Essential Summer Speed Workouts

runners sprinting

Summertime and the running are easy, right? You may want to think again. While there's nothing wrong with slow, base-building miles, incorporating faster running can set you up for fall racing success. As we head into summer, add one (or all) of these speed workouts to your training calendar. Your future self will thank you!

Strides are a great "gateway" workout. If you raced during the spring, your strides can be a similar pace. For example, if you raced a 5K at 7:30-mile pace, aim for your strides to be of a similar intensity. Strides are (generally) untimed pick-ups of about 100 meters. They're not an all-out sprint, but the effort should definitely be hard. Recover for about a minute after each stride and plan to run four to eight repeats after an easy run.

Fartlek runs can be a nice way to transition into faster running without the pressure of more formal workouts. Warm-up for a few miles, then for the remainder of your run increase the pace at certain times. If you want to keep things informal, plan on going hard every time you spot something like a red mailbox or a pick-up truck. A more structured version of the fartlek run might be something like 10 sets of one minute hard, one minute easy.

Fast finish long runs are perfect if you don't have the time to fit in a long run AND a workout in a given week; why not consider a combo? Start your longest run of the week at an easy pace and slowly pick it up once you reach the halfway point. Ideally, your final mile (or miles) will be close to your goal race pace. This effort should feel tough, but it's a great way to practice running hard on tired legs.

Race pace runs work well if you have a half or full marathon on the calendar. If that's the case, the first part of the summer should be about building a mileage base and increasing your long run. Once you're at least one-third of the way through training, it's time to start adding some race pace specific miles. Consider one of the following workouts: 20 minutes at marathon pace, three sets of 10 minutes at half marathon pace with a two-minute jog recovery or six miles with the first three miles at marathon pace and the second three miles at half marathon pace. Begin with the shorter workouts and progress to longer, harder efforts throughout the season.

Speed sessions on the track are great as you approach summer's end (and race day draws near). At that time you can start adding in some shorter interval workouts. These will increase running efficiency and help you strengthen fast twitch muscle fibers, which are beneficial for shorter races (the mile, a 5k). But your body can also recruit them when your slow twitch muscles get fatigued (we're looking at you marathoners). Try classic mile repeats with quarter-mile jog recovery, six sets of 800m with 200 to 400m jog recovery or 12 by 400m with 100 to 200m jog recovery. As you become fitter, reduce the rest or increase the number or reps.

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