M: 1m WU, 4×400 RP, 1CD………….. JUST KIDDING.

Yeah – we won’t be doing any of that nonsense here.  I see those letter/number/symbol combinations and can immediately feel myself getting tense.  I can say I DO finally understand how to read the “lingo” and shorthand most people use to explain speedwork – but I still see it and it still frustrates me.

So lets just be real here.  You’ve run a 5k or 10k and now you wanna get a better time.  We all do!  It’s fun to shave minutes off our times and set new PRs.  Especially when it means getting into that “next set of 10’s” (you know, sub 40min, sub 30min, etc) – so lets just think about what we can do to get faster without having to get all technical about it.

Most people think speedwork and track go hand in hand.  I say WHY??
Will your 5k be on a track??? I doubt it!  So why practice speedwork on a track!?!  Instead pick a good 3 mile course and incorporate speedwork into your run on that course.

At least once a week run 1 really hard mile.  Do a slow jog to warm up the first mile.  This can be slower than if you were planning a steady 3mile jog – I just want your muscles to get warm and be ready to move.  Stop your watch and reset it so you will know what you can do in a mile.  Shake your legs out, catch your breath, then pretend the gun just went off for a 5k.  Keep a steady pace for a few minutes then look ahead to a tree, mailbox, street sign, etc and BOOK IT to that landmark.  Push hard, dig deep, hit that landmark and then slow it back to catch your breath for a minute.  Do this 4 times.  If you need an extra minute to catch your breath that’s fine!  If you can only do this twice – that’s fine too!  All I want to do is show your legs they CAN move fast. After a mile, switch back to low gear and cool down for a mile.

Most people think you have to have a “speedwork day” each week to get faster.  Well – obviously the more routine you are in doing it, the faster you will get – but I say just do it whenever you can!  ANY time you can work in some speed to your runs you will find yourself naturally get faster!

It is SO hard for me to gear up for speed work on a day when “Aunt Flo” just came to visit, I slept horribly the night before, it’s cold, it’s hot….. you get the point.  Instead just always keep in the back of your mind that you may toss in a little speedwork to your run.  Maybe you just set out on a 5 mile run… 3 miles into it you are feeling pretty good and want to kick it up a notch.  Go for it!!  Do a few little spurts of speed or challenge yourself and say “I’ll finish this mile as fast as I can”.  Just move your legs and push yourself.  It doesn’t have to be structured… it doesn’t have to be planned out.  Some days just feel like fast days and I say you should totally take advantage of it.

Most people think you have to be able to maintain a fast pace to shave minutes off your time.  Not really true.  While I don’t recommend it, I’ve had races where I got caught up in the adrenaline of the race and ran my first mile 1 min faster than I wanted my average pace to be….. and by the 3rd mile it was 1 min slower than I wanted my average pace to be – but overall – it all averaged out and I nailed my goal!

Working on speed is tricky.  Half of you will want to hold back so you can keep a constant pace the entire mile…. others will want to go All Out to see how fast you can really go.  I say go all out!! Why not?  So what if you slow down toward the end and run out of steam…  we will work on endurance later – but sometimes you just need to know what you are capable of and you need to know paces you can and can’t maintain for long periods of time.

So the bottom line to all of this – is don’t get caught up in anything “technical” or structured. Just pick up the pace when you can for as long as you can and increase frequency that you pick up your speed.   If you can only do it twice on your first “speed” run, maybe next time you can do it 3 times…. then maybe you will lengthen your run and do it 6 times…

 The Non-Plan Speed Plan:

  1. Do a 1 mile time test.  Slow run/jog for a mile. Stop, reset your watch, shake out your legs, catch your breath, get ready and RUN HARD for a mile.  If you start to fade at the end its ok.. you will learn later to pace yourself… just push through for a mile and see how fast you can get it done.  Note your time, reset your watch, shake it out and cool down for a mile.
  2. Once or twice a week (or whenever you feel like it) work on picking up the pace during a few of your runs.  Try to do it at least once a week and do at least 3-4 bursts of speed during your run.  You don’t have to reset your watch, just let it all average in to your regular run time.
  3. After about 3 weeks (or about 6 good runs where you introduced speed) try another 1 mile time trial like in #1 above.  See if you have improved any!!  If you have then maybe try a 1.5 mile time trial and see if you can get your 1.5 mile time down… gradually working up to a 10min warm up run, 3mile time trial and 10 min cooldown.

That’s pretty much it.  A completely no brainer way to add speed without being overly structured or following a certain plan.  It works for me… let me know if it works for you!

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