A Great First Interval Workout for Any Woman Runner

By Heidi Knapp
Coach and co-owner at Ironworx Multisport

Okay ladies, here’s the deal. Getting faster requires you to run faster on purpose. Speedwork gets a bad wrap for being intimidating but once you learn how to incorporate it into your running routine, it can become your best friend. Whether you want to chase that elusive 2 hour half marathon, PR a 5K, train for Boston or just see what your body is capable of, speedwork is the most effective (and efficient) way to get you there. You just have to be willing to run fast to run faster :)

Other ways speedwork helps:

– It teaches your body to run faster than your targeted pace for given distances. So, if you want to run a 9 minute mile on race day, adding interval training where you push yourself to hold an 8 minute mile deepens the muscle strength and memory for you to manage your target race day pace.
– It just makes you a stronger runner, period. You’ll be able to dig deeper when it hurts, endure through pains and finish strong.
– Speedwork improves your running efficiency – By running at faster speeds, you become more efficient running at slower speeds.
TIME. Instead of mindlessly running for 60 minutes, you can crush a hard 30 minute speed training workout and know it’s making a huge difference.

Here are a few workout options to get you started. Now, don’t try to be a hero out of the gate – if you’ve never done speedwork before, start slow and build over time. If you’re committed to incorporating speedwork into your weekly running regimen, I would recommend one workout per week to start.

All workouts start with a warm-up.

Choose one of these two options. If you have never attempted speed training before and/or are new to running, go with the newcomer option. If you are an experienced runner and/or accustomed to elevating your heart rate and breathing, try the advanced recommendation.

Newcomer Warm-up Recommendation:
5 minutes of easy run or walk
Dynamic stretches (Try this stretch routine via Runner’s World.)
Another 5 minutes of warm-up running

Advanced Warm-up Recommendation:
1/2 mile easy run or walk
Dynamic stretches (Try this stretch routine via Runner’s World.)
Additional 1/2 mile running warm-up running

Now that your muscles are warmed up, we are ready for some speedwork!

Your ‘run hard’ speed should be about one minute faster than your normal pace. You should feel out of breath and tired when you’re done with each interval! (For advanced runners, consider being about 30 seconds faster than your speedy 5K race pace.)

Select an interval workout that fits your current training level. Consider finding a local track, but if that’s not an option, do your best to find a route with long straightaways. As always, MODIFY as needed. You know your limits better than anyone.

Newcomers – 100-200 meter repeats
If on a track, run hard for 100 meters on the straightaways, then walk the 100 meters on the corners. If using a gps watch on a running route, run hard for about .06 – .10 miles, then walk the same distance. (If that feels good, try 200 meters, running one straightaway and one corner, then walking 200 meters of straightaway and corner.)

Total work/effort: Try doing 6-8 total intervals (run 100, recover 100).

Advanced Option 1 – 400 meter repeats
If on a track, you will run hard for 400 meters, then recover for 400 meters. (Recovery usually starts with a walk to bring your breathing back down, then picks up to a slow jog.) If using a gps watch on a running route, run hard for about .25 miles, then recover the same distance.

Total work/effort: Try doing 6 – 8 total intervals (run 400, recover 400).

Advanced Option 2 – 800 meter repeats

If on a track, you will run hard for 800 meters, then recover for 400 meters. (Recovery usually starts with a walk to bring your breathing back down, then picks up to a slow jog. For the 400 recovery meters, walk as long as necessary before picking up your jog.) If using a gps watch on a running route, run hard for about .5 miles, then recover for .25 miles.

Total work/effort: Try doing 4 – 6 total intervals (run 800, recover 400)

Build-Your-Own Option
If you don’t have access to a track or gps watch, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook! This just means we get creative with landmarks and distance. A common way to introduce intervals is by utilizing your surroundings like stop signs, power lines or street signs. Review the options above as to know approximate distances you should consider. Here are some other considerations when doing this type of interval workout:
- Consistency - If you’re using stop signs or power lines as your markers, run hard through two, recover through two, etc.
- Stay disciplined - YOU need to push yourself through the distances; Don’t quit early!
- Be mindful of your surroundings - Obviously before you sprint through a stop sign you need to factor in traffic, people walking, etc.

Cool down

Don’t skip the cool down! It’s so important for your muscles to have this cool down time after working so hard. Choose one of these two options.

Newcomer Warm-up Recommendation:
10 minutes of easy run or walk

Advanced Warm-up Recommendation:
One mile of easy running

Next steps

Great work! You’ve taken the first step to getting faster by including speedwork into your running routine! If you’re interested in learning more and/or receiving tailored workouts specific to your goal, race or lifestyle, check out my special training offer exclusive to the Fellow Flowers community. I create custom plans for women from all around the country (that you access virtually via an app) and tailor them to your goals and schedule, plus answer all the nitty gritty questions that often come with training. And, you get to utilize our Ironworx team discount with local and national partners – a sweet perk!

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