Speed training

Speed training

Speed training is a term we use for a workout consisting of a mixture of longer easier running with a session of very fast and short sprint work early in the run.

Where long runs focus on the cardiovascular system and intervals runs on the metabolic system, strides improve neuromuscular coordination (the brain’s ability to fire motor units in muscles quickly and efficiently) and improve your maximum speed.


  1. Warm-up for 10 minutes with easy running
  2. Do a set of running drills (attendees of our “Run injury free” workshops should use the drills taught there)
  3. Sprint 3-4 times over approximately 30m (4-5 seconds). Make each sprint progressively faster. Run easily for 15-20 seconds in between or until fully recovered.
  4. Stride-out  6 to 10 times over approximately 60-70m (10 seconds maximum). Run fast but without tension.
  5. Alternatively – on every third stride – speed up more gradually but don’t stop at 70m but accelerate up a further gear for another 30m (3-4 seconds). This teaches you to accelerate at speed.
  6. Let your body decelerate naturally instead of stopping quickly.
  7. The key is to start relaxed fast – such as starting a 5k race. As the session progresses you should speed up to your maximum speed to recruit your most powerful muscle fibres.
  8. Run easily between fast repeats – take about 2-3 minutes of recovery trot so you have completely recovered your breathing.
  9. Cool-down 10 – 15 minutes.

Important points:

  • Estimating distance: approximation is fine. Many street lampposts are about 100 yards apart and soccer fields are about 100 yards long. A walking stride is about 3/4 meter so you can approximate 100 meters by taking 120-140 walking strides.
  • Always run strides with the wind at your back and/or downhill.

Rate of perceived effort:


Experienced competitors/elites:

Experienced competitors are naturally faster and can perform strides over slightly longer distances as long as they keep the movement relaxed and the recovery periods long enough to get their breath back. Track athletes in particular should supplement their stride sessions with sprint training focused on stride length, leg turn-over, high-knee lift, heel flick, acceleration and running tall.

Ensure all-out sprints remain no longer than 4-5 seconds and the strides no longer than 10-13 seconds.


  • Anaerobic high energy phosphate metabolism (alactic metabolism)
  • Neuromuscular coordination
  • Speed


  • Relaxation while running fast
  • Practice generating speed through four positive focuses, don’t think “hard” think: relaxed, fast, light and tall

“It is important to try and relax during races and training by running varying distance from 100m to 300m. Keeping the upper body relaxed and concentrating on running with a good technique will help you run faster times without being basically fitter.” – Arthur Lydiard, Running to the Top

Biggest mistakes:

  • Forcing speed by tensing muscles and reinforcing poor form
  • Not allowing adequate recovery by running too fast in-between and forcing the body into anaerobic glycolysis (turning your easy day into a light anaerobic interval session)
  • Remember that 9/10ths effort is often faster than 10/10ths because of the increased tension of trying to go “all-out”

Vasala and Kip Keino showcasing perfect sprint formVariations

Uphill strides: Once you have confirmed that your running form is very good and you have mastered the art of relaxing while running at your maximum speed, you can introduce a few strides and sprints up a gentle gradient (not very steep) which will add a degree of resistance training to this session.

Barefoot strides: Several of our athletes perform their strides bare foot on hard surfaces. Why? Once you are trained to run at a high technical level you can handle the forces involved in this fast running. A barefoot runner can enact a more precise stride and has to relax more to make himself soft against the hard surface. The most skilful training is running very fast on hard surfaces in bare feet.

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