Easing back into run speedwork

  • By Earl Walton
  • Published January 22, 2016
Photo: Shutterstock

If you want to get your season off to a strong (and injury-free) start then follow this guide to getting back into speed training.

In a previous article, I looked at steps to helping you get safely back into speedwork. You’ll want to ease back in, and start with 4–6 weeks of baseline running with a focus on form before you hit the hills or track. Once you’re ready, these workouts will serve as a good re-introduction to speedwork.

Progression to speed
If at all possible, run a 5K race after your base period to establish some pacing guidelines. Having a pace guideline such as Jack Daniels’ VDOT ( can help provide perspective on just how fast your intervals should be run.

Warm-up for all workouts
– 10 minutes of easy running. 4 minutes picking up the pace to enter your endurance heart rate zone.
– 10 minutes of dynamic stretching.
– „6×20 sec stride-outs on a 1–2% downhill grade. Work on “letting go” and improving your foot speed rather than effort. Recover back to your starting point after each.
– „During Weeks 5–8, do your stride-outs on a 1–2% uphill grade. Work on building power into that faster stride. Don’t forget to sufficiently cool down after every run!

Weeks 1–4
Focus: The skill of running fast (foot speed, fluid upper-body movement, posture)

Three run formats:
1. Pure speed—short intervals. Set example: 4–8 x 200 meters at 5K effort, pushing the foot speed in the final 20 meters of each. Recover fully with 200 meters back to your starting point. Keep these efforts on a flat to 1 percent uphill road. Note: If you fail by more than 10 percent on an interval, your session is finished. This is typically an indication of oncoming injury or that you have sufficiently taxed the system.

2. Fartlek—to work on changing paces (fartleks in this period should be based on time, increasing speed from endurance to no more than 5K pace). Take that 5–6 km that you were running at your base and add fartlek intervals (20 sec on /40 sec off for a full kilometre with 2–3 minutes recovery in between).

3. Endurance—a continued challenge of your base run.

Weeks 5–8
Focus: Expanding the mental skill of holding fast (foot speed under duress, fluid upper-body movement, mental focus at the end of the effort)

Same three run formats:
Fartlek runs can be expanded to longer periods of time or shorter periods of rest. The endurance run should extend slightly over time, but keep it in line with the event you are training for and the timing of your season plan.

Pure speedwork should be done once per week (expand based on experience). Mix up the distances to get 2,500–4,000 meters of speedwork (if you have a coach, work with him or her on what distances are appropriate). Build your repeat distances over time—either vary them for fun or keep them consistent to gauge progress. Run no more than 800 meters (or 4:00) if your mile pace during speedwork is above 4:40 per km. If you are running sub-4:40 pace, run up to 1,200 or 5:00 max per interval.

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