. . . even if you’re not training for anything
I am not training for a race. In fact, I won’t start seriously training for my summer half until about the end of March. I still include some type of speed work into most of my weeks. I’m going to share why you should, too.
What is the purpose of speed work?
Of course you never have to do speed work if you don’t want to; it’s a completely personal choice. Here are some of the benefits of including speed work in your running:
- It can help you increase how quickly you get oxygen to your oxygen hungry muscles, allowing you to run faster.
- It can help your body store more glycogen. Hitting the wall? That’s what happens when we use up our glycogen stores (and is why it’s important to take in fuel on longer runs). It’s a no brainer that being able to store more glycogen could be helpful in holding off fatigue longer (even though at some point you will deplete your stored glycogen).
- It’s generally accepted that if you want to run faster, guess what? You need to run faster!
- It can help you strengthen the muscles that help you run (glutes and hip flexors)
- It helps to prevent burn out. I don’t know about you, but running the same distance at the same pace all the time is really boring to me.
A potential bonus benefit: adding in a little speedwork might help you manage your weight. Your body quickly adapts to anything that you do all the time — and that includes those LSDs (long, slow, distance runs) and those easy 3 or 4 milers. You’ve got to shake things up if you want to maintain or lose some weight.
How often should you incorporate speed work into your running?
One to two speed sessions a week is plenty (it depends on how many days a week you run). You shouldn’t do two hard runs in a row: if you do speed work on Monday and you run Tuesday, it should be an easy run.
Pay close attention to your body, as always. If you find that you’re not recovering well, or if a niggle — and especially a pain! — shows up, either skip you planned speed work or reschedule to later in the week (if you’re feeling better).
Hill repeats, by the way, are speed work in disguise.
Speed work can be playful
Right about now you’re probably thinking — ugh! I don’t want to have to run hard. Speed work doesn’t always have to be hard, or even long. Add some strides (short, fast intervals — we’re talking maybe 30 seconds) midway in your run or after you’ve completed your scheduled distance.
Consider a Fartlek run (which actually means speed play). I have several routes that are lined by trees. I love to run hard between two trees, easy between the next two, and so on — I just do it until I don’t feel like doing it anymore.
Whether you want to get faster or not. speed work can help you get out of a running rut and put a little more pep in your step. Give it a try and see how you feel!
Do you ever do speed drills?
Do you preferred structured speed workouts or just inserting a little speed here and there?
What is your favorite type of speed workout?