Speed sessions are perfect for new and experienced runners – great for providing some variety to your weekly runs and improving running fitness. They increase your aerobic capacity, improve form, and make you a more efficient runner. Focus less on pace and time, and more on perceived effort.
Speed sessions tend to be shorter – around 30 minutes including warm-up & cool down – but due to the higher intensity, will take longer to recover from. They also usually follow an interval training format, with fast segments of running interlaced with easy, recovery sections. This allows your heart rate and respiratory rate (breathing) to recover between intervals, and thus over time improving the body’s ability to recover quickly and re-engage.
Below are three sessions that are great for building your speed and can be done in any space which allows for continuous running:
Session 1 – 42mins
Warm-up: 15 min running at an easy pace (this means low heart rate, easy breathing, not sweating).
Interval session: 18 minutes in total – 6 x 1 min hard effort pace, 2 min very easy recovery run.
Warm Down: 10 min running at an easy pace.
Session 2 – 35mins
Location: Track, or park with regular markers like lamp posts or trees
Warm-up: 15 mins at an easy pace
Interval session: 10 minutes of faster sprints, if you’re doing this session on a track, sprint the straights and walk the curve. If you’re in the park, use trees or lamp posts which have regular markers and replicate this, running/walking between each mark.
Warm-down: 10 mins at a super easy pace
Session 3 – 35-40mins
Location: Hill reps. Choose a hill that is runnable, but steep enough for it to test you
With hill sprint, focus on maintaining your form (high knees, shorter strides) and arm movement. As running on hills requires a different technique to running on the flat, this will improve your running economy and avoid possible injury through irregular technique.
Warm-up on the flat: 15 mins at an easy pace.
Interval session: 6-8 x 30 secs hill sprints, walking back down as recovery. Use markers to register a mental note of how far you make it up the hill at the end of each 30seconds to see how you improve in future sessions.
Warm-down on the flat: 5 mins at an easy pace.
UKA Athletics Coach and Ultra Runner Alexandra Cook is part of the Red Bull January Jump-Start project, challenging people to complete 3 x 30-minute activities per week, for four weeks. Join the Strava challenge here.