Getting Up to Speed on Running

Do you want to finish your first 5K marathon faster? If you want to, then you should start training for speed! You should do so in small increments until your muscles have become accustomed to the new pressures and, thus, able to cope with the increased demands of running a marathon and actually being the winner in your category.

Here are speed training methods that can be done on a treadmill at your neighborhood Equinox gym. You don’t need, after all, to run yourself ragged outdoors for training purposes – there’s time for it soon enough.

Do the Strides

Introducing speed work can be risky since it means getting out of your comfort zone and using previously untapped fast-twitch muscle fibers. The risk of injury increases when you do too much, too soon so it’s important to adopt small doses of speed work.

The best way to do so is through strides, a way of firing up fast-twitch muscle fibers without placing them under undue pressure.

  • Run with your regular speed on a treadmill for a week.
  • Adjust your speed – accelerate for 15-20 seconds, decelerate for 15-20 seconds, and repeat the cycle for four to six times. Rest for 30 seconds between repeats to catch your breath.

These strides short accelerations, not all-out sprints, with the focus on relaxed running and fluid form.

At the start, stick to four to six strides for a couple of times in a week. Increase the strides as your training progresses.

Step Up with Fartlek

With strides now part of your training regimen, your next step is the Fartlek (i.e., Swedish for speed play).  Fartlek consists of a series of faster pickups with alternating recovery periods. The speed and length of the pickups as well as the in-between recovery periods is your decision.

  • Warm-up with a jog for a mile or two on the treadmill
  • Increase the pace of your run until you feel fatigued
  • Decelerate to a gentle jog or a brisk walk until you’re recovered
  • Repeat the process for as many times as you can handle

Do a fartlek workout at least once a week and get a regular run on other days. You can also experiment with a mix of short and fast running alternating with long and steady stretches of running. Think of it as high-intensity interval training but with less intensity, thanks to the alternating bursts of activity.

And speaking of interval training, you should also consider track work, a form of interval training that will enable you to determine your actual capacity during a race. You should ideally work with a personal trainer or a running coach when doing track workouts since there are risks to it, too.  You will also need the nutrition guidance since speed training has increased demands on the body.

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