handle it!  Have fun out there and if I happen to see you on the road or trail during a training run – just know I’m going to try to catch you! 😉

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