If you are starting out with your running and you are focused on getting faster, you might have come across some training plans  that have speed workouts included in them or have heard you should be doing them.

When you start doing speed workouts or interval training you might be thinking to yourself why is running so hard?  I like running, I want to get running faster but it feels hard to breathe and this running hard thing kind of hurts.

It can feel like you can’t get that air in, are unable to keep running with good form, struggle to keep the efforts consistent and make it through the session and even wake up the next day feeling super sore and fatigued. 

You can start to feel dread every time you see the word interval or speed session on your training plan.

Do you feel like this??

How to make speed running easier you might ask yourself? What does running do for you?

How do we make speed sessions work for you and your running so you can see the results you want to see.

If you are just getting back into running or starting out read my tips here.

Firstly what is a speed workout and why do we do them?

Speed training is when you increase the effort level you run at  for a short period of time. The effort should feel comfortably uncomfortable. Your breathing becomes harder and you really need to focus to maintain this pace, though you aren’t at an all out sprint.  You can still sustain the effort though it is challenging.    

Speed sessions are great to add into your training week to help with running improvement.  They help with improving run fitness, flexibility, coordination and strengthening your body, so you can maintain good running form and power which all helps you see running improvement and run faster for longer. 

Even if you are doing trail running vs road running they are worth including into your training schedule.

When to introduce speed sessions and how often?

Before you go sprinting down the street it is super important to wait until you have built that running base and strength in your body. If you neglect your running base and building strength you will be increasing your risk of injury and burning out which we definitely don’t want.

When you introduce speed sessions depends on where you are starting from.  If you have been running awhile, have spent time building up your running base for approximately 9 to 12 weeks (read more on how to do this here) and are feeling fit and fantastic then go for it.  If you have been injured, sick or just not running it’s wise to start with nice and easy running before adding speed sessions to your training.

Once you have built up a good running base, adding in some more challenging runs like tempo runs (read more on tempo running here) and short fast efforts called strides will condition your body and allow your body to adapt to the training before you start smashing it with some uber hard efforts.  Gradually building it in means better gains later because you will be able to train consistently as you won’t be injured or burnout.  Once again, winning!

To increase speed and fitness we really don’t need to be doing that much speed work.  It’s about balancing what our bodies handle and getting those improvements or performance gains.  How much your body can handle depends on your running experience, injuries, fitness levels and age.  Once a week or 10-20% of your training load of speed running is more than enough to see the benefits in your running.  

fartleks training

What does a speed workout look like?

Here are some examples of what a speed workout looks like.  It doesn’t have to be a run workout!

  • Running efforts with rest or easy running in between each effort (see examples below). 
  • A time trial (like parkrun or a timed distance) who doesn’t love a time trial?;
  • High intensity strength training (think lots of reps with recovery periods) hello HIITs!;
  • Crossfit or boot camps where you work at an elevated heart rate; and
  • Stair efforts (awesome fun).

Here are some example run speed workouts you can do.

Example Run with Strides

Here is an example of adding strides to an easy run which is a great starting point for beginners.  More experienced runners also benefit from adding strides to easy runs:

20 – 30 minutes of easy running

4-6 x 15 to 20 second strides, 2 to 3 minutes of easy running in between each stride

10 minutes cool down easy jog or walk 

Example Fartlek Run

Fartlek runs are a great stepping stone to intervals.  Fartlek runs are where we run fast for a short amount of time followed by an easy recovery jog and repeat. 

10-15 minute easy running warm-up

10 x 1 min fast running, 1 min easy running

10 minute easy jog to cool down

Example Interval Run

An interval run is where you run your effort then stop for a rest period before repeating.  These are great to include for more intermediate to advanced runners.  

10-15 minute easy running warm-up

6 x 4 min effort with reducing rest between each effort (90 seconds, 75 seconds, 60 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 seconds)

10 minute easy jog to cool down

Interval sessions can also be completed around a track (don’t be scared the benefits are work the effort).  The track makes it easy to keep an eye on distance and regular recovery intervals.

10-15 minute easy running warm-up

4 x (500, 400, 300) with 60 seconds rest between each effort and 3 minutes rest between each set.

10 minute easy jog to cool down


What to do when a speed session is hurting

When a speed workout or interval run feels like you can’t breathe, can’t keep going, pulling up sore.  Like running is hard.

It’s time to wind things back.  If you are struggling to maintain the effort level then you are running too fast.  Remember the effort should feel comfortably uncomfortable.  

If it still feels really difficult it’s worth taking the time to put more effort into building up your running base and strength.

I know you want to run faster, further, get fitter.  But you want it to feel good.  Plus you don’t want to increase your risk of injury.

So step it back, you can re-introduce your speed sessions all in good time.  Your running will improve faster because you will be able to train consistently and you have taken the time to work on the engine first.  Trust me, it’s all about the engine.

Introducing speed sessions into your training at the right time are a great way to get you running further faster.  Taking the time to build your running fitness and strength before you add sessions will mean your body will be able to hand the stress of speed sessions a lot easier.  Enjoy the process and listen to what your body is telling you!

Need help with getting running faster?

To make HUGE improvements in your running come and join the Sustainable Run Method.  You will have a step-by-step training plan plus accountability and support to guide you in improving your running and reaching your running goals.  You will uplevel your running and get running faster in a way that aligns with your life and your body.  All while eating plants.  

Book in your Run on Plants Breakthrough Call here for info and let’s discuss how the The Sustainable Run Method can help you and your running improve.