In the early days of running, the aim may have been to increase the distance you covered each week to boost fitness and build a good endurance base. Each time you run, you lay down more red blood cells and capillaries, which allow your body to transport more oxygenated blood and increase your aerobic capacity. Eventually, however, this improvement will hit a ceiling, which means your body has icreased a good enough endurance foundation.
It is now ready to layer on some harder-paced work that challenges a different energy system. Short and fast bursts of running challenge your anaerobic energy system, whereby the body cannot deliver oxygen to the muscles fast enough to initiate those reactions, which occur during aerobic metabolism. By relying on different anaerobic processes for energy, you improve the muscle’s ability to work without enough oxygen when lactic acid is produced.
Adding a speed session a week into your training will force the body to adapt to such energy demands, eventually making you fitter and faster. Try one of these three classic speed sessions, which can be nailed in under an hour!
The Up Pyramid
This is an interval session.
10min easy warm-up run then:
1 x 1min hard (80 percent of max) effort, then 1-min jog;
1 x 2mins hard (80 per cent) effort, then 2-mins jog;
1 x 3mins hard (80 percent) effort, then 2-mins jog;
1 x 4mins hard (80 percent) effort, then 2-min jog.
Repeat this set.
Then 10-min easy cool-down.
The first rep should be run at 80 percent of best pace, not at 100 per cent. Don’t run yourself into the ground on your first effort. Spread your effort out evenly for the full set of run efforts.
Pick N’ Mix
This is a varied-paced session.
After a 10-min easy jog warm-up, get ready to run;
1 x 6mins ‘steady’ (70 per cent effort), 1-min easy recovery;
1 x 3mins ‘threshold’ (80 per cent effort), 1-min easy recovery;
1 x 1min ‘fast’ (90 per cent effort), 1-min easy recovery;
Repeat the set. Then 10-mins easy cool-down.
The idea is to make sure your finish at a harder effort than when you started. The recoveries are relatively short. Make sure effort and speed are nailed in the first half for a stronger second half.
This is a threshold session involving two clear pace changes. After a ten-min easy jog warm-up, run:
3 x 90 secs ‘fast’ (85 per cent effort level), 60-sec jog recovery;
1 x 12mins at ‘threshold’ pace (80 per cent effort level), 2-mins jog recovery;
2 x 90secs ‘fast’, 60-sec jog.
Then 1-min jog cool-down.
Keep the middle third at a pace that is tough but under control. The 90-sec effort should be run faster than the 12-min effort. Make sure the final 3 x 90secs are run as strongly as the first.