What is Speed Training?

Here is a nice overview of Speed Training by expert CARA Performance Training Coach Tom Cuffe.

SPEED = stride length x stride frequency; in Physics speed = distance/time, v = d/t.

Definition: Speed Training is a methodology and technique utilized by athletes to improve their turnover, stride length and stride efficiency.

Specifically: to improve overall running speed requires a detailed training program that focuses on creating greater leg strength, power and economy via appropriate training techniques to best utilize and improve your natural leg speed and to develop and recruit more fast twitch muscle fiber to progress your running turn over and efficiency to greater heights.

One analogy we can draw is the following: if establishing a distance base is the baking of a cake, then speed work is the icing. And the icing, as we well know, is sweet and rewarding, cogito ergo sum, speed work is fun, rewarding and sweet!

Originally introduced to improve the performances of world class athletes, Speed Training has become a terrific tool for runners of all abilities! The gains you will experience from doing speed work at our Speed Training sessions will be satisfying, beneficial and totally worthwhile!

Speed Training comes in a variety of different forms and types. Here are some of the terms we will be using in our program and their definitions.

  • Short Speed Repetitions - these are snappy sessions with reps of distances ranging from 30 to 150 meters with the goal of feeling fast on each effort concentrating on good form. Usually referred to as strides, accelerations or wind sprints they are a great addition to every distance runners repertoire!
  •  Interval Training - is a fun type of running that involves a series of low to high intensity running workouts interspersed with rest or easy active recovery periods. The high intensity periods are typically at a specific race pace while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity. Varying the intensity of effort exercises the heart muscle, providing an exceptional cardiovascular workout which ultimately significantly improves the overall aerobic capacity thus permitting the athlete to exercise for longer periods of time and/or more intense levels therefore reaping greater physical benefits. Workout distances can vary from 400 meters to 1600 meters. Once the domain of elite athletes, interval training has become a powerful tool for runners of ALL abilities! You too will see significant gains from Interval Training.
  • Repetition Training - is designed to work on your running form, economy and overall speed by requiring you to run very fast. Because these reps are so fast, you have to take a lot of recovery between the assigned running segments. This means you'll need more time to recover. So, you'll be given either full distance recoveries (jogging/walking) or full "respiratory recovery" so you can run fast on the next repetition. Repetition Training is 100% challenging but definitely worth it!
  • Tempo or Lactate Threshold (LT) Workouts are an incredible way to get into the best shape of your entire life. The variety of workouts it offers makes it a very lively and pleasant way to spend a training session. Lactate threshold workouts are recognized by coaches and athletes worldwide as one of the best ways to improve your racing results! LT sessions will increase your VO2 max. The name is derived from V - volume; O2 - oxygen; max - maximum; VO2 max is defined as the maximal volume of oxygen that the body can deliver to the working muscles per minute; when we work this system we are going to get FASTER! Here are some of the essentials of this outstanding training system:
  • Tempo or LT workouts are runs at approximately 80% to 85% of the athletes maximum heart rate for a duration of 15 to 90 minutes in this Target Heart Rate.
  • The pace of a Tempo or LT will be based upon the athletes current fitness level - one guideline would be to run at 15 to 30 seconds per mile slower than the runner's current 5k race pace to illicit the proper training effect. The tempo of the run feels like the pace a runner can maintain and handle for an extended distance and period of time. Tempo running aka LT sessions are outstanding group training workouts because you really have a terrific opportunity to work closely with your training partners. Fun stuff to look forward to and you'll get fitter and faster in the process!

Why Speed Training?

  • Speed Training is FUN, EXCITING & CHALLENGING!
  • Speed Training will lead to improved overall speed and efficiency at all race distances.
  • When implemented correctly and supervised and designed by an expert coach Speed Training will reduce your injury risk!
  • With Speed Training your body becomes more supple and your range of motion increases therefore you will become a better athlete and runner.
  • In the final analysis, the bottom line is with the addition of Speed Training to your weekly workout plan your running and racing is going to improve! And these are really the most fun, enjoyable and rewarding training you'll do!


HOW TO PROPERLY PREPARE FOR YOUR SPEED TRAINING SESSIONS

  • Warm-up properly before your speed workout... ALWAYS!
  • Stretch well after the jogging portion of your warm-up; look to use dynamic stretches to prepare your body for a hard training session.
  • Do 4-9 repetitions of 30, 50 or 75 meter runs, usually called strides or accelerations prior to beginning any Speed Training workout.
  • Concentrate on using optimal running form during speed work: good arm action, good turn-over and proper breathing.
  • The most important concept of any Speed Training Program is to run at the APPROPRIATE pace = your pace, the best guideline here is to "feel fast". Don't race your training partners in practice, work with them in a collaborative manner and enjoy the process!
  •  Be wary of how your body feels during a speed workout pay attention to when your muscles begin to feel fatigued or begin to tighten up. Knowing your body and listening to it is essential to athletic improvement.
  • Take 1-2 days of easy running aka recovery runs between key weekly workouts, such as: Short Speed Reps, Intervals, Lactate Threshold sessions, Repetition work and your Long Runs. Recovery is essential to enhancing your overall fitness level!
  • Hydrate well before, during, and after all workouts especially speed sessions. Be sure to bring a water bottle with you to our Speed Training workouts.
  •  Do not attempt to run at a pace that seems too fast for your current fitness level. The correct training pace will reap greater short term as well as long term results.
  • Use appropriate footwear: such as spikes, flats or training shoes when running any speed workout on wet, snowy or icy surfaces. Be aware of training day weather and outdoor conditions!


Speed Training consists of a variety of workouts, all designed to help improve your running form, efficiency, and speed. Our top notch CARA Coaching Experts will take runners through training sessions that are appropriate for their current running ability. Runners of ALL abilities are welcome!

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