It’s probably the most common questions I receive from beginner runners is “how do I get faster?” And while this is an incredibly complex question without a simple answer. I wanted to put together some info on running speed workouts for beginners. Providing an overview of the most common methods used by distance runners (5k+) to get faster. Along with how to incorporate them into your training.
All of this is based on the general rule that you will be doing 80% of your weekly miles at an easier pace. The remaining work will be your running speed workouts. This 80/20 mix is proven to be effective for beginner runners.
Running Speed Workouts for Beginners
Below is an overview of the most common types of speed workouts for beginners. With in a quick overview of how you can work them into your running program.
Strides are when you run roughly 100 meters at a fast pace focusing on your ideal stride length. Then jog or walk back and repeat 6-8 times. Now these are now sprints, the focus should be on your stride and running. And don’t worry about distance. Anywhere from 80-120 meters is fine.
When to do Strides – Most runners incorporate strides at the end of other running workouts. Using it as a finisher exercise once a week every other week. Beginners should start with 6 and build up to 8 over a few weeks.
Intervals are where you run for a specific time or distance at a push or threshold pace followed by easy jogging. Fartleks are a form of interval training. Some popular examples of intervals include 4-6 rounds of 800 meters at a threshold pace followed by a 400 meter recovery jog. Or 10 minute threshold pace followed by 2 minutes recovery.
When to do Intervals – For beginners intervals should only be done once a week. Making sure to keep in mind the 80/20 mileage rule. A lot of top coaches will program this speed work before a recovery. Because if they are done right, this should be one of your hardest workouts of the week.
HIIT intervals are sprints followed by a period of rest of light recovery work. Typically a much shorter distance and time compared to intervals. Meaning you should be going 100%. Many runners do these in the form of hill sprints. Running uphill not only builds leg strength but is less impactful than sprinting on flat ground. You can read more about how HIIT can benefits long distance running here.
When to do HIIT Intervals – Like regular intervals, these are typically done once a week for beginners. And should be separated from any other speed work by at least one day for recovery. This should be the hardest workout you do in a week. A good hill sprint HIIT workout format for beginners is 5-8 rounds of 30 seconds max effort hill sprint. Followed by 1 minute recovery.
Tempo runs are runs done at a target pace for a specific period of time. A few example would be 10 minute warm up followed by 10 minutes at an 8 minute pace, 5 minutes at 9:30 pace, 10 minutes at 8 minute pace, ending with a 10 minute recovery. Or run 30 minutes at your target marathon pace. Both are tempo runs. Some people don’t think tempo runs are speed work. But for beginners I think most would agree that it definitely falls into the category.
When to do Tempo Runs – Tempo runs can be done more than once a week if you want. And are also a good place to add your strides after. Just keep in mind the 80/20 rule. One of the most popular tempo runs formats is using your target 5k time. Warm up 10 minutes then run 4 rounds of 5 minutes at your goal 5k race pace followed by 5 minutes at that pace +1:30. Finish with a 10 minute recovery.
Every runner can benefit from incorporating speed work into their training. The key is to be smart about how you use it. Speed workouts are meant to be tough on the body and require recovery. So make sure you’re only doing them 1-2 days a week at most. And if you have questions on how to use them correctly, make sure to reach out to a running coach or shoot us a message in the comments below!