Your First Speed Sessions

Ease into faster running with these introductory sessions:

1. Easy fartlek
Fartlek, or speed play, is variable-paced running that emphasises creativity. During a 30-minute run, choose objects to run to – lamp-posts, trees, buildings, other runners, whatever. Make choices that mark off different distances so your pickups vary in length from 15-90 seconds, and modify your pace to match the distance. If you’re with a group, take turns choosing, sometimes revealing your choice ahead of time, sometimes not.

2. Stopwatch fartlek
After 10 minutes on a 30-minute run, begin alternating 15 seconds quick, 45 seconds easy, 15 seconds quick, and so on, until you’ve done five or six faster segments. Some sports watches can be set to beep every minute to indicate when you should change pace; otherwise, you can just glance at your watch periodically to keep track of when it’s time to change.

3. Hills
Warm up with a 10-minute run to the base of a hill that has a steady (but not overly steep) slope. Run up at a constant pace for up to 45 seconds, then jog back down and repeat four more times. Move at a speed that allows you to finish each 45-second segment without gasping. The hill will present resistance; your job is to be steady and in control, focusing on form.

4. Strides
On a track, run quickly for about 15 seconds every time you start a straight, then ease off and jog the rest of the straight and the turn before beginning another 15-second stride. Do this for a mile or so (8-12 sets of strides). You can also do strides after a run (grass fields are nice), striding for 15 seconds one way, then jogging back and repeating 8-10 times.

5. Races (5Ks and 10Ks)
Entering races now and then will do two things: first, it will help you to learn to run at a constant pace over a longer period of time; secondly, since much training advice is based on a runner’s 5K and 10K times, knowing your personal benchmarks at these distances can help you to tailor your speed sessions more effectively.