To race fast, you have to practice running faster. This type of running at faster than race pace is known as speed work. Doing speed workouts has several big benefits, outlined below, and is an important part of any successful training plan.
Increased speed. Even if you only practice running faster in short bursts, your body is learning how to operate at those paces. The more you run fast, the easier it becomes to maintain. That ultimately means faster race times and new PRs.
Get stronger. Running faster requires more effort from your entire body. Fast twitch muscles are recruited at a high rate while bones, tendons and ligaments work to handle the extra impact. That’s why it’s important to not overdo it when you add speed workouts to your training program. Your whole body is working harder during these sessions and you don’t want to invite injury.
More efficient. Along with increased speed, you’ll also become more efficient at those higher speeds. Your gait will become more efficient as stride length shortens, cadence increases and over striding often disappears. Those same short bursts of speed help teach your body how to clear lactate, increasing your tolerance, or lactate threshold. The high intensity of speed work also means better fat burning that lasts long after you’ve uploaded your run to Strava.
Less boredom. Speed work is fun. The variety of workout types, from hill sprints to fartleks, means you’ll never run out of options. Unlike during your long runs or steady state tempo runs, the changing of paces provides both physical and mental challenges.
Remember that you need to train for where you’re racing. It’s OK to do some of your speed work on a track but if that’s not where you’ll be shooting for your next PR, don’t spend lots of time training there. Take your speed workouts off the track for the best results.