Confession...I never had much of a need for speed.
Although I've been a runner for the past 15 years, speedwork only made an appearance in recent years. In all honesty, it still isn't much of a priority.
Although it is exciting to set new PR's, I have never based my love of running on how fast I could go. Frankly, I'm kind of a klutzy and awkward athlete. Running fast does not come easy for me, nor do I look especially graceful or svelte in attempting to do so.
Besides, I'm more of an endurance junkie...I'd rather test my limits on distance than speed. That said, I still enjoy a speed-training session from time to time. It breaks up the monotony, and it challenges the body and mind. And, it gets me out of my comfort zone.
Here are a few of my favorite speed workouts:
Hill repeats. These can be done on pavement or on a grassy hill. The extra effort it takes to lift your feet for each stride mimics the extra "lift" you will need for faster running (or faster turnover). In doing hill repeats, make sure you allow for a decent recovery period between each of the "uphills" as you work your way back down the hill. The number of repeats I do depends on the hill. There's a hill on a street by my house, and often times I'll run "up" the distance of a city block (about 1/10 of a mile), than jog easily back down. Doing these for 10 sets will net me about two miles in cumulative distance (including the recovery jogs).
Fartleks. These are probably my second favorite form of speedwork (next to stair work) because they can be done pretty much anywhere you run. Similar to intervals, you alternate a comfortable running pace with surges of speed. I usually use the distance between light poles or city blocks as my "interval(s)."
The track. Finally, there's always the track as an option. This is my least favorite (of these "favorite" choices) because it's not the most scenic or stimulating for me. Seriously, you're basically running in circles, how fun can that be? My answer is to make it less regimented by doing different distances each time I hit the track. Varying the distances (200, 400, 600, 800, etc.) will also allow you to vary your speed because the shorter distances will (usually) have you running faster. Depending on the time of day, I may have the track all to myself, in which case I'll run my recovery intervals in the opposite direction (clockwise) from which I've done the speed running (counter-clockwise).
Keep in mind, there are numerous other forms of speedwork, but these are the main ones I prefer. As much as I sometimes dread speedwork, I find that I'm more likely to actually do it if it's one of these preferred variations (did you notice I didn't mention the treadmill? LOL).
How often do you incorporate speed-training into your regimen? Do you do it only while training for a particular race or event? What's your favorite speed workout?
**Disclaimer** Some of the text from this first appeared in a previous post What About Speedwork?