Gettin speedy

     Ahhhh…speed.  It’s one of those things that is so relative to each individual runner.  But, it’s one of those things that I get asked about a lot.  “How do I get faster?” Now, don’t get the wrong idea about me. I’m not a super fast runner.  I may not look like this…


     Please tell me I’m not the only immature 32 year old to laugh out loud every time I see this video.  Seriously though speed is hard for me.  It’s something I’ve done loads of research on and spent a LOT of time training for.  It still takes work.  My amazing hubby is about a 7:45 mile without working on it.  That’s just “his pace.”  I swear every time he says that to me I want to slap him…in love of course.  I’ve come a long way since my running life began but I still have goals.  Let’s just clear the air about one thing.  There is NOTHING wrong with running “slower.”  I think it’s easy to look at “fast” runners and instantly think “I’m not a real runner, I’m not a real athlete, I’m just slow.” Not true.  Listen, if you are running…you are a runner.  This is a big sticking point for me.  I have caught myself trying to get faster just out of pure pride.  I don’t want to be slow.  But, I have realized I need to do it for me, and that my “fast pace” is for ME.  It helps keep running interesting and I need to get over myself and what other people or other runners think about me.  I want to get faster to challenge my body, get stronger and keep training fun and interesting.  If this isn’t something that interests you..its OK.  However, I have found that speed work has made the biggest difference in me as a runner.  It makes my regular every day pace feel slower and more manageable. Plus, who doesn’t want a faster finishing time at a race. So, if this is something you have never really incorporated into your running routine, I hope you will try.  Here are just a few tips I have used over the years to put some speed work into my routine.  *This is something you want to incorporate slowly if it is something you have never done.  The last thing you want is an injury.  Running faster calls on your fast twitch muscle fibers.  Put it into your routine in small doses.  Here’s how I progressed with speed work:  

1. Strides: When I had reached a point that I could comfortably run for 30 min(any newbie runner’s first goal), I knew I needed to make my runs a bit more challenging.  So, I started incorporating strides.  Honestly, at the time I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  I just decided to run a little faster for a short period of time…strides.  I did these at the end of my regular runs.  I would gradually increase my pace(on the treadmill I would just hit the speed button to increase for 10 seconds…run that speed for 10 seconds..then come back down to a walk) then recover then repeat. I would do this 3-4 times.  If you are outside just pick up the pace for a small stretch and then come back down to your cool down jog or walk.  Focus on form.  Get up on your toes a bit and be careful not to get out of control.  It’s just a gentle pick up but it will start giving your body the idea that running faster is possible. 
This is inspiring yes? 

2.  Speed sessions: So once I started playing with my speed with strides I decided to incorporate the same concept into my normal run.  If I was running 3-4 miles I would throw in a little speed work(this is when I was starting out).  For example: After 1 mile warm up I would bump my pace down by about 15 seconds.  So, if my current pace was a 10 min mile or 6.0 on a treadmill…I’d bump it down to a 9:30-9:45.  Not a huge jump but it was something.  I would do that for .25 mile or about 2 min then recover at my regular pace.  I would go into my workout with a number in mind of how many of these I would try to hit in my run.  So, maybe on a given day I’d say I was going to do 3-4 of those during my run.  Over time, that “new” pace got easier, I could maintain it for a longer period of time and it made my regular pace feel much more manageable.  That was 8 years ago.  My speed work looks a lot different now.  Now I use 400m intervals and I can do those at a 7:45 min pace.  That’s what this can do for you.  Yesterday in my speed session I was able to do 30 second intervals at a 6:50 pace with a 10 second recovery and repeat.  There are so many ways you can play with this.  It keeps your runs interesting and gives your brain something to think about.  Also it taps into your anaerobic system gradually teaching your body to run faster..for longer. 

3. Hills

Believe it or not..this is something I only recently started making a regular part of my routine.  Sure, I’d tap the incline on the treadmill once in a while but I’m talking hills ya’ll.  Real ones.  Yes, if you are a treadmill runner..bump up that incline but I’m not talking to 1 or 2 %.  Make it challenging. This is also great to add in as you progress to harder workouts like track and tempo runs.  Running hills also helps improve your form. If you are just starting out, walk those hills if you need to or do them in walk/run intervals.  Don’t sprint up them.  Take it slow.  Again, you don’t want an injury but you do want to increase your body’s ability to adapt to more difficult situations while running.  Keep the intervals short…30-60 seconds then jog or walk back down.  I live in Dallas ya’ll. Finding legitimate hills can be a challenge.  I can see at least 15 water towers from my pediatricians office window.  My kids and I have counted them…a thousand times. Anyway, it’s FLAT here.  But, I am super fortunate to live in a relatively hilly area.  I can’t get out of my neighborhood without a hill or two.  Behind my house I have two monsters with a flat stretch in between.  I run up one, jog to the other to recover, run down it then turn around and run back up….
This is one of the hills…see? Not too shabby for Texas

If you are on a treadmill tap your incline up to a challenging level and run 30-60 seconds on the incline then walk or jog on a flat surface for about a minute to recover then repeat.  It can get annoying to have to keep making your treadmill go up and down so sometimes I just straddle the treadmill and do shorter intervals.  I prefer to recover while moving but sometimes this is how it has to happen.  Once you have progressed you can add a hilly route into one of your runs and make that your hills day, or, like me, find a nice big hill and just do repeats then do a nice easy cool down mile.  

So, these are my tips on getting speedy.  It doesn’t happen over night and it does take hard work.  However, I am walking (or running) proof that anyone can get faster if they want to. You can do it, promise. Happy Running ya’ll!!! 

If you have any speed tips or questions please feel free to share. I love connecting with you!!