These running speed workouts will help get you into better shape – and help you maintain it – this fall and winter. With all the seasonal pumpkin and apple-flavored treats that are common this time of year, we may be in need of some extra workout help. We still want to enjoy ourselves and our families, and may not have as much time as we would like to at the gym. That’s why these running speed workouts are a great solution – they are quick, effective, and you can do them right outside your house. Doing speed workouts in the fall or winter is perfect because you get a view of the gorgeous trees and you don’t have to deal with the summer heat. They are as difficult as you want them to be, so just do your best! You can even build up to these by walking if you need to. I would like to note that I am not a fitness instructor – I am simply a 5-year varsity cross country and track runner here to share my workouts. In other words, check with your doctor before participating in any strenuous workout.
1 Long Hill Sprints
Running on long hills is one of the best running speed workouts you can do. That’s because it incorporates the endurance of a long run, the speed of sprints, and the strength of hill work. To perform this workout, all you have to do is locate a hill that is reasonable in length and not too steep, otherwise you may fatigue too soon. Once you have a good hill to run on, warm up for about 1 mile. Then, run for 4 to 5 minutes or about half a mile up the hill (this is why it’s important the hill isn’t too steep). Jog down the hill to recover, and repeat 1 to 4 times, depending on your fitness level. Cool down 1 mile.
2 Short Hill Sprints
Short hills are by far the best way to build strength, and I’m talking about mental strength too! When doing short hill sprints, you must be thinking positive that you can complete them and work your mental endurance. The strength it takes your legs to climb up a high altitude in such a short amount of time is immense as well. All you have to do is find a fairly steep hill (this depends on your fitness level; do NOT practice on a hill you can’t handle and risk injury) that isn’t very long. Warm up about 1 mile. Next, sprint up the hill for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Jog down, resting double the amount of exertion. Repeat 5 to 20 times, starting with less and working your way up. Cool down 1 mile.
3 Full Body Deck of Cards Intervals
This deck of cards workout is a great way to change up boring workouts and have fun running. It is a very tough workout, and isn’t for beginners, as it incorporates all forms of fitness and is a total body workout. If you aren’t familiar with deck of cards workouts, you simply grab a deck of cards and flip over a card. Certain card numbers or colors correspond to a certain exercise you are supposed to do. For example, if you draw an 8 of hearts, then perhaps you are to perform 8 push-ups. To start this workout, warm up properly and go to a flat area (like a local track). Let the following correspond with certain cards: hearts are push-ups, diamonds are minutes of sprinting, spades are minutes of rest, and clubs are bicycle crunches. Cool down.
4 Half Mile Repeats
Performing half mile repeats is ideal if you are training for a 5k. They will get you in shape and allow you to improve your speed if you are running them near race pace. For example, if you run a 27 minute 5k (3 miles), then your time spent running for these should be 4 minutes 30 seconds. Start with a slow mile warm up. Begin by finding a flat surface (I like paved trails) and run half a mile while sticking to your goal pace as best as possible. If you are unsure of what pace to go, the effort should feel comfortable enough to perform several more, but enough exertion to boost fitness. Recover for the same duration by jogging. Repeat 2 to 6 times, and cool down about 1 mile.
5 The Ladder
I love performing ladder workouts because they not only get you in shape quickly, but they also are really fun! They keep you entertained because they aren’t repetitive and you won’t be bored doing the same interval sequence 10 times in a row. To do a ladder workout, warm up 1 mile, and find a relatively flat area. Then, perform a workout of running 1600m, 1200m, 800m, and 400m if you are at a track. If you don’t have access to a local track, you can also perform this in terms of miles, such as 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile, half a mile, and one fourth of a mile. Cool down.
6 Treadmill Intervals
When the weather starts getting chilly and snowy in the winter (or fall in the Midwest), many people opt for the treadmill. I know the treadmill gets a bad reputation, but it can be tolerable by incorporating intervals. Whenever I vary the speed on my treadmill, it goes by so much faster than just sticking to 7mph the entire time. So, warm up one mile easy on the treadmill (about 6mph). Then, sprint 1 minute (8-9mph) and recover 1 minute (6mph). Repeat this sprint-recover sequence 3 to 10 times and cool down 1 mile (6mph). You can also do this with an incline, if you want to simulate hill repeats indoors when it’s icy outside.
7 Legs on Fire
This “Legs on fire” workout is great for toning up the legs (especially the inner thighs!) and building leg muscle. It incorporates both speed work and strength work to make your legs have that fatigued, “on fire” feeling. Start by warming up 1 mile in an area that has grass nearby to perform strength exercises. Then, run quickly (but not all out) for 800m, or about 4 minutes. Instead of recovering, perform the following: 2 minutes alternating walking lunges and 2 minutes wall sits (use a tree if you’re outside). Then rest 4 minutes. This will teach your legs to work when they're tired, but don’t push them if you are experiencing pain (there’s a difference between pain and fatigue); stop immediately and rest! Repeat 1 to 4 more times. Cool down 1 mile.
As you can see, these running speed workouts can be adapted to pretty much any fitness level. Whether you want to improve your race time or just maintain the fitness you built up over the summer, these workouts can help you out. What is your favorite running workout this season?