AMPT Training Series – Spotlight on Speed Work

AMPT Training Series – Spotlight on Speed Work

In our last post, we mentioned the importance and benefits of adding variety to your run training plan in order to get the best results and reach all of your running goals (and then some)! In this post, we will discuss the strategy behind adding speed workouts to your plan by breaking down several different forms of speed training. We’ll  also cover when to add these workouts into your plan, how often they should be performed each week, and even share sample workouts to give you added inspiration!

Types of speed training
There are several types of speed workouts that you can add to your plan and while some of them may seem similar, each has a specific purpose within your overall training cycle. Note: The types of runs and supporting information listed below are based on RRCA training methodologies learned during the coaching certification class. Sample workouts are created from personal running and coaching experience!

  1. Fartleks – According to, the word Fartlek originates from the Swedish words for “speed play”. As defined by, “Fartleks are a training technique, used especially among runners, consisting of bursts of intense effort loosely alternating with less strenuous activity.“ Fartleks are great to add into the beginning of your training cycle because they train you to listen to your body and to focus on the perceived amount of effort you are putting in. Listening to your body through this style of training will set you up for success later on when you advance to more specific speed style workouts such as interval training.An example Fartlek workout would start with a warm up at a steady pace and then progress into several rounds of intense effort paired with a recovery pace. See below for a sample workout:
    – 1 mile warm up, conversational pace
    – Fartlek Circuit repeated 5 times total:
    2 minutes uncomfortable – should feel challenging but not a full sprint
    1 minute recovery pace
    – Finish with 1 mile cool down, conversational paceIn the sample workout above, the goal would be to listen to your body during the 2 minute uncomfortable intervals rather than focusing on hitting a specific pace. A challenge would be to feel just as uncomfortable every single round.

    Another way to incorporate fartleks would be to pick landmarks along your route that would act as the transition point between difficult and recovery efforts. Instead of running for a specific amount of time/distance, you would run from landmark to landmark. This is not only a fun and different way to train, but it allows a lot of flexibility to train at different speeds and distances in a low pressure way!

  2. Intervals – Interval training is similar to Fartleks in format, however it involves hitting a specific pace during each separate time/distance interval, rather than solely focusing on perceived level of effort. Intervals can be broken down into short vs. long distance intervals, and should be added in to the middle of your plan starting with short intervals and then progressing to long intervals.Short intervals are less than 1/2 mile in distance and are run at a quick pace. These will be the fastest paces you hit during your training plan, and should be faster than your goal race pace. Short intervals are best performed on a track or treadmill in order to hit the exact speed and distance. The benefit is you’ll train fast twitch muscles that will help you when you’re sprinting to the finish line! A sample short interval workout is below:-1/2 mile warm up, conversational pace
    – Short Interval Circuit repeated 5X total:
    400 m @ aggressive pace
    200 m @ recovery pace
    100 m walking recovery
    -Finish with 1/2 mile cool down, conversational pace

    Long intervals should be added to your plan once you have progressed to about the halfway point. These will be less aggressive than your short intervals and can be run right around your goal race pace or slightly faster. This will allow your body to start getting comfortable with the pace you are hoping to hold for a longer distance, but will break it up with recovery paces. Long intervals are any distance 1/2 mile or greater and can be done on a treadmill, track, or anywhere outdoors! The key is to get specific with your pacing and hit the same pace each round. A sample long interval workout is below:

    – 1 mile warm up, conversational pace
    Long Interval Circuit repeated 5X total:
    800 m @ race pace/long interval pace
    400 m @ conversational recovery pace (can walk here if needed)
    – Finish with 1 mile cool down, conversational pace

  3. Tempo Runs – Your tempo speed can also be known as your CO2max. This is the max pace you could hold for about 45-60 minutes, and should be very challenging to complete. If you’re not sure what your personal tempo pace is, there are CO2max tests that you can have done, but you can also estimate this to be a little faster than race pace, but not as fast as your short interval speed. It should leave you feeling very breathless after each round.Tempo runs can vary depending on the race distance you are training for. You can complete intervals as mentioned above, with your tempo speed instead, or you can run for up to 60 minutes at this pace to train with speed at a longer distance. These are challenging workouts and are not necessary to a training plan, especially for new runners. If you’re stuck at a specific pace and want to take it to the next level, tempo runs will definitely help! An example of a distance tempo run is below:-1/2 mile warm up, conversational pace
    – 20 minutes @ tempo pace
    – 1/2 mile cool down, conversational pace
  4. Strides – Last but not least, strides are a great, and often overlooked, way to add speed on to any workout! Strides are completed at the end of a workout and mimic sprinting to the finish line. They are short and the focus is to open up your stride and give it all you’ve got even after you’re tired from the workout you are completing. This will train your body to finish strong, no matter the circumstance.Anyone can add strides in to any part of a training plan! To put it simply, strides are ALWAYS a good idea! An example of adding strides into a regular run is below:- 3 mile run, conversational pace
    – After mile 3, finish with 30 seconds of strides followed by 15 seconds of recovery, repeated 3 times total.

As you can see, there are many styles of speed workouts to be added in at different times of each plan! Each run has a purpose to help you get stronger, faster, and work your muscles differently. Speed work should be completed 1 or 2 times (at most) per week and should be phased out once you get closer to your race in order to keep your legs fresh and ready!

If you’re not training for speed yet, it is very easy to add into your plan. Take a look at your upcoming runs and see how you can incorporate a few intervals while still hitting your overall mileage goals. We can’t wait to see how you train with purpose!

Happy Running!

Written by: Ashley Morrison

Ashley has over 17 years of running and racing experience and is both NASM CPT and RRCA Certified. For more running tips and tricks, find Ashley at Run With Ashley on Instagram or on her website and blog.

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