Put some spring into your running with speed sessions
What if we told you that it was possible to get faster and more efficient at running in about half an hour? It’s possible, says accredited running coach Kathryn Proctor.
These short-ish workouts are the ultimate bang for your buck when it comes to training. They’ll not only put a spring in your step, but they’ll make you a faster, more efficient runner. And who doesn’t want that?
However, from personal experience, speed sessions can be intimidating. And if you don’t have a personal running coach to figuratively hold your hand through the process, then it can be confusing to know how to start. So, here’s some advice to help you unleash your inner speed demon.
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The need for speed
Accredited running coach Kathyrn Proctor says speed sessions are great to add to your training week to help you run faster.
“They improve run fitness, flexibility, coordination and strengthen your body, so you can maintain good running form and power, which all helps you run faster for longer.”
The great news is that to see results, speed sessions don’t need to be done that often. Proctor says that speedwork should make up one session per week or approximately 10-20 percent of your training without increasing your risk of injury.
Fiona Feeney is training for the Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival 10K event in December and recently started doing speedwork once a week.
“I started doing speed runs around seven weeks ago,” says Feeney. “I downloaded the 10K training program, which is connected to the Nike Run Club (NRC) App. Before doing this, I never knew what a speed run was or how important they are to improving your running.”
Feeney adds, “I always thought I had only two speeds, warm-up and plodding. After having my third baby, I set myself a goal of 10K in under 60 mins. That’s what I am training for now.
“The way the NRC App explains speeds in effort out of 10 has made me realise that I have a whole range of different speeds, which has been quite the revelation.”
Since beginning the speed runs, Feeney’s average pace of a run (between 5K and 8K) has gone from 6:45km/h to around 5.50 – 6.03km/h. She says that seeing the improvement motivates her to keep improving.
In addition to the gains made, Feeney says she likes speed workouts because they are short and sharp.
“I know that I can get out there and give it a good burst without having to commit a lot of time. And it’s exciting to see a ‘4’ on my pace, even if it is only for a short burst.”
Ease into speed
Like anything new, you should ease your body into speed sessions – because if you run too fast, too often, too soon the risk of injury is a lot higher. Proctor recommends runners have a solid base to launch from.
“I advise my athletes to have done nine to 12 weeks of easy running before beginning speed sessions,” says Proctor. “This ensures they have reasonable running fitness and body strength to support the tougher speed workouts.”
“When you are running speed workouts, gradually ease into the fast effort – which should feel challenging (e.g. your heart rate will increase and you’ll be unable to talk). The effort should be controlled so you are able to maintain your running form.
“The key is to run at a pace that you can maintain, so don’t go too hard on the first interval and not be able to repeat it. If you feel like you are unable to maintain your running form either slow down or stop the session,” adds Proctor.
Beginner speed sessions
If you’re new to speedwork, Proctor recommends adding in short 15-20 second faster efforts called strides towards the end of your easy run.
“Starting with strides allows your body to adapt without working too hard and helps with building that speed foundation before you start adding in harder workouts.”
20-30 minutes of easy running
4-6 x 15 to 20-second strides, 2 to 3 minutes of easy running in between each stride
10 minutes cool down easy jog or walk
When you’re ready to increase the difficulty, one of Proctor’s favourite speed workouts is a fartlek run. Fartleks are short fast efforts with easy running in between.
10–15-minute easy running warm-up
1 min fast running, 1 min easy running
2 min fast running, 1 min easy running
3 min fast running, 1 min easy running
10-minute easy jog to cool down
If you need a little bit of encouragement and guidance, then check out the free Nike Run Club (NRC) app. It has more than 50 audio-guided speed runs to choose from including tempo, fartlek and intervals. With so many great sessions to choose from, you’re sure to crank up your speed in no time.
If you want to put your best foot forward and feel even faster, then check out these speedy running shoes:
HOKA One One Carbon X 2 – $300 AUD
Unleash ultimate speed and endurance in the Hoka One One Carbon X 2. This shoe features an aggressive Meta-Rocker for increased speed, whilst the carbon fiber plate delivers smoother transitions through the gait cycle.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% – $310 AUD
When Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier in 2019, he was wearing a prototype of this runner. The shoes feature a full-length carbon fiber plate, which provides stability and a smooth transition and increases stiffness in the forefoot to provide a sensation of propulsion.
Puma Deviate Nitro – $260 AUD
The high-performance Deviate Nitro is designed to help you run faster, further, and stronger. The innovative cushioned silhouette provides ultra-lightweight support, and the carbon fibre propulsion plate acts as a lever to propel you forward.
Under Armour Flow Velociti SE – $200 AUD
By ditching the heaviest part of running shoes – the rubber – UA has made a lighter, snappier cushioning and sole system. The shoe features a single cushioning system that is responsive, grippy, and supportive. The shoe’s bootie construction makes it easy to put on & gives a contoured fit.
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