I used to think that there was just one “workout” when it came to running, and that was… just going out for a run. My genuine belief was that over time, you got faster and would build up stamina to go further. This mentality would sadly put most of us into a comfort zone in our training, and we really wouldn’t progress as quickly as most of us would like to.
It’s like the gym; we all have our favourite exercises and workout machines because it’s either easy, comfortable, and we feel great doing it. For me, it was the leg press machine, the bike, and/or the elliptical machine (I would avoid the treadmill at all costs and still do). It is human nature to want to stay where we are comfortable and not push our limits.
Ultimately, the reason we train is to become better (and faster) runners. There are three key workouts that we should all be doing to stop falling into that trap, and any extra mileage will just serve as a purpose to further build upon our aerobic fitness and base. Those three workouts are:
- Speed Session
- Tempo Run
- Long Run
I will be breaking down each of the workouts into a How to Crush Your Next Race mini series, so make sure to check back for the others. On to the Speed Session.
Pretty straight forward in the sense that it’s all about speed. It involves running fast, and we tend to do these kind of sessions in intervals at, near or above our VO₂ max. Now this will depend on your current fitness and what your race goals are to determine just how fast you go. It doesn’t matter whether you run three minutes per km or eight minutes per km, as long as you’re feeling like you’re working hard, then you know it’s going to be working for you.
By running faster, it enables us to tap into these top end speeds and helps us to unlock this greater speed range within ourselves. In turn, this will help us improve our efficiency and as runners, being more efficient results in being able to run faster.
To break into these top end speeds during these sessions, we break our sessions down into intervals, or reps. The easiest example of speed work would be the minute hard, minute easy session. An example work out (with pace ranges) for somebody training for a half-marathon can be seen below:
Repeat each rep four to six times. Then we can increase the repetitions by one or two each week.
Another one to do which is more distance focused is to do kilometre repeats, which again is exactly what it says on the tin (as we say in the UK). After a brief warm up, we would run 1km at or near race pace and then after 1km, have 1–2 minutes of recovery (either walking or slower running pace), before ramping up again for another kilometre.
Similar to our minute hard work out, we can start to increase the repetitions as we progress with training.
I talked briefly about Fartlek training in my “Try These Exercises, and Run Faster as a Result” article, where I reduced the distances to more measurable distances of 50m-100m. With the shorter distances, we can focus more on explosive speeds ( sprinting), which for me is important as I like to finish my races with a sprint for the final 250m or so and really aim to finish strongly.
Thank you for reading this article. It is my goal to post more frequently about my journey, running as well as how it ties to mental health.