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speed sessions

Speed work is hard work. Keeping it varied is key!

Speed sessions involves repetitions and intervals. The 'reps' are the periods when you are running, the 'intervals' are the rest breaks in between. The purpose of the rest is to let your heart rate come back down; you should feel like you're breathing comfortably before you start the next rep. Aim for 2 minutes rest between each set - walk or jog very slowly. Don't worry if you need more time, especially if this is new for you.


Speed sessions are the most intense part of your training plan. For that reason, please remember:

- Always warm up. Jog for at least 5-10 minutes beforehand and mobilise the joints you will be using. Tougher sessions require a longer warm up. Cooling down is important too!

- Build up gradually. If you've never done any speed work do fewer reps and build up week by week.

- See your doctor before significantly increasing the intensity of your running, especially if you have underlying health problems. 

speedy ideas


With pyramid sessions the reps get longer and longer, then shorter and shorter. The pace at which you do each rep should be faster than race pace as you are running for short periods of time. The key is running the equally sized reps at the same pace. So, if you look at the first example, your first minute and your last minute should be the same pace (even though you'll be much more tired by the last one). This takes practice!

- 1 min, 2 min, 3 min, 4 min, 3 min, 2 min, 1 min

- 2 min, 4 min, 6 min, 4 min, 2 min

- 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 400m, 200m, 100m

- 200m, 400m, 800m, 400m, 200m

Take a 2 minute rest between each rep.


Unlike pyramids, these reps remain the same throughout the session. The aim is to keep the pace consistent, meaning your last rep is the same speed as your first rep. At the end of the session you should feel like you could do 1 or 2 more reps, but no more.

Minute repeats:

- [1 min hard, 2 min rest] x 10

- [2 min hard, 2 min rest] x 8

- 15 mins at half marathon pace, then [1 min hard, 1 min rest] x 10

- 10 mins at half marathon pace, then [2 min hard, 2 min rest] x 5, then 10 mins at half marathon pace

Distance repeats:

- [1km hard, 2 min rest] x 6

- [1 mile hard, 2 min rest] x 5

- [1km hard] x 6 with decreasing rest from 2 minutes to 30 seconds 


Session Plans

Find an easy circuit that is about 0.5-1 mile in distance. On each side of the circuit focus on vary pace or form, for example if the circuit has 3 sides:

Progressive speed:

1 side half marathon pace, 1 side 10km pace, 1 side 5km pace


1 side easy, 1 side strides, 1 side sprint 

Adjust these depending on what's available to you - if you have a square loop near you then just add an extra element to the workout. 


Fartlek means 'speed play' and so it's fair to think of these sessions as a bit more fun. Fartlek is not as structured as a usual speed session. It involves interspersing short sections of speed work throughout a run. It is a good way to include very short sprints in your plan which will train your anaerobic alactic energy system.

Run to the.... : Identify things along your route that you can run quickly to. For example, you might be running comfortably but then sprint to the next lamp post or bench that you see. 

Run up every hill: Depending on the route plan to sprint up every incline you reach. 

Run for 30 seconds: Every time you hit a kilometre or mile mark on your watch, sprint for 20-30 seconds before returning to your comfortable pace.

200m easy-hard: Find a track, split it into four, and run 200m stretches of it at speed. Depending on how you feel you might run a fast 200m on every lap for example. 

time trial

Find a route, time yourself, and repeat it to try and get faster. 5km time trials are the classic for this and can be achieved by going to ParkRun or using a track (12.5 laps!). Alternatively create a route nearby your house. Either remember the route or make it a segment on Strava. Every few weeks or so, set out to race the route. Your opponent is yourself - try and continually improve on your time!

progressive runs

I really love these, especially in the winter. There's no rest which means no time to get cold. They are also a good emulation of race day, as ideally we should all be running negative splits in our races. The idea of a progressive run is to get faster as you continue. This might seem easy, but it takes a lot of control in the beginning to ensure you're not running at max effort by the time you get halfway. These runs can be done using time or distance. Start off easy and by the end you should really be pushing it.


- 3 minute blocks: Run for 30 minutes, increasing your pace every 3 minutes. 

- 5 minute blocks: Run for 40 minutes, increasing your speed every 5 minutes.


- Track: Run for 4km, increasing your speed on every lap of the track (every 400m).

- Park Loop: Find a half mile loop, run 10 laps, increasing your pace on each lap. 

- 10km run: Increase your speed every kilometre.

- 10 mile run: Run 5 miles comfortably, then increase pace by 15 seconds/mile every mile thereafter. 

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