I have a love/hate relationship with speed work.  I hate the work outs while doing them but love the results.

If you’ve been running for a while and are interested in improving your pace, you’ll want to add speed training to your fitness routine.  Running consistently is great to build endurance but won’t do much to improve your speed.  You’ll have to teach your legs to turn over faster and teach your heart and lungs to work harder.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned over the years that have helped improve my pace:

  • It’s going to hurt (but you WILL get faster).  By running at a steady pace, you’ve trained your body to comfortably run.  Speed work pushes those boundaries to make your body adapt to running faster.  Your legs will hurt, your lungs will burn and your heart will feel like it may beat out of your chest.  Progress will be uncomfortable – but worth it! So embrace the suck 🙂
  • Hills are helpful.  Hill repeats can help increase pace as well.  It takes a hard effort to power up a hill over and over.  Hill work results in making hills during races easier and running on flat ground will feel much easier, allowing you to speed up.
  • Make sure to take periodic rest days.  While it may seem like a good idea to run more to get stronger, the opposite is true.  Recovery days are important to allow your muscles time to repair themselves.  After adding harder workout days, these rest days are a true gift!
  • Consistency counts.  You can’t expect to improve without consistent training.  You should be running 3-5 days a week, making sure to have one day of interval or speed work, one day of moderate effort, and one day of longer, easy miles.
  • Run easy on easy days.  It may be tempting to try to run fast on every run but you’ll likely not see much improvement.  Running at a hard pace is taxing on the body and can lead to injury.  After a few weeks of speed work, you may notice that your easy pace is faster than it once was – that means it’s working!
  • Try interval work outs.  I have found that interval work outs have been the most effective way to improve my speed.  Switching up interval workouts each time keeps them from getting boring.  Some of my favorite speed workouts include 12 x 400s, 6 x 800s, 3 x 1600s.  These can be easily done at a track or even on a treadmill.  Feel free to print this out!  Be sure to warm up prior to beginning the workout to avoid injury and cool down after to allow your heart rate to return to normal.  If you aren’t up for the distance in these workouts, adjust the number of intervals and try to increase them over time.
  • Recovery is important to maximize the benefits of a workout.  What you put into your body before, during and after your workout can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your workouts.  Experts recommend consuming protein in some form within 30 minutes following your workout since protein is the nutrient required for muscle repair and growth, helping to build stronger, leaner muscle.  It should be a high quality protein such as a hard boiled egg or a protein shake.  My favorite recovery protein is a chocolate EAS® 100% Whey Protein shake, which I can pick up on my regular trip to Walmart.  With all of the different options for protein powders, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you.  EAS contains 30g of protein – the ideal amount to promote muscle recovery and growth.  EAS’s new improved formula contains no fillers and no added sugar.  Why protein digests quickly, making it the perfect after workout replenishment.  EAS is made from only high-quality pure whey protein, not a proprietary blend like many other brands.  While “proprietary blends” sounds like an impressive name, it actually means that it has a combination of ingredients, not pure ones, and the dosages are not specified.  EAS® lists every ingredient and how much is in the product right there on the label so you know exactly what you are putting into your body.

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