Revisiting speed work: What my workouts have looked like

Well, lookey there. It's me trying to run fast. This one is during a trail race and not in a speed workout.

Well, lookey there. It’s me trying to run fast. This one is during a trail race and not in a speed workout.

Earlier this week, I wrote about doing more — and harder — speed workouts as part of my weekly training. I got a lot of good feedback here on the blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. A lot of you have been putting in the work in terms of speed already, and more of you are interested in trying these types of workouts for yourself.

I’m sure there is a ton of information on the Web about speed workouts, their benefits, and how to do them. I figured I’d share what mine have looked like for the past few weeks. The goal is to include one speed workout per week. Any more than that — especially if you are into doing the longer distances — might be counterproductive.

This isn’t a schedule or a plan, just what I’ve been doing with the able coaching of a trainer at my gym. Also: I’m not fast, but not a total beginner. So the speeds listed are for me, with the goal of breaking 24 minutes in a 5K. So here goes…

Week one

Warm-up (2 minutes, 10-minute pace)

5 x 800 meter intervals at 8-minute pace (one lap walk break in between)

Five-minute cool-down (could be an easy-pace run or, if inside, something low impact such as an elliptical or stationary bike. I can’t believe I just typed that, but there ya go).

We decided that I cruised through that fairly easily, to the next speed workouts were going to be more difficult.

Week two

Warm-up (same as before)

5 x 1,000 meter intervals at 8-minute pace (one-lap walk break between intervals)

This was harder, but still doable. Definitely could feel getting into that anaerobic state on the last couple of intervals. From here, we experimented with faster speeds.

Week three


5 x 400-meter intervals: first two at 7:30 pace; second two at 7-minute pace; last one at 6:40 pace. (one-lap walk break between intervals)


This one was tougher, mostly because of the speeds. But still doable. At the end of the week, we did our two-mile time trials. I did mine in 16:42, and it felt as if I was in an anaerobic state a lot earlier than I expected. But finding myself in that state during the speed workouts allowed me to settle in and gut out the last laps breathing really hard.

Week four


400-meter interval at 7:30 pace, walk a lap.

2 x 800-meter intervals at 7:30 pace, walk a lap between intervals.

400-meter interval at 7:30 pace

Cool down

The 800s at that pace were difficult. But I do believe I can go faster, or do more intervals.

Couple of notes

These training runs are best done in one of two venues: at an outdoor track (it’s easy to measure distance by the lap) or (again, I can’t believe I’m typing this) at the gym/home on a treadmill (easy to track distance and set speeds). It may not be as fun as running free on the road or on the trails, but sometimes this is how you build performance. It can’t all be fun and games.

Eventually the goal is to string together consecutive 1,000-meter stretches at a speed that will break that 24-minute 5K time. This would be a major improvement from my PR (26:08) and would nudge me closer to the front quarter of the pack in most larger races.

I’d like to emphasize that in terms of speed work, these are novice paces — plenty of runners near my age crush longer runs at speeds faster than an 8-minute pace. But this is where I’m at, a guy who does most runs in the 9:30 to 10-minute range. The whole purpose of doing speed work is to break out of a multi-year rut. Scale your speed workouts to your ability.

So what are you doing for speed? What are your goals, and what are you doing to get there? Feel free to share your successes, failures and ideas in the comments.


2 thoughts on “Revisiting speed work: What my workouts have looked like

  1. I’m really focusing on building up endurance to make my way up peaks (running/hiking combo) as efficiently as possible. I have my own training report coming next week! I’ve never been focused on speed but your latest posts have been good food for thought!

    • That’s awesome! I’ll be watching for it for sure.

      Over the years, I’ve done decently on volume (mileage), but I’ve noticed that I fall into ruts where intensity lags. So the body adapts, bad weight starts to pile on, and lo and behold, I end up being pretty weak at altitude — a concern for a guy who lives at 800 feet. The speed work ratchets up the intensity, and over time, I can translate that into faster paces at longer distances. And that’s really the whole goal here: It’s not really about PRs, medals, finishes or anything like that. The bottom line for me is the mountain, and what does my fitness do to get me up that hill.

      That said, I hope to learn from what you post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s