Speed workouts should not be added until the runner has a strong injury free base of running. This is a fundamental tenant from coach Arthur Lydiard and while he might not have had the science 50 years ago to back it up, now there is plenty to support this idea.
Plus, let’s be honest a little common sense let’s us know that when we are pushing our muscles to gain endurance we might want to give them a moment to adapt before also pushing for speed.
After a strong base has been established here are 8 tips to get comfortable with adding speed to your training plan without injury.
Ease in to it – As with anything, you can not start speedwork and just expect to rock each workout. Start out with just a few repeats of your chosen distance, once per week, and work up from there.
Most speed sessions are not done at 100%, in fact very few are and none should be done this way when starting to include speed. It’s an easy way to get injured.
Adequate Warm Up – Jumping in to any run without a warm up is just asking for an injury, but prior to speed work it’s a guarantee. Even just a short mile run will loosen the muscles and increase heart rate to ensure that your body is primed for the effort to follow.
Set realistic expectations – It’s going to be hard. Accept that before you ever begin and don’t judge the workout by comparing your time to anyone else’s. The goal is to increase speed over time, not turn a Jeep in to a Ferrari with one workout.
Set distances based on goal race – 1K repeats are a fantastic tool for 5K training, but can be overkill for marathon runners who need to increase endurance pace rather than a quick kick.
Steady pace – The goal is to hit each repeat at the same speed, which is not how most beginners start out. When you are trying to determine what pace to run aim for a 7-8 RPE (rate of perceived exertion) on a scale of 1-10. Start with short sets and once you can hit the same pace for those reps, begin to add more.
Group workouts – Many runners find that doing speed sessions with a group helps them to push through the final reps or hit a faster pace by letting their competitive nature kick in. Enjoy celebrating the hard work with friends, but make sure you’re running your own pace. It’s great to ask people about where they started to remind yourself you will get faster with time.
Frequency – During base training as noted, speed workouts should be reserved for once every few weeks. During the final peak weeks of training they may be used up to 1-2 times per week.
Enjoy it – If you love the feeling of a hard effort, this one is a no brain. But for others like myself, the intensity of a speed workout can feel overwhelming which is when it’s time to find a new focus. Once you can mentally begin to embrace discomfort as good part of training, speed sessions become far more enjoyable.
Source: Run to the finish