speed workout

It is very important to alternate speed workouts and recovery crosses in your training plan. But how to do it correctly? The head coach of the running school spoke about this.

Types of speed workouts

The term “speed work” refers to a variety of workouts that are different in nature. It is important to understand that each type is aimed at achieving certain goals, so you should not insert them into your training plan at random.

First, let’s figure out what exactly we are trying to achieve by doing high-speed work.

IPC development

The maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max or VO2max) is not just a number on the watch, which is pleasant to brag about in front of your fellow running group, but an indicator corresponding to the maximum volume of oxygen that the body can consume per kilogram of body per minute at maximum load.

It is this metric that is considered key in determining the degree of fitness of an athlete.

It develops mainly – but not only – with intervals to the maximum and running up the hill, also to the maximum. In other words, if you want to run faster at all heart rate thresholds, you have to suffer in super-fast workouts.

Typically, these intervals are relatively short. For long-distance runners it is 200 m, 400 m, and in serious marathon training – 800 m. It is most convenient to run them in the stadium, hence the multiplicity of two hundred meters.

Downhill runs provide an opportunity to further develop muscles that we use less when running on a flat surface, as well as to “accelerate” the pulse. Most often, they run 100-300 m uphill – these segments take longer than on a flat track.

Rest between these intervals is usually about 2 minutes of jogging (or 200m), but the duration depends on the level of training and the training cycle.

Development of speed endurance

The second type of speed training is aimed at developing not only VO2 max, but also the ability to maintain high speed for a long time. Such workouts can be intervals, fartleks, or progressions.

Long intervals

man exercise

The workout includes long stretches at the ANM (anaerobic metabolic threshold) or slightly higher. This is the maximum speed that a runner can maintain for a long time, the familiar “comfortably fast”, or the heart rate above which you do not need to rise if you do not want to “acidify” and inevitably slow down.

The duration and number of sections depends on the level of training and the stage of preparation and can vary from 500 to 5000 m, and the rest between the sections – jogging or walking 200 m (about two minutes).

The meaning of the intervals is that between the speed segments the runner has time to get a good rest and lower the heart rate. The segments can be the same or different, for example, 7 times 1000 m or 2000-1000-2000-1000.


This is a run with a variable pace: if you run it in a free mode, then the runner, right in the process of training, by his sensations determines when to accelerate and when to slow down. But more often he has an assignment from the coach, which contains the number of repetitions and the length of the segments.

The difference with intervals lies in the fact that here fast segments are done on the ANSP or slightly higher, and slow ones are not at all slow, but only by a given amount slower than fast ones. In other words, there is usually no way to rest and restore the pulse.

However, a fartlek with several categories of pace can be set, including jogging and running to the maximum, but such training is rarely given.

Progression or “reverse split”

This is a smooth acceleration run. For example, on each next kilometer, you need to accelerate for 20 seconds per kilometer until you reach the ANSP pace. Often such tasks are given for long-term speed training.


Pace Training – Typically a target competitive pace and slightly higher. Moreover, as can be assumed, in preparation for different races, it varies: for 10 km it can be higher than the ANSP, and for a marathon – lower.

Such training can be quite long, on average 8-10 km.

How many speed workouts  to do per week

woman running in gym

There are many factors: of course, these are the runner’s level of training, the stage of the training process and the cycle, as well as goals and objectives. There is a rule of thumb that running volume should be 80% aerobic running and only 20% speed work.

However, you must not forget to include warm-ups and cool-downs, which are part of speed workouts, to light running. Moreover, this ratio can change at peak loads or, conversely, during recovery weeks.

During the basic training period – when returning to running after a long break, in the off-season, at the beginning of the running path – one speed work per week is enough or you can do without them altogether.

During peak periods, there may be three expressways per week, but most often there are two. Even professional runners rarely do three challenging speed jobs a week, almost never more.

In normal mode, two high-speed workings per week are enough, of course, if there are at least 5 workouts in total and one of them is long. Sometimes these two are supplemented with high-speed segments.

But it is necessary to understand that if a person runs only three workouts a week, then there can be no talk of two high-speed work, since it is necessary to remember about the 80/20 principle, that is, slow aerobic running should prevail.

It is also important to correlate the type of speed work: the load and the risk of injury when running to the maximum is the highest, so such training should not be frequent. And if you need to gain volume quickly enough for the competition, then it is better to reduce or simplify intensive training.

Scope of high-speed work

As noted above, it all depends on the level of the runner. Most often, in terms of the total distance, speed work turns out to be about the same as other workouts, except for a long one.

But this distance together with warm-up and cool-down, that is, light jogging, which, as a rule, is the first 15-20 minutes and the last 5-10 minutes of the workout.

Summing up, I want to remind you that speed training, although designed to improve the pace, really only work in tandem with recovery crosses. It is important to maintain a balance between volume and intensity, not to overload yourself and have time to rest.