Speed training explained


There are a few differences between the speed workouts.  The tempo run, fartlek, and interval runs.

TEMPO RUN- also known as a lactate-threshold, LT, is a faster pace run. Tempo running is important to having a successful race because it trains your body to sustain speed over distance.  While running, the cardiovascular system delivers oxygen to the muscles.So by doing tempo runs you are training your body to use the oxygen efficiently, by increasing your lactate threshold (LT), or the point at which the body fatigues at a certain pace.  Doing tempo training you push your threshold higher and higher being able to run faster, and farther.

To do a tempo run it is better to do longer at a good pace rather than shorter run, because you won’t get much out of a short tempo run at the wrong speed.  For example, if you want to remain a strong runner or trying to run faster for a 5K, doing at least 15 minutes tempo run at a speed where you feel “uncomfortable” will be enough. Obviously if you are training for a half or full marathon you would have to run a little longer.

Here is an example of tempo training from Runner’s World: week 1:  5 x 3 minutes at tempo pace, 60-second easy jog in between each one (if you have to walk during the recovery, you’re going too hard).Week 2: 5 x 4 minutes at tempo pace, 60-second easy jog recovery Week 3: 4 x 5 minutes at tempo pace, 90-second easy jog recovery Week 4: 20 minutes steady tempo pace.


FARTLEK- Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play,” it involves changing your pace throughout your run, alternating between fast segments and slow jogs. Unlike traditional interval training that involves specific timed or measured distance, fartleks are more unstructured, no rules.  Many runners, enjoy fartlek training because it involves speed work,but it is more flexible and not as demanding as traditional interval training.

To do a fartlek run, try doing some short sets of slightly higher pace into your normal runs. Maintain the faster pace for a short distance or time intervals, like 200m or 30 seconds. The intervals can be different throughout the workout (you can use things on your trail, like that tree, or the sign to mark your points.) Once you complete a fast set, slow your pace slower than your normal running pace, until you have fully recovered and your breathing has returned to normal.

INTERVAL RUNS- or high intensity interval training(HIIT)  repeats are generally 10 to 60 seconds long, running at almost “cheetah” speed, followed by a rest period lasting one to four times the length of the effort (so you’re recovered to do the next repeat at the same speed and with good form). Researchers have found the low volume, high intensity approach of HIIT training can boost your speed and fitness.

By doing these “cheetah” speed runs your cardiovascular system gets stronger and pushes more oxygen-rich blood through your body. Muscles get better at using that oxygenated blood. Your stride becomes more efficient as coordination between the muscles and nervous system improves.

Just make sure that you are 100% OK to handle HIIT. As with obvious reason these speed workouts will greatly increase your risk of injuries. So make sure you are not recovering from an injury and feel good enough to handle some speed intervals.  You’re ready for HIIT workouts if you’ve been running four to five times a week for at least four months, and regularly doing runs at paces 60 to 90 seconds per mile faster than easy pace.

According to coach McConkey at the Boston Running Center,In terms of strength and flexibility, you should be able to hold a squat position for 90 seconds and, while standing, grab and touch your heel to your butt, feeling only a minor stretch in your quad. Start with one HIIT session a week, and build up to no more than two in a 10-day period.

Unlike tempo workouts, you’re running above your red line and at an effort where you are reaching hard for air and counting the seconds until you can stop—a controlled fast effort followed by a truly easy jog. Doing these speed intervals is probably the hardest for me to do. It takes a lot out of you and you need to be prepared for it, as well as giving yourself enough time to recover.

Adding a type of speed workout to your current training schedule will help the muscles adjust to longer runs, more demand, and able to sustain a safe quick pace. You also improve your running form, increase endurance, and burn fat!

This is the #1 rule to survive the hoard of zombies blocking your way to the finish line. You have to be quick on your feet and react with enough time to avoid getting eaten!!

If you decide to do speed work, make sure you gradually increase your speed and time depending on what you do. If you go all out and aren’t ready you can do more damage than help. Make sure you can handle the trouble breathing, faster heart rate, and the wind in your face 😉 Give yourself enough time to recover!!!!



-cheetah g


3 responses to “Speed training explained”

  1. Trails and Ultras Avatar
    Trails and Ultras

    A really good post! I struggle with speed work so this has been really helpful. Thank you 🙂

    1. runner unleashed Avatar
      runner unleashed

      You are welcome =)

  2. frenatrun Avatar

    Thanks for the post. I found that speed work once a week when training for race is critical.

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