How to Speed Up Your Speedwork

Tempo-runs are typically something I tackle alone; I have a Target pace and a go-get-it mentality. I tuck in my earbuds, choose my “fast” songs, warm-up easy and then pick it up for each consecutive mile.

This morning, I did things a little differently. The end result was a faster speed, and an enjoyable run! In other words, every little change added up to a Successful run.


My current training plan advised an “8:00 min/mile” pace for 3 miles; last week my Tempo (3 miles) pace averaged 7:30, so I set that as my base.  Kate was in for the challenge; she’s much faster when she wants to be, so the idea of having a “pacer” sounded interesting. And by “interesting”, I mean somewhat intimidating but okay let’s give this try!

Training is all about testing out what works, and what doesn’t. It’s your time to find out the best way to approach each run; it’s hard when those trials fail you, but when they prove successful, you’ve got legs that appreciate the variety.

Here’s what else I tried this morning, that ultimately sped up my Speedwork:

  • 1 small cup of Iced coffee, pre-run (brewed the night before, chilled in the fridge)
  • 1 handheld waterbottle, with me on the run
  • 1 quick stretch session (quads, calves, hamstrings) between “warm up ” and “tempo”
  • 3 Flat miles, with a turnaround
  • No Ipod! Just good company.

Here’s how those trials translated into a great run:

Warm-up – 9:22, 8:38 (0.5)
Mile 1 – 7:21
Mile 2 – 7:24*
Mile 3 – 7:19
Cool down – 8:35, 9:11 (0.5)

*includes the turn-around.

I couldn’t be happier with how this went, and knowing that I have a good “pre-Tempo run” routine.  It was immediately clear to me that having her pace was helpful; it was eventually clear that having that distraction made the miles pass quickly. Tempo-run: Successful!

What approach do you take to speedwork? We can always learn from do’s and don’ts!



Filed under early morning, new things!, running buddy, Speed workouts, training

11 responses to “How to Speed Up Your Speedwork

  1. Lacey

    great job! use this strategy at the track, too…

  2. niiice tempo, lady! let me know if you want my groovy fast running playlist, i can send you a link and – hey presto! you can download the songs. 🙂

  3. I am actually walking out the door in about 10-15 minutes to meet a friend who is *much* faster than me for a run. We are doing 10K and it’s supposed to be a tempo run for me. So we’ll see if your little formula works for us 😉

  4. Glad the ice coffee idea worked out for you. I like it better than hot coffee now.

    Excellent pacing! Screw the suggested paces, run what you feel is best. You’ll be hitting tempo paces in the 7:10-7:15 range before your cycle is over.

  5. No iPod?! Great work:)

    I have actually been doing relays with my hubs. The mini sprints have been a welcome change.

  6. Elizabeth

    This all sounds good in theory, but I think I’ll wait for an even cooler day to check it out.

  7. Way to nail it this morning! The new routine clearly works, and having a buddy makes it sooo much easier to pick up the pace!

  8. speedwork and I are still fighting from our last date in high school! ha ha ha

  9. J

    great job! I really need to do more Tempo running. And its nice to have a pacer too!

  10. Kevin

    Nice work, Heather!

    One variation I use to break up the usual tempo is to aim for negative splits. This is especially effective if you’re running with someone else since you might be competing a little. I also visualize that I’m driving a car or riding my bike–so when each mile ticks by, I switch gears and pick it up a notch. The idea is to make subtle increases to test what you can sustain without breaking the threshold.

    Also, my warm-up/cool-down splits are slower than yours. I really try to hold back and just trot so that I’m itching to go once the tempo begins. I might not be as warmed up as I should be, but I’m really hungry for the workout with the anticipation built over slow miles.

  11. Pingback: The Training Plan of No-Plan | Dietitian on the Run

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