How Important is Speed Training Anyway?

Anyone who has picked up a copy of Runner's World magazine has seen training plans that reference training plans that include some form of speed training. One popular form of speed drill include 200m-400m repeats, run at top speed with recovery or walking breaks in between. There are varying opinions about the speed at which you run (all-out, 80% of maximum etc) and the number of repeats but to me the biggest question is this: Why the hell am I doing this in the first place?

In other words, if I want to run a 1/2 marathon do I really need to concentrate on speed training?

Let me preface all of this by saying that like so many of you, my time is precious to me. Between working a full-time job, teaching a couple fitness class a week, training for a few races, maintaining relationships with The Boyfriend, friends and family and me time I really don't have time to waste on unnecessary training rituals.

That being said, I am incorporating speed training into my routine. Why? One main reason is that according to my research speed training improves VO2 max, which essentially allows my muscles to receive oxygen at a more optimal rate and that those muscles will become more efficient with converting that oxygen to aerobic energy. It also helps improve power, running economy and stride frequency. I like the sounds of all that! While I can say with relative certainty I am never going to break any records or win any major races, getting to the finish line stronger and is less time is a huge goal for me. If speed training can help me get there, I am all over it!

Speed training is definitely not easy. In fact I might go so far as to say that its really, REALLY tough, but tough in that "I just pushed myself to my limit" kind of way that leaves you satisfied and drench in a pool of sweat.

Whoo baby! That's a red face and a whole lotta stinky sweat (well hopefully the "lotta" only applies to the sweat part and not the stink...I'm under the impression I keep the stink to somewhat of a minimum.*gulp*)

Today's session:

Speed of 9:30 per mile*
2 minute walking breaks in between in each mile
3 miles total running
3.75 miles total distance

*9:30/mile is challenging but sustainable for this distance.

The plan is to vary the speed sessions every other week, which will hopefully help me PR in May.

In May you ask? Yes, May at the Mississauga 1/2 Marathon, which I officially registered for that week. It''s all real now baby!!

If you live in or near Toronto you should definitely sign up for this race and then we can all have a stinky sweaty lunch afterwards.

I'll race ya to the start line....

So tell me, any advice for increasing speed in distance running? Do you read Runner's World or any other fitness/health magazines?

Source: Runner's World- Speed- Form Training

Source: Copacabana Runners- Speed Training for Distance Runners


  1. Great job on the speed session! :o)

    And yup . . . I read Runners World (occasionally) but SELF is my favourite!

  2. Woo! Nice work!

    I don't know much about running (just ask my workout log), but I've read that negative splits in your shorter runs help with overall speed. They must, because I've done them and they are fierce!

  3. I cut 14 minutes off of my half-marathon time by doing speed training the summer of 2009! So in my opinion it's DEFINITELY important!

  4. I definitely believe in incorporating speed training into your training schedule, however it's not my favorite! I LOVE Runner's World!

  5. ill see u in mississauga!!!

  6. I do interval runs, and tempo runs for speed training and I trade off the weeks doing them. I like interval training because I start at my normal pace, and gradually increase to peak before gradually decreasing again. Congrats on the new race sign-up. You're going to do great!

  7. I do speed training and interval training with my long distance training too! My sister creates my training schedule so she includes speed training once or twice during the week.

  8. Our coach says if you want to run faster...you actually have to run faster.
    Our speedwork is an interval run (warm up, 2 min all out, recover...repeats) and a tempo run both once a week.
    works for us.

  9. Great post! I have been thinking a lot about speed work lately. I don't do any, but I know that I need to. I'm just at a loss where to start. I think it's kind of late to incorporate speed training for my half that is in 3 weeks. Of course I can do some speed work outs, but I don't know that they would really help so close to race time.

    I'm going to be researching speed work outs very soong (like this weekend) so hopefully I will have a better grasp of what I actually should be doing.

  10. I do a good amount of speedwork - sprints and tempo runs mainly. And I can honestly say...I have no idea if it works for me. My half marathons seem to get worse and worse lately. I'm still trying to find the magic to speed.

    Off topic, whenever I see a picture of you I am totally transfixed by your eyes. You could probably convince me to join a cult by staring at me for awhile. (Too creepy?)

  11. Whew- speed training... way above my athletic level, but interesting to read about nonetheless :)

  12. I hate speed work, but I think it's helping me!

  13. I love speed intervals - they kick in the endorphins like no other workout can! I think all different types of speed work help with conditioning and race time - intervals, tempo, etc. On long runs you can do "fartlek" for less rigid speed work - picking a random distances to run fast too (the big tree ahead, the fork in the road, etc.)

  14. The shorter the distance, the more important the speed--I think. I am doing 2 days a week of speed and as you read I FAILED on one...it might be too much for me, eh?

    I think you will see the results if you keep this up!! :D