By Ian Loughead
Speed work can help all runners become faster, stronger and more ready for racing. Does this mean every runner should be doing speed work all the time? Not really. Speed work can be a very useful part of a well-structured running plan. This plan will have its basis around a solid foundation of easy running, or base mileage. Think of base mileage and early season training as the foundation and walls of a house. Then think of speed work as the roof, finishing things off. A roof is nice, but it needs those walls first or it won’t be much good.
Ideally speed work (intervals, threshold or tempo runs, HIITS, Repeats, Strides, Fartleks) should be undertaken after a good 4-6 weeks of easy running, and while the name is “speed work” speed is of course relative. The only other caveat I would say is that it is best suited to runners that have graduated from a run/walk program and can now run for at least 30 minutes straight without stopping. How far you get in that 30 minutes really isn’t important, but if you are still run / walking, you are essentially doing intervals already. So running harder may actually not be the best thing for you at this time.
So how should I feel after a speed work session? If you do it correctly, run within your current fitness level, you should be comfortably tired afterward. In a properly run session, each interval, or repetition should be run at a very similar speed and effort, and not as an all out race