How many times a week should runners do speed training

Alternating speed training and recovery cross training in your training plan is very important. But what’s the right way to do it? This was told by the head coach of the Marathonica running school Ekaterina Preobrazhenskaya.

Types of speed workouts

The term “speed work” refers to a range of different workouts. It’s important to understand that each type aims to achieve certain goals, so you shouldn’t slot them into your workout plan haphazardly.

To begin, let’s see what exactly we achieve by performing high-speed work.

Development of the IPC

Maximum oxygen uptake (MIC or VO2max) is not just a number on the watch, which is nice to show your running mates, but an indicator corresponding to the maximum amount of oxygen the body can consume per kilogram of body per minute. at maximum load.

It is this metric that is considered essential in determining the fitness level of an athlete.

It develops mainly – but not only – in intervals to the maximum and climbs the hill also to the maximum. In other words, if you want to run faster at all heart rate thresholds, you have to suffer in lightning-fast workouts.

As a rule, these intervals are relatively short. For distance runners, it is 200 m, 400 m, and in serious marathon training – 800 m. It is more convenient to run them at the stadium, hence the multiplicity of two hundred meters.

Running uphill allows you to further develop the muscles you use less when running on a flat surface, as well as to “speed up” your pulse. Most often 100-300 m uphill – in time these segments are longer than on a flat track.

Between these intervals, the rest is usually about 2 minutes of jogging (or 200 m), but the duration depends on the level of training and the training cycle.

Read more: Hill Climb: Benefits, Features and Training Options

Speed ​​workouts: how and how many times a week to do them

Development of speed endurance

The second type of speed training aims to develop not only the MPC, but also the ability to maintain high speed for a long time. These workouts can be intervals, fartleks or progressions.

Long intervals

The workout includes long stretches at TAN (anaerobic threshold) or slightly above. It’s the maximum speed a runner can maintain for long, the familiar “comfortably fast” or heart rate you don’t need to go above if you don’t want to “sour” and inevitably slow down.

The duration and number of segments depends on the level of training and stage of preparation and can vary from 500 to 5000 m, and the rest between segments can be jogging or walking 200 m (about two minutes).

The significance of the intervals is that between high-speed segments, the runner has time to rest well and reduce their pulse. The segments can be the same or different, for example 7 times 1000 m or 2000-1000-2000-1000.


This is a variable pace race: if you run it in free mode, then the runner, in full training, determines by his feeling when to speed up and when to slow down. But more often he has a task from the trainer, which specifies the number of repetitions and the length of the segments.

The difference with intervals is that here the fast segments are performed at TAN or a little higher, and the slow segments are not slow at all, but only a specified amount slower than the fast ones. In other words, there is usually no way to rest and restore the pulse here.

However, a fartlek can be given with several categories of pace, including both jogging and running at maximum, but such workouts are rarely given.

Progressions or “reverse split”

This is a smooth paced race. For example, for each subsequent mile, you must accelerate 20 seconds per mile until you reach the ANSP pace. Often these tasks are assigned to a long formation at high speed.


Pace workouts are usually at target running pace and slightly higher. Also, as you can imagine, when preparing for different races, it varies: for 10 km it can be higher than the TAN, and for a marathon it can be lower.

Such workouts can be quite long, on average 8-10 km.

How many speed workouts to do per week

The factors are many: of course, it is the level of preparation of the runner, the stage of the process and the cycle of training, as well as the goals and objectives. There is a rule that running volume should be 80% aerobic running and only 20% speed work.

However, easy running should remember to include both warm-ups and cool-downs, which are part of speed training. Moreover, this ratio can change at the peak of the load or, conversely, during the recovery weeks.

Read more: Executing the 80/20 Rule: Key Ideas from Matt Fitzgerald’s Book

During the basic training period – when returning to racing after a long break, out of season, at the start of the race course – one speed job per week is sufficient or you can do without it altogether.

During peak periods there may be three speedboats per week, but the most common number is two. Even professional runners rarely do three intense speed jobs a week, almost never more than that.

In normal mode, two high-speed jobs per week are enough, of course, if there are at least 5 training sessions in total and one of them is long. Sometimes speed segments or long term progressions are added to these two.

But you need to understand that if a person does only three workouts a week, there can be no talk of two high-speed work, because it is necessary to remember the 80/20 principle, that is, say slow aerobic running should prevail.

It is also important to correlate the type of speed work: the load and the risk of injury when running to the maximum are the highest, so such training should not be frequent. And if you need to bulk up fast enough for competition, then it’s better to reduce or simplify intensive training.

The volume of work at high speed

As mentioned above, it all depends on the level of the runner. Most often, in terms of total distance, speed work is about the same as other workouts, except for one long.

But this distance, accompanied by a warm-up and a hitch, that is, an easy run, which, as a rule, corresponds to the first 15-20 minutes and the last 5-10 minutes of training.

In summary, I would like to remind you that speed training, although designed to improve rhythm, really only works in tandem with recovery crosses. It is important to maintain a balance between volume and intensity, not to overload yourself and to have time to rest.

Read more: How to develop speed in long distance running