TotR: Speedwork

Welcome back to our next edition of Tuesdays on the Run hosted by yours truly, Patty from My No-Guilt Life, and Erika from MCM Mama Runs.  This week’s topic is Speedwork.  Getting faster is one of my biggest goals for this year and one that I’ve been struggling with due to the summer heat here in Florida.


A few months ago, I got the book Run Less, Run Faster to help me start with some structured speedwork.  This book recommends three runs a week, combined with two days of cross training.  One run is repeats, one is a tempo run and one is a long run.


Repeats are the most intense type of speedwork, requiring you to run a set distance at a very challenging pace, then to recover for a set distance (usually 1/4 mile) or time and then to “repeat” that pattern a set number of times.  An example would be 1/4 mile repeats.  The book might show it as 8×400 (400 recover) 8:45.  What you would do is:

  1. Warm up with an easy run for one mile.  During that mile, do some high knee lifts and butt kicks to wake up your quads and hamstrings.  Also do some pickups, which are when you briefly accelerate and then decelerate.
  2. Run 1/4 mile (400 meters, one lap around a standard track) at a pace of 8:45.  Your personal pace for a quarter mile repeat can be found using your most recent 5k results on the chart in the book or you can just run like an insane killer clown is chasing you with a bloody butcher’s knife.  Basically this is running faster than you ever thought you could run, but just for a quarter mile.
  3. Slow down to a very easy pace, jogging or walking.  Try not to stop.  Try not to puke.  You can drink something but keep moving for another quarter of a mile.  Super slow is absolutely fine.  This is a recovery period.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 seven more times.  Try not to puke, pass out or die.  Your level of effort on the repeat portion should be steady throughout but as intense as you can handle.  You will be miserable but afterwards you will feel like a rockstar.
  5. Cool down with a mile jog or walk.  To be honest, I don’t actually cool down for a full mile because repeats take so long and I’m always DONE when I’m finished.  I tend to cool down for maybe a quarter mile.
  6. Walk around the rest of the day knowing that you are awesome!

Different distance repeats require different levels of effort.  A 8:45 pace for 400 meter repeats is equivalent to a 9:20 pace for a mile repeat.  The longer the distance of the repeat, the slower the goal pace should be.  But repeats should always challenge you.

Another version of repeats is hill repeats.  You basically run up a hill, then run down a hill and repeat.  I haven’t tried those yet because I hate hills and I tend to get injured when I run on hills but I need to start working them into my training gradually.

Tempo runs are when you run a longer distance (2-5 miles usually) at a pace that is challenging but not as intense as the pace for repeats.  The book has suggested paces for the tempo runs as well, with a short tempo pace and a long tempo pace depending on the prescribed distance.

And long runs are typically what you’d expect on any training plan.  The only difference is that while most training plans tell you to run your long runs as as slow a pace as you want, the book has suggested long run paces that are still fairly challenging.

I was having some great progress with the speed training from the book in the spring, but now that summer has settled in Florida in full force, I just can’t bring myself to do any of the structured speed work.  Honestly, just running regularly has been challenging this summer because of the heat and humidity.  But I’m going to work it back in to my schedule as soon as fall gets here because I think it is very effective!


What do you do to get faster?  I know the biggest impact on my speed will be to lose weight and I’m working on that too!  Join in the linkup with a post on speedwork or any running post.  Explore how other runners get faster by checking out some of the links!

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TotR: Speedwork — 16 Comments

    • You know, I really was loving it until it got so hot! It felt so focused and I wasn’t bored at all! Hopefully in the fall I’ll get that great feeling back!

    • Ugh, I have to conquer my aversion to hills! I know they are critical, especially if I’m going to run anywhere outside of Florida!

  1. I’ve been hearing quite a bit about that book!
    After reading your post I am convinced that I should try this speed work routine. I need to find a level track though. I usually run on a trail that has some slight elevation.

    One thing that worries me is that running at a steady pace is challenging enough for me let alone “trying” to be speedy…lol. -M
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    • I have only done the speedwork at the track once, since then, I just do it in my neighborhood using my garmin to mark off the distances. It is challenging for sure!!

    • I’ve never done it on a treadmill, but I can see how that would help keep your goal pace the whole interval! I liked doing it on a track, it’s just a little too far from my house and work, so I tend to do it on the streets in my neighborhood or near my work instead.

    • There sure is a rock star feel to finishing a challenging set of repeats! It makes me feel stronger all day!

  2. Speed work used to be the part of a training plan that I dreaded and avoided. I still don’t look forward to it, but I can say I’ve enjoyed the workouts during this training cycle. Thanks for hosting a link-up!

    • I’m the opposite. I used to love it but now that the summer is here, I’m hating it (and basically not doing it!). Hopefully that will change in the fall!

    • It’s a pretty interesting read! I can’t wait to hear what you think!

  3. I really love speed work, it is the only time that slowpoke me feels like a “real” runner.
    I used Run Less Run Faster before, but I don’t think it is for me. All that go-go-go took the fun out of running for me and it was mentally demanding. Same with the cross training swimming. All those swim intervals ended up making me hate swimming too. And all I wanted to do was run a little, swim a little, and have lots of fun!
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    • I do think that I’m going to do my own modified version of it where the long run doesn’t have a pace requirement and where my cross training is just whatever I feel like, not specific interval work on the cross training. It is a little much to have such pressure on every single workout.