Friday, January 29, 2016

Speedwork 101

So as I'm putting my race calendar together for 2016, one thing I keep reminding myself is that I NEED to keep up on speedwork, and I NEED to add hills. (Right, Kim?!)

The thing is, while I've flirted with speedwork before, this is my first time doing it regularly and I have to be honest - finding information on how to do it correctly is tough! 400s, 800s, pyramids, ladders, repeats, recovery - eesh! It's like a whole new language. I realize this is running 101 for a lot of runners, but it's all been new to me. I figured that I can't be the only one, so I figured I'd write up a post about workouts I've found, resources I've found, and what I've been doing. I won't get into advanced stuff since well...I'm not doing it yet! But I will write up the fundamentals of what I've been doing.

To start with...

Speedwork is about - duh! - going fast. But how fast ARE you supposed to go? If you have a running coach guiding you, they'll tell you how fast - but I don't, so I'm using the McMillan running calculator. I input my 28:35 5k PR and it gave me suggested pace ranges for speedwork. If you can't afford a running coach either, or just don't want to, this calculator came highly recommended to me - and as a cool bonus, it's also a rough race predictor time that is eerily accurate. (Kinda spooky accurate, if you ask me - at one point it predicted a race time for me at a distance I'd never run before to within 30 seconds. Uh...*peers over shoulder looking for her McMillan stalker*)

The big 3

In other words - 400s, 800s, and 1600s (or mile repeats - different articles refer to that last one both ways). These seem to some of the most common speedwork workouts I found, so I've been doing one each week. The long and short of this workout is -

1. Warm up

2. Do a speed interval at your McMillan pace. When I do 400s, for me it suggested 1:59-2:07. I've been doing them on the treadmill, so I start by setting it at an 8:30 mile (which is sliiiightly, slightly off, but close enough for government work).

3. Do a recovery interval - I do a RI of half the distance of the speed interval, so if I do a mile repeat, I'll do a half mile recovery interval. McMillan suggests paces for this too. *pets nice calculator*

4. Repeat 2 & 3 to desired number - I have been doing 6 400s, 4 800s, and 3 mile repeats, but I plan to work my way up here.

5. Cool down

Speedwork feels hard and looks intimidating, but it's a heck of a rush to finish the work out! I use the treadmill because I don't have access to a track that's convenient, and if nothing else it makes the treadmill a whole lot less boring. But I know a lot of my running group will run on the track for speedwork too. My goal has been to do some kind of speedwork once a week, so I've been doing 400s one week, 800s the next, mile repeats the week after, etc. Some weeks just for fun I'll do a tempo run instead.

The honourable mention

And there's the workout that isn't really speedwork, but I'm including it here because a lot of the ladies in my running group have called it "speedwork in disguise". It's commonly known as torture hills. To my chagrin, my goal is to do this kind of workout once a week.

Of course, right now it's winter, and it's icy, and the hills I've seen people use for hill repeats are covered in ice and snow and people are using them for sledding. So, I've been doing this on the treadmill too.

Right now, I've been doing 1/2 mile warm up, 2 miles of hill intervals, and a 1/2 mile cool down. For the hill intervals, I do 200m incline / 200m flat with the incline starting at 5%, then going up 1% each time. That sounds confusing, and I can't think of a better way to word that, so let's try it this way:

1/2m warm up @ 1% incline (essentially flat)

200m @ 5%
200m @1%
200m @ 6%
200m @1%

200m @ 7%
200m @1%
200m @ 8%
200m @1%

200m @ 9%
200m @1%
200m @ 10%
200m @1%

200m @ 8%
200m @1%
200m @ 6%
200m @1%

1/2 m cool down

It's a really, really hard workout. And I realize it doesn't do anything for downhills, but it's the best I have right now. I plan to keep tinkering here though, I'm pretty sure something better is out there.

So, that's my attempts to get fast. I'd love to hear what you do!


  1. Yay for speedwork and hills! I am happy you're doing it! :) If you want to run hills outside, head to Heather Ridge (at 21 and 120) :)

    Right now I am focusing on 1:00s, 400s, 800s and tempos since I am getting ready for a 5K :) And you can do it outside if you want, it doesn't have to be on a track!

    1. I replied to this the day you commented, and now it's not here. *frets*

      I definitely plan to get outside, it's just hard to work around schedules right now and this weather is not stroller friendly sadly!

      Your speedwork amazes me. You are what gave me the kick in the butt to get myself going!

    2. Oh yeah, the weather is too unpredictable for a stroller companion :)

      Thank you! I am happy you are doing speedwork - it's helped me immensely.