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Speed Work for Distance Runners

Posted by Rehab United on Sep 21, 2010 2:32:47 PM

The Importance of Speed Work for Distance Runners

Jena Walther, MS, CSCS


At RU Sports Performance Center, we employ the motto “train the way you play,” meaning your training should reflect your sporting event.  It may appear that running at a steady, constant pace is the best way to train for a half or full marathon.   Distance racing, however, is much more dynamic than just steadily truckin’ along, so if you want to run faster, you need to learn how to increase the pace of your training – enter speed work.


Here are some ways to incorporate speed work into your training:

  • Intervals – On the road or on the treadmill, run much faster than you typically would for much shorter periods of time (1-2 minutes).  Take a quick rest, then repeat the speed bout.  Start with a 2:1 rest-to-work ratio and progress to a 1:2 ratio.  This will help get your body used to running at a faster pace, and improve your endurance.
  • Speed Ladder – Use the speed ladder to help increase your turnover or stride frequency.  Incorporate various 3-dimensional patterns to decrease muscular imbalance and overuse (ex. running laterally through the ladder vs. the basic forward).
  • Track Work – Find a local high school or community college track and run some shorter, faster bouts (Ex:  400 m – 1 mile).  Your total track workout should last 45-60 minutes and total 2-4 miles.  In addition to speed, track running allows provides tremendous metabolic (anaerobic and aerobic) benefits.
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