Speed Workouts You Can Do Anywhere

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Age-group runner Julie Thienel of Maryland doesn’t like the track, but she does like speed work. “I think the road much better mimics race conditions because you get hills and turns,” she says. “Plus, I feel I am less likely to get injured.”

If you’re like Thienel—or can’t get to the track—we’ve got you covered with four speedy workouts you can do anywhere.

The Workout: VO2 Max Ladder

Joanna Zeiger, a U.S. Olympian in triathlon, 2:43 marathoner and Race Ready Coaching founder, recommends this workout for any distance as a way to boost fitness and endorphins. “As we age, speed diminishes, so it’s important to incorporate some fast-paced sessions into your training, no matter your distance,” she says.

How to do it: The fast intervals should range between your 5K pace and 15 seconds per mile faster than 5K pace. After a 10- to 20-minute warm-up and 4 x 20-second strides, do two to four rounds of the following:

  • 3 x (30 seconds fast/30 seconds easy)
  • 2 x (45 seconds fast/45 seconds easy)
  • 1 x (60 seconds fast/2 minutes easy)

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

The Workout: 10K and Half Marathon Pacers

Zeiger says runners should try this one at least two weeks out from race day. “Use your goal race pace for the intervals,” she says. “This does not mean going faster on the shorter intervals and slowing on the longer intervals.”

How to do it: After a 10- to 20-minute warm-up and 4 x 20-second strides, run the following set two times:

  • 2 minutes at race pace/1 minute easy
  • 4 minutes at race pace/2 minutes easy
  • 6 minutes at race pace/3 minutes easy
  • Half marathoners: Add in a second 6-minute interval after the second round

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

The Workout: Road Loop Repeats

Steve Picucci, head cross-country and track coach at Morehead State University in Kentucky, designed this workout as an early-season strength session. “This workout is great for breaking up long tempos or transitioning from tempos and long runs to more intense workouts,” he explains.

How to do it: After a 10- to 20-minute warm-up and a few quick strides, find a loop that is relatively flat and 1–2 miles long. Run two to four repeats of each loop.

Run the first loop at a moderate intensity—around your half-marathon to marathon pace—and make sure you are not very winded after the first loop. Take a 1:30- to 2:30-minute active rest between each loop. Your goal is to cut down your time on each loop while keeping the rest period constant.

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

The Workout: Speed Ladder

Picucci likes this one in season to help build speed while also focusing on some strength. “My athletes have done this one around a parking lot before,” he says.

How to do it: Warm up for 10 to 20 minutes with a few quick strides. Then find a flat area with minimal sharp turns. Don’t focus on a certain pace but rather aim to hit a desired effort level. Effort level on the way up should be at a four to five out of 10; on the way down, increase effort to a seven or eight.

  • Run hard for 30 seconds/jog easy for 60 seconds,
  • Run hard for 60 seconds/jog easy for 90 seconds
  • Run hard for 2 minutes/jog easy for 2:30
  • Run hard for 3 minutes/jog easy for 3:00
  • Run hard for 2 minutes/jog easy for 2:30
  • Run hard for 60 seconds/jog easy for 90 seconds
  • Run hard for 30 seconds/jog easy 60 seconds

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

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