Let’s Talk About Running: Speedwork Workouts and Ways To Jazz Up Your Plan

My first LTA post talked about the parts of a training plan, and my second LTA post talked about how to put the parts together. What I want to talk about in this third one will be shorter, I promise: I want to talk about a couple fun run workouts you can do once you start getting up there in mileage, to keep your runs more interesting and add variety. Remember, if you keep running the same thing, you’re going to keep running the same thing. Changing it up is what makes you better.

Most of these variations involve some kinds of speedwork, so you’re really going to want to save this for a day your legs need that extra push — an actual speedwork day in your schedule, a week you aren’t also upping your long run, a recovery run where you feel great and want a little extra push. Or, maybe you’ve reached a weekly mileage you’re happy with – your body’s used to the long runs – and you need to step it up in intensity another way. (Please don’t overwork your workouts — injuries and burnout are so prevalent, and so easy to do. Make sure you’re listening to your body overall.) Or maybe you have to run on a treadmill because it’s really freaking hot where you live (…) and you need to make that run interesting.

Here are some of the things I like to throw into my runs …!

Mile Dial Down
I did a Mile Dial Down last week, so this is the first to come to mind. To do this and make it useful, you need to be either fairly aware of your paces, or on a treadmill. Here’s how it works:

warmup, 1 mile easy
1 mile medium hard or tempo pace (2-3 min easy recovery jog)
0.75 mile a little faster (2-3 min recovery jog)
0.5 mile faster (2-3 minute recovery jog)
0.25 mile hard, at interval speed (2-3 min recovery jog)
0.1 mile sprint
Cool down, 0.5-1 mile easy

Each fast bit should be a little faster than the previous bit, maybe 0:15-0:30/mile depending on your own capabilities. This is fun to do because it’s hard, but definitely not impossible, and you feel pretty awesome when you’re done.

Pyramid Run
I am sure this kind of run has a real official name but I don’t know what it is; I call them Pyramid Runs. Basically, it’s something to do on a longer run, where you ramp up to a certain speed and then back down over the course of the run. For example, if I’m doing a 5 mile run, I might split it up into 5×1 mile increments: easy, medium, fast, medium, easy (ie 11:00/mile, 10:00/mile, 9:00/mile, 10:00/mile, 11:00/mile).

This is a twist on a tempo run. It has the benefit of pushing a little extra in the middle of the run, when you’re warmed up and feeling good and you still have energy left to push it a bit. The slowing down at the end of the run allows you to get in a couple extra miles you wouldn’t be able to do holding that 9:00 pace. So you get speed and some distance.

Negative Splits
Running negative splits is the term for getting continuously faster over a run: starting out easy and then each consecutive mile is a little faster than the last. This is supposed to be the best way to race – avoid burning out early in the race by going out too fast – and so practicing it can help. Running negative splits can be a hard workout because you’re getting cumulatively faster, so if you set out to do a run like this, make sure your tank is full.

I prefer to do medium length runs – more than 3 miles but less than, say, 7. Treat your first mile as warmup, then each mile, try to go a little faster. I might start out at 10:30, then 10:15, then 10:00, then 9:45, then 9:30, then I die. (did I mention these can be hard?)

You don’t have to make your pace steps that big, though – especially if you’re running on a treadmill. A good way to get your body used to this feeling is to try it on the treadmill and just go up one increment in speed every half a mile. 6.0, 6.1, 6.2… Etc.

Speaking of treadmill workouts: here’s one that’s hard to do out on a road just because of the frequent shifting in pace, but it sure makes a treadmill run a lot more interesting. “Ramps” is my (totally made up) term for running repeated negative splits over much shorter increments. The workout is basically:

warm up, 0.5-1 mi
For 10 minutes: increase 0.1 mph every minute
After 10 minutes: return to starting speed and repeat the ramp
Repeat 10 minute ramp bloc 2-3x

For example, I might start at 5.5mph and work up to 6.5mph, then returning to 5.5mph and starting the ramp again. Or if I’m doing serious Speedwork, start at 6.0, ramp to 7.0, return to 6.0 and start again.

This can be a good workout to throw in when you’re trying to get your body used to running faster. If you do 3x 10-minute ramps, your body hits those harder higher paces at the end of the ramp, but doesn’t exhaust itself there – you immediately back down to slower speeds and have a couple minutes before the going gets rough again. It also gets your body thinking about the negative splits thing, but in a way that combines that with something interval-ish. Best of both worlds.

I’ve got more, but these are some for you to start from, at least! If you’ve got a fun speedwork workout you love, leave a comment and let me know!


One thought on “Let’s Talk About Running: Speedwork Workouts and Ways To Jazz Up Your Plan

  1. Pingback: Let’s Talk About Running… With Asthma | Healthefficiency

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