December 29, 2006, Newsletter Issue #45: Increase Your Speed, but Not Fatigue

Tip of the Week


The short answer to increasing speed while holding off fatigue is: conditioning. In other words, if you want to be able to run faster, practice running faster.

The long answer is a bit more complex, but it amounts to the same thing. A weight lifter trains his or her body to lift greater and greater amounts of weight in competition by increasing the weight they lift in practice. In a similar manner, the runner trains his or her body to run faster in races by running faster during training.

The classic speed training is an interval workout. During interval training, a runner repeatedly covers distances shorter than their planned race distance, but at a faster pace then their normal race pace. Done consistently – with adequate recovery periods between interval workouts – this conditions their body to run faster while minimizing fatigue.

A typical interval workout for a miler or 1500-meter runner might include repetitions at 400 meters and 800 meters run at faster than race pace. Recovery times could vary based on intensity.

Interval training is serious work and increases the risk of injury. For this reason, you should consult with your coach before adding interval training to your workout schedule.

Some runners add conditioning to their training by using “fartlek” – roughly translated from the Swedish as “speed play.”

Fartlek is less structured than interval training – and generally less intense in practice. But the goal is the same: to increase overall speed by adding periods of training that are faster than race pace.

A fartlek workout could be as simple as increasing your training pace between every third and fourth telephone pole.

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