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t's hard for me to think of a feeling that beats effortlessly running long distances at a fast pace. The key to attaining this feeling for yourself is speedwork. Speedwork, as its name implies, is the workout you use to build your ability to run faster.

Over the years I've read and done a variety of speed workouts. Rather than give you a specific workout, because there are many, what I would like to do is give you a formula that you can use to tailor your speed workout to your individual needs. Every speed workout will have three common phases: The warm up, intervals, and the cool down.

Warm Up
Speed workouts can be some of the toughest workouts you'll do so make sure you stretch well and run a half mile to a mile to get sufficiently warmed up.

Intervals
Once you are warmed up you are going to want to alternate a fast pace with a slow pace or walk for set number of repetitions. A rule of thumb is that your fast pace should be one half the time of your slow pace. For instance you may want to run fast for 20 seconds and then slow for 40 seconds, and repeat for 4 repetitions.

If you have never done any speed training before, the 20 second 40 second mix is a good interval work out to start with. Although I've never done it myself, I've heard of distance runners who have had success with doing three repetitions of 5 minutes fast and 10 minutes slow. Personally, I enjoy a mix of 60 seconds fast and 120 second slow.

The actual fast/slow mix and number of repetitions you do is up to you. A rule of thumb is to start our with low times and repetitions and build them up as your body adapts.

Cool Down
After your intervals make sure you cool down for a quarter mile or so. You want to finish your workout feeling good - not gasping for air after your last speed repetition. If the last thing you remember is the pain and not the recovery, than you'll be at a psychological disadvantage the next time your speed workout day comes along.

I've known a lot of people who like to sprint the last 100 meters or so of a run. No matter how they felt during the rest of the run, they always end up wheezing at the end. More often than not, I've observed that people who do this are not very consistent about their running. I believe it's because this strategy of "finishing well" has meant that running has only come to represent pain for them.

Running should make you feel better, not worse. If you follow the advice given in this series, you have a shot at enjoying the millions of us who already enjoy the activity of running as well as the benefits. I could write about this subject all day, but fortunately I have to run.

Semper Fidelis!

Semper Fitness Archive

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