There are traditional speed workouts—think track sessions, tempo runs, hill repeats and the like—to help you develop your race-specific fitness, and then there are speed development workouts—short, explosive sprints with lots of recovery between repetitions—which are focused on developing maximum fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment in an effort improve your pure sprinting speed as well as to make you more economical and efficient at other paces.
Speed development sessions don’t take up a lot of time in your training schedule but over time they will help you get more out of your more regularly scheduled speed workouts. While there are many variations of speed development sessions you can do, here’s a simple one to begin incorporating into your training routine this week:
WHAT: A set of 4-6 progressive 150-meter sprints that can be done on a track, a flat stretch of road or even a gentle uphill. This is not traditional speed work—it’s a short, supplementary sprint session designed to make your interval workouts and tempo runs more productive.
WHY: This workout requires maximum muscle fiber recruitment and will improve top-end speed for long-distance runners, which will help you to become more economical and efficient at race pace.
WHEN AND HOW: Distance runners need only do one speed development session every 10-12 days over the course of a training cycle—two days before one of your regular speed workouts is good timing. Accelerate to 80 percent of your maximum speed in the first 50 meters, run the next 50 meters at 90 percent effort and finish the final 50 meters as fast as you can. After sprinting for 150 meters, take another 50 meters to gradually decelerate to a gentle stop. Take a full 3-4 minute recovery between each sprint.