Being a distance runner means you spend plenty of time pounding the pavement or trails, racking up loads of miles at a steady or slow pace. These lay the foundation for your fitness. But to become better at the long game, you need to spend a bit of time working on your short one. Think of speed sessions as being the icing on the cake. It’s the stuff that will help to increase your maximum pace, which in turn will improve your average pace on those steady state runs. Apart from also building your engine, it’s also going to make you a faster racer!
Drills and Strides
Think of this as bread and butter stuff, not so much a specific session. It’s ideal for improving technique, increasing functional range of motion and developing power. Basically, do a warm up jog (15-25mins) before your speed sessions and then instead of doing static stretches, do a series of light drills. A good routine is a series of ‘Butt Kicks’ (Video here) , ‘High Knees’ (Video here) and ‘High Knee Skipping’ (Video here).
Perform each drill twice, over a distance of 20m, with a walk back to the start as the recovery. Then once you’ve done the drills, perform 3 x 50m strides. These are essentially short sprints where you gradually increase your speed. Apart from doing the drills prior to workouts, also give them a go after one or two of your easy runs.
10 x 30 sec hills
This is done to increase power and form. There’s not a huge amount to explain here, except that the hill should be steep enough to be a challenge, but no so steep that you run with poor technique. You want to practice using perfect form, driving with your arms and utilising your gluts and quads. The recovery is a walk back down to the start. You can do this as an independent session, or with the addition of an easy 40min jog prior to build up some volume.
10 x 100m
There’s no need for putting on a pair of spikes in this session, or to do it on a track. That said, an athletics track not only makes it easier to get the distance correct and have a good surface to run on, it’s also a nice change of scenery. Start by doing the first couple of efforts a little easier, building up the pace through each of the reps. Then as you get more comfortable and warmed up into the session you can be a bit more explosive. The important thing here is to gradually get use to the speed and not force it. The first time you do this session, take it relatively easy and focus on technique. As the weeks pass and you’ve done it a few more times, you’ll be more confident and your body better conditioned to handle it.
This is a fun one! The efforts increase in distance as you warm up into it, then once you’re moving well and more comfortable at pace, you’ll be heading back down in distance and can be really explosive. Make sure you’ve warmed up properly beforehand and the recovery between efforts is 100m walk.
8 x 200m
This is helpful for both speed endurance and engine building. It’s not quite as good for developing power, but will get you conditioned to running at a high pace for an extended period. It will also improve your lactic tolerance and running form under a state of fatigue. The efforts should be consistent throughout. Don’t make the mistake of getting slower as you get tired. You want to focus on good form from start to finish, never running ragged or slowing as you get further into each repeat or the session as a whole. The rest is 100m walk, or until you feel as though you’ve adequately recovered between reps.
Before any of the above, make sure you do a light jog (15-25mins) as a warm up. Afterwards, a 10-15min jog is ample as a warm down.