This post first appeared on Women’s Running (It can be found here).
One of the best ways to become faster, stronger or to increase endurance is by incorporating some speed work into your weekly routine. But it can be extremely overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the terminology or have never tried any types of speed work before.
But it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may seem. One of the best ways to introduce faster running into your routine (without it being so structured) is through intervals.
Intervals consist of repeated short segments of fast running separated by slow jogging or complete rest. The intervals allow you to run much faster than you usually do, adapting your body to higher demands and your leg muscles to faster turnover. Over time, you become more physiologically efficient. Intervals increase your overall speed.
While there are structured workouts (for example: 400m or mile repeat repeats), you can do intervals in a more informal way. And you don’t even need a watch for some of these!
- There is an “on” period and “off” period. You run hard during the “on” and run easy during the “off”.
- No need for specific paces. It can be as simple as running hard during the “on” period and easy during the “off”. You’ll want the “on” periods to be uncomfortable but not all out. And the “off” to be easy enough to recover properly (you can either walk or run).
- Start with short sets and low reps and build. You can do the same workout each week but still make improvements. Gradually increase the duration of each set (either minutes, length of run, number of streets) as well as the number of complete sets you perform.
Here are a few fun ways to incorporate intervals into your runs. Note: Each of these should have a short warmup and cooldown period of easy running to loosen the legs up.
- Minutes: Run hard for a set number of seconds, then easy for another set number. Start with short sets (30 seconds hard, 1 minute easy) and gradually increase the duration of the sets (1 min hard, 2 min easy or 2 min hard, 2 min easy). You can also increase the number of sets you perform (start with a couple and work up to 10 or more).
- Hills: Each time you get to a hill, run moderately hard up the hill, then recover by running easy on the downhill and straightaways. This is a great (and fun) workout if you live in a hilly area!
- Music: If you enjoy listening to music, you can sync it to your workout. Run hard during one song, then run easy and recover during the next. Do that for 2-3 songs and you’ll have yourself a great workout!
- Streets or lightposts: Run hard for a few streets, run easy for another few streets. Repeat a couple of times. Gradually increase the number of streets and/or the total number of sets as you progress.