Unlike a lot of runners, I don’t get an adrenaline rush or a feeling of power in running fast. That’s not to say I don’t relish a faster-than-expected finish time now and then, though. I just don't let my speed (or, often times, lack there of) dictate my livelihood. Besides, I'm more of an endurance runner anyways.
That said, on occasion I do incorporate some speed sessions into my training. Although I am not a speedwork enthusiast, I do see the benefits of pushing one's pace now and then. Not only does consistent speedwork enhance your performance, it also breaks up the monotony of your workouts (physically and mentally).
The key, for me, is to make the workouts not feel like "work." Here are my top five choices:
We've all heard the saying that hills are like speed work in disguise, right? Well, running a stairway is like running a really steep hill. You don't necessarily have to sprint the stairs to feel a good burn, either. Not only will stair training enhance your speed, it will also work all of your leg muscles in one way or another as you fight gravity (both going up the stairs and coming back down).
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 usually will need for faster running (or faster turnover). Doing hill repeats allows for a decent recovery period between each of the "uphills" as you work your way back down the hill.
Don't let the "downhill" fool you, these are tougher than they sound. Your quads will take a beating from the extra impact of running with gravity, and your recovery will be going back UP that hill (only to repeat the process over and over). You probably don't need to do downhill sprints very often unless you're training for an actual downhill event, but I like doing them once in awhile just for variety's sake.
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)."
Finally, there's always the track as an option. This is my least favorite (of these "top five" 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).
What do you think of speedwork? Love it? Hate it? Love to hate it? What's your favorite?
I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0.