I’ve been thinking about ways to become a faster runner, and the general consensus among people who run is doing speed work is the way to accomplish that. I did speed work on a treadmill once but I just kind of made it up as I went along, alternating between really fast for a minute or two and an easier running speed.

Then the other day I read a post about speed work on one of the running blogs I follow, Run Eat Repeat:
I was pleased to read that she doesn’t really do any structured type of speed work either, but I also thought the example she gave of running 4 x 800s at 5k PR speed with 400m recovery was doable. A standard track is 400m around, or 0.25 miles, so running 800s means running half a mile at your personal record pace for a 5k with a quarter-mile recovery at a slower pace.

The idea of running at a track doesn’t sound that fun to me so I decided to make a playlist using songs that last for the length of time I’d be doing each of these legs so the songs themselves would be my queue to change my pace. Sorting my iTunes by song length made this very easy. I made a couple of speedwork playlists; here’s the one I used today:

  1. “You Get What You Give”, New Radicals – 5 minute warmup
  2. “This Time Around”, Hanson (don’t judge me) – 4 minutes @ 8:00 pace, which should = half a mile (800m) if I hit that pace
  3. “Wallet”, Regina Spektor – 2.5 minutes @ 10 minute pace, which should = a quarter-mile (400m) recovery if I hit that pace
  4. “Character Zero”, Phish – 4 minutes @ 8:00 pace
  5. “I’m Into Something Good”, Herman’s Hermits – 2.5 minutes @ 10 minute pace
  6. “Don’t You Want Me”, The Human League – 4 minutes @ 8:00 pace
  7. “Know Your Onion!”, The Shins – 2.5 minutes @ 10 minute pace
  8. “Save Up All Your Tears”, Cher – 4 minutes @ 8:00 pace
  9. “(I Keep a) Close Watch”, John Cale – 2.5 minutes @ 10 minute pace
  10. “King of Pain”, The Police – 5 minute cooldown

I’m really proud of this project because I got to combine math and music, two of my loves! And it was a fun little puzzle to try to find slower songs for the recoveries and faster songs for the speedy portions.

On to the workout itself. I was using my Nike+ app to track my pace and I found it really challenging to hit my pace targets. At first I was way too fast; dipping below 8. Later on I was having trouble getting past 8:30. And my goodness it was hard to slow down to 10 minute pace. (Yay?) I’m not sure I trust the accuracy of the Nike+ app for tracking pace on such short segments–it seemed like there was a lag between when I slowed down and when it updated my pace to what I thought I was doing. So this isn’t perfect but I am sure I alternated four fast legs and four slower ones, no matter what my exact pace was.

This workout was really challenging. I got out of breath really quickly which I guess is the point. I’m used to easing into a consistent pace and not really getting out of breath, just breathing slightly harder. I loved focusing on short songs rather than miles to accumulate. The miles seemed to fly by. I actually thought I had another repeat to do when my cool down song came on, which was an awesome sneaky way to get a four mile run in.

After my run I noticed a girl whose workouts I follow on Daily Mile (nerd alert) also did speed work today, but she did 400m repeats and did seven total with 400m recoveries. So I’m considering making a playlist for that type of workout, although I’m not sure I can find 2 minute songs I actually want to listen to while running. Another challenge! 🙂


3 responses to “Speedwork

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I do something similar with my music but more in the Fartlek tradition. I have my go-to speed songs and then my cool downs. How funny is it that “King Of Pain” is your cool down song? I would be yelling “I WILL ALWAYS BE KING OF PAIN!” while running my cool down.

    • When I saw that song was exactly five minutes I knew I had to choose it for my cool down! It’s a definite cue that the hard part is over and I can relax. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Half Marathon Training – Week 5 | The Rockin' Runner

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