Want to take your running to the next level? Perhaps you’re training for a race. I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of speed workouts, but have you actually built them in your training plan? The first two half marathons I ran, I did not believe in speedwork. dogI merely got my miles in, and called it a day. Actually, I barely got my miles in which is why I struggled to complete my first two half-marathons in over two and a half hours. Yikes!

Fast forward two years later. I met a trainer who was training for the same race as me, and strongly encouraged me to do his speedwork with him. Fine, I decided, I’d give it a try. Each and every Saturday I met him and would complete the speedwork with him. I wasn’t as fast as him, but slowly I began to grow to LOVE speed work. And do you know what happened to my time? I ran my first sub-two half marathon! That’s right: I shaved off over 30 minutes! Did that make me a believer in speedwork? You betchya! Since then, I’ve run a total of ten half-marathons. Each and every time, I’ve incorporated speedwork into my training.

shoesThere is such variety in speedwork. You can go for a jog around your neighborhood and sprint for 30 seconds or a minute at a time. Or you can head to the track, sprint the straight-aways and jog or walk the curves. And for you treadmill fans, you can do speedwork, too! Actually, on a treadmill has the most variety with speedwork as you can manipulate not only the speed, but the incline, as well. Whichever you choose, speedwork is a critical part of training.

Plus, it breaks up the monotony of distance running, and it better prepares you for races. I’ve done everything from mile repeats to 100 meter sprints. Having a plan is incredibly important so you stay on track and don’t wimp out after the first interval. I like to run hard, then take a walking break for 100 meters, then pick it up again. It provides recovery time without totally stopping the workout. My absolute favorite speed workout is pyramid-style. I’ll share my favorite one with YOU!

pyramid speedwork

I’ve done this pyramid two different ways. One way has been to repeat the speedwork two times through as the graphic suggests. The other way is to repeat it the second time starting with the last sprint (800 meters) and working your way towards the top. That way, you finish with the 100 meter sprint, and you can really work on finishing strong. You know the tail end of a race when the finish line is in site? That’s when you turn on the power! That last 100 meter sprint simulates the end of a race, so give it your all!

GarminNo matter which way you complete the pyramid, you’ll have sprinted just under five miles. (If you include the recovery walking breaks, you’ll have done more than five miles.) When I do speedwork, I like to use my Garmin to track my time and distance. That way I am held accountable for my speed, so I don’t slow down. I even think it’s fun to try and beat my speed from the previous sprint.

BAM! Before you know it, your speedwork will be completed, and you’ll be better prepared for your next race.

Are YOU a fan of speedwork? What’s your favorite speed workout?