Workout Basics

Runs Faster than Normal (Speed Work)

Workout Basics (Runs Faster than Normal)

Workout Basics (Runs Faster than Normal)

1024 924 Christo Landry

What is a workout?

A workout is a run designed to be done in a specific way and a predetermined effort level.  Simply put, these are the non-regular run/non-long run/non-recovery days of the week, the “harder” days.  Examples are intervals, hill repeats, tempos, fartleks and some people use the term, “speed work” (although the term is rather general and amorphous).

Parts of a workout

Warm Up

The warm up is run done at normal run effort to warm up your muscles so that they are ready for the workout and to prevent injury to them.  The location for the warm up does not need to be the same as the workout, example: if you’re doing a workout on the track, the warm up can be in the neighborhood around the track.  The normal warm up time is 20 minutes as that is approximately how long it takes for your muscles to warm up.  If you’re on lower mileage the warm up can be shortened.

Active Stretching / Drills

This portion is done to further loosen up your muscles. Again this prevents injury and allows your body to be ready for the higher effort and pace of the workout portion.  This portion usually does not exceed 10-15 minutes as we don’t want your legs to.  Active stretching is holding stretches for 2-3 seconds and doing it multiple times.  The main ones are found below, take two additional normal steps between the exercise to let the muscles fully relax and to help your balance.


2-3 100 meters (or so) strides to get your blood flowing get your body ready for the faster paces of the workout.

Workout Portion

This is where you execute the actual workout. Be it a 20 minute tempo run or a 60 minute fartlek.  The specific details for your workout will be posted each time on your calendar.

Cool Down

The cool down is a run done at normal run effort to help your muscles start the recovery process from the workout.  You do not need to go immediately into your cool down when you finish the workout.  Take your time to recover a little, stretch, and then move into the cool down.  Just don’t take so long that your muscles get tight and cold.  Note this will likely be slower than your warm up, even though they are done at the same effort because you just ran a hard workout.  The location for the cool down does not need to be the same as the workout, example: if you’re doing a workout on the track, the cool down can be in the neighborhood around the track.  The general range is 5-20 minutes.  Less you’re not really getting much of a cool down, more should only be done when you’re at high mileage and you really need to squeeze in a few more miles as these miles won’t be of the highest quality.  If you are running short on time, cut the cool down, not the warm up.

Static Stretching

Static stretching (where you hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds) is done after the workout.  This is done to prevent injuries and to help you feel better on your next run.

Injury Prevention

If you have any injury concerns, a tight hamstring or calf for example, this is when you would take extra steps to help them along in their recover or prevent them from getting worse.  Such steps include foam rolling, icing, electric stim (if you have access), and PT drills.  While they may not be fun, you’ll have to do them anyway when the nagging injury worsens!

Common Themes in workouts

Equal or Negative Splits

Negative splits mean you ran the second split faster than the first split.  Positive splits are running the second split slower than the first split.  Generally speaking, running negative splits feels easier, and results in a faster time.  For example, all world records at the 1500m distance and above have been set running negative splits.  Unless other wise specified, we want ALL workouts to follow the equal or negative split progression.  Note: as your body warms into a workout you will naturally get a little faster throughout the workout.

What if I go out too fast?!  It happens, no big deal.  With time, practice and actively concentrating on it you will be able to judge pace much more accurately and it’ll become natural like any other learned skill.  Now, what to do about it.

Example:  You are supposed to run one mile in 8:00 min.  You went out in 1:55 (5 seconds too fast).  Should you try to run the next lap at:

  • A. 2:05 min, to get back to 2:00 per lap average.
  • B. 2:00 min, the pace you were supposed to hit at the start.
  • C. 1:55 min, to continue the pace you set in the first lap.

The answer is B, you should try to get back onto the pace you were told to hit originally.  If you end up at 7:55 because you went out 5 seconds too fast in the first lap, that is OK.

Why not A?  One thing we want to practice is running a smooth, consistent pace throughout workouts and races.  Yo-Yo-ing the pace is the exact thing that we are trying to avoid.

Why not C?  While we went out too fast, we don’t want to compound the error by running too fast on consecutive laps.  While you might be able to withstand that for one repeat, you will feel the effects in the next repeats and probably won’t be able to finish the workout at that pace.  If you can let me know as I need to increase the pace of your workouts!

What if I go out too slow?!  Well, just like above, with practice you’ll get better at feeling pace.  What to do about it?  If you go out 15 seconds slower than pace for the first lap in a mile (4 laps), then you would need to try to run 5 seconds under pace for the next three laps to hit your goal time.  In general it’s ok to go under pace to make up for a slow start, but not to go over pace to slow down from a fast start.

Gathering Splits

While you run workouts you will need to gather splits (data) so that we know how the workout went.  In general terms, reset your watch to 0:00 at the start of the workout (after the warm up) and then save the data before you start your cool down.  What type of splits you should gather depends on the workout type:

  • Tempo Runs – Depends on your pace, if you’re doing it on the track or a path with marks, every mile or half mile (if you’re going 7:30 pace or slower).  If you’re using your garmin and going on an unmarked path, hitting split every 5 minutes is good.
  • Fartlek – This one is effort based, just hit split at the end of each on and off section.
  • Hills – Split the uphill portions
  • Intervals – Split each interval and if it’s longer than a mile, each mile.

How to Record a Workout


First things first, you’ll need splits from the workout.  This data, in conjunction with your feedback on how it went, effort level, conditions, etc. are what you’ll want to record for future knowledge.

Example: “For the 30 minute tempo my splits were: 8:30, 8:20: 8:19, and the last bit was at 8:15 pace, had a gusty 20 mph wind in my face for the second half of the workout.”

Examples of when to take splits:
  • Tempos: Every mile or half mile (if your pace is 8 min/mile or higher)
  • Progression Run: Same as tempo, and at the start of each new pace grouping
  • Fartlek: At the start and end of each on section (this will give me data for both the on and off sections as there is no stopping)
  • Intervals: At the start and end of each hard portion (this will give me data for the on sections and how long you took for rest, no stopping the watch)
How the Workout Went:

Give a summary of how the workout went and how you felt going through it.  Note if anything out of the ordinary happened.

Example: “The first mile was tough as my legs didn’t feel great, but by the second mile they warmed up and I started dropping the pace.  Felt great at the end.  Had to stop for a second in the third mile as someone’s dog got loose and started chasing me.”

Standard Additional Questions:

There are a few questions to answer for every workout to help me get a feel for how it went.  Could you have gone further?  How would the effort level have changed?  Could you have gone faster?  How would the effort level have been?

Example: “I think I could have gone another half mile without it getting much harder, but beyond that that the effort level would have gone way up.  I could have dropped some the pace a few seconds but not much more than that before it would have been harder than tempo pace.”

Additional Comments:

Add in anything else you’d like to, thoughts on the workouts, if you felt any pain (injury pain), if you liked that type of workout, etc.


Christo Landry

All stories by: Christo Landry
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