Here’s the thing about running: If you don’t ever run fast, you’re never going to get faster.
So if you’re trying to improve your running performance – even if it’s just to get those kilometres over with more quickly – then you need to incorporate sprint workouts into your routine.
“Any running that’s faster than your current easy or conversational pace can be classified as speedwork,” says John Honerkamp, New York Road Runners running coach.
“Running at goal race pace, track repeats, tempo runs, striders, fartleks – they all fit into the ‘speed’ category of training,” says Elizabeth Corkum, a USATF-certified running coach.
However you do it, sprint workouts are important because they help improve your form and efficiency at all paces.
“They help recruit and develop fast-twitch muscle fibre, build muscle, elevate heart rate and increase calorie burn,” Corkum says.
And those sprint workouts hold the ticket to getting more fit if you hit a plateau.
“Flirting with faster paces during interval training and other speed workouts will get you to faster results over time and help you break through,” Honerkamp says.
Speedwork also works because it makes you uncomfortable, forcing you to change your breath, stride and effort. “Steady-state runs help more with aerobic strength, whereas speedwork is more anaerobic,” Honerkamp says.
“Speed training helps your body get better at supplying oxygen to your muscles in a more efficient way,” which will make a runner improve at any distance.
Adding in just one to two days a week of speed can yield huge benefits – especially if you’re new to speedwork. (Just give your body enough time to recover before your next high-stress workout.)
Try one of these four sprint workouts – two for beginner and two for advanced runners – and watch how quickly you pick up the pace.