Speedwork for Dummies……

Let’s be honest, I don’t think any of you are dumb but I do think that things get too technical for the “everyday” runner.  I’m an everyday runner, who would like to increase my everyday pace.  I don’t want to contemplate  terminology that is ambiguous, I mean does anyone really understand the term tempo run?  I don’t.  I run a variety of paces.  Therefore, I don’t know how to calculate my “tempo pace”.  Do I use a tempo pace based on what I’d like to run?  Or what I might run?  Or what I am currently running?   Or what I ran last year?  Really, what the hell is a tempo run?  Don’t tell me, I don’t even want to know.

I also don’t want a speed workout that is so scary that I will make excuses not be able to fit it into my life.  I like to K.I.S.S.  I also like to keep it short and sweet.  I’m going to work really hard……but it won’t last long!  Okay, I can do this and so can you! 


I will outline my basic/beginner speed routine that I’ve been using on my treadmill.  Yes, I actually bought a treadmill (see the stock photo below).  Yes, I bought a treadmill just for speedwork.  Why?  I do all my speedwork at 4am, when the track and gym are both sleeping closed. 

NordicTrack 1750:image

I know that most would prefer to run outside but the bottom line is that you can’t cheat the treadmill.  Not even if you want to, so run, or get thrown off the back.  Totally up to you.  In fact, maybe you should attach the dorky safety cord like I do.  Now proceed with caution and please, adjust the speed to fit your current fitness level cuz I can’t help you if you hurt yourself, I’ll just send you to Dr. Alexis.


  • Warm Up – Dynamic Stretching, then I start walking at 4 mph (15:00 min/mile pace)
  • Walk for 2.5 minutes
  • Slow Jog for 2.5 minutes (Recovery Pace – 6 mph – 10:00 pace)
  • 1 minute interval – 7 mph – 8:34 pace
  • 1 minute recovery – 6 mph – 10:00 pace
  • 1 minute interval – 8 mph – 7:30 pace
  • 1 minute recovery
  • Repeat 7:30 interval/recovery
  • 1 minute interval – 9 mph – 6:40 pace
  • 1 minute recovery
  • Repeat 6:40 interval/recovery x10
  • Cool Down – walk/jog/static stretching/foam rolling

When you start, you might not be able to do 10 intervals at your desired pace.  Don’t worry about that.  This is a process.  A process of getting stronger and faster.  You also want to ease your body into running outside the comfort zone because you want to be safe and not hurt yourself.  So the first time, target 5 intervals.  If you feel like you are going to die before you finish that 5th one, you did it right.  If you feel like you could run a lot more, then you are went too slow.  Either do a few extra intervals or readjust your plan for the next speed session.  You want to push your limits while still being in control.  The 6:40 pace for me is barely in control.  I can barely hold it for 1 minute so yes, I use the safety cord.  The first speed workout, I only did 3 at the 6:40  pace.  Then next workout I did 5 at that pace, last time I did 8, and this morning I did 10.  I will hold here for a few weeks, then start holding the intervals longer.  Its a building process.  I want to build while still being in control and not hurting myself.  If it takes me longer to get where I’m going then fine.   In fact, I’m not even sure where I’m going but I’m going to get there faster…..eventually.  🙂

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz ** amanda@tootallfritz.com

7 thoughts on “Speedwork for Dummies……

  1. How did you know that i needed speedwork for dummies?? ❤ I actually do this whenever i am on a treadmill normally out of sheer boredom. Anything fast than an 8mph terrifies me though, because the machine starts to shake and i feel like i am breaking it…

  2. Well…TTF a little disappointed in your treatment of this subject and it really isn’t as complex as you seem to make it out to be. I won’t go into details, but tempo simply means “timing” or “timed-run.” A tempo run can be a run at goal race pace, or it can be running some degree faster than race pace…but at some point you will cross a line and be running “threshold” (i.e. working lactate threshold). Tempo may mean different speeds depending on whose system you following. But Maggie’s suggestion to go to Mcmillan running and use their online calculator and it will tell you what tempo pace is.

    Speedwork is used to accomplish a range of performance-based goals. It can mean simply training to run faster…like a faster 5k…enhance turnover and gait… increase VO2mx…or shift lactate threshold…and more. So…they type, duration and intensity of speedwork depends on the distance of the race and the performance goal you seek. Speedwork for marathoners is a lot different than that for those that want to run fast 5ks.

    I recognize your readers are mostly beginners and in that context keeping speedwork comparatively simple is desirable…at least in the sense that it be something new or inexperience runners can stick with…but tax the physiology enough to stimulate an improvement in speed and ability to run that speed for longer duration (as in a 5k race).

    I will point out that in principle your 1-min WI (work interval) and 1-min RI (recovery interval) is a reasonable approach for beginners and you will certain nurture better turnover and gait to run faster using it. But…to reap physiological changes that would translate into running a faster race distance…say a 5k…your going to have to progress or work up to longer duration WI’s. Reason being is that there is a lag-time in the heart “catching-up” to the increase in speed…or in other words a lag-time in the heart rate increasing to catch-up with the oxygen deficit. It can take 1-2 min for that to occur, so the longer you can sustain the WI beyond 1.5-2-min…the better the training stimulus and the better performance enhancing effect. That’s why 800m repeats are better than 400’s. although the “fast” 400’s and even 200’s can be very useful for nurturing the fast turnover and gait necessary to run fast.

    So…if you want to run shorter distance races faster…you better plan on progressively working up to longer duration WI’s. To run really fast you have to train the physiology to handle running 90-100% of HRmax…or being able to run in what I call that “uncomfortable” zone. Speedwork for the marathon will include some of the fast-shorter repeats to nurture turnover and improve VO2mx…but much of it will work on building a higher lactate threshold that allows one to run marathon distance somewhat faster than prior to the training.

    But I agree with you in the sense to start it simple…and just get used to it and make it a routine you do once per week. After you have the habit built and more experience what it feels like to run faster speed (especially on the mill), then you should work on increasing the duration of those WI’s before you start increasing the number of repeats.

  3. Pingback: Winter Challenge: Indoor Triathlons | Lauren Runs to Tri

Thoughts? Comments? Tell me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s