I remember, vividly, a day, many years ago, Keith and i were running out at Shelby Farms and i just felt like i wasn’t going anywhere. I said to Keith, in my most frustrated of voices, “i just feel like i’m not getting anywhere when i run. what do i need to do to run faster?” Keith, in his most “well, duh” voice, “just run faster.”
Ok, maybe not what i wanted to hear right at that moment but the thing is, it’s true. In order to get faster, you have to run faster. Now i know this sounds like the sarcastic big sister thing to say so i’ll explain it a little further.
Your body will most likely adapt to whatever it is you ask it to do. Therefore, if you ask it to run at the same pace day in and day out, that’s what it’s going to do. However, if you break out of your comfort zone occasionally and do some speed work, your body adapt to this too. For example, if you always run an 11 minute mile, this will eventually feel comfortable for you. If you do some speed drills in which you spend some time around a 10 minute pace (as an easy math example), your 11 minute pace will eventually start to feel a little slow. Your body will slowly transition into a comfortable pace that falls somewhere between your 11 minute mile and 10 minute mile. There you have it; you just got faster!
The benefits of doing speed work are not only to get faster. Your heart will get stronger, your cardiovascular system will become more efficient, and your muscles will be better able to function at full force. This translates into greater strength, more efficient form, faster times, and easier daily runs. It really does work. You don’t have to be a fast runner to do speed work. You’re goal is to simply go faster than you’re already going, regardless of what that pace may be.
Here are some great drills you can do to work on speed:
1. Fartlek- the swedish (i think) word for speed-play; variable-pace running that emphasizes creativity. during a run, choose objects to run to–telephone poles, trees, buildings, other runners, whatever. make choices that mark off different distances so your pickups vary in length from 15 to 90 seconds, and modify your pace to match the distance. if you’re with a group, take turns choosing, sometimes revealing your choice ahead of time, sometimes not. don’t worry so much about your pace right now- just pick up the pace and see what you can do.
2. Hills- warm up with a 10-minute run to the base of a hill that has a steady (but not overly steep) slope. run up at a constant pace for up to 45 seconds, then jog back down and repeat four more times. move at a speed that allows you to finish each 45-second segment without gasping. the hill will present resistance; your job is to run controlled and steady, focusing on form.
3. Strides- you can do strides after a run, striding for 15 seconds one way, then jogging back and repeating eight to 10 times.
A couple of things to keep in mind when doing speed work:
* ease into this- don’t go out and expect to do a zillion speed drills in your next run
* be careful doing speed drills on a downhill- this may seem easy but it’s actually much tougher on your muscles than an uphill- much riskier for injury
* always warm up with about a 10 minute run before getting too speedy
* focus on form- don’t turn into Phoebe (Friends) and just run wild; you still need to have great form; head high, chest out, arms swinging at your side
* only push yourself to about 70%; these are not all-out sprints
* have fun!!!
I’m happy to incorporate speed drills into any of the runs for those of you who are interested!