Lifehacker Fitness Challenge, Week 3: Try This Mini Speed Workout

How's the Lifehacker Fitness Challenge treating you? If you're logging a ton of kilometres, great -- but if you've slacked off a bit or are just joining us, that's fine too. This week's workout is for everyone. We're going to run some tiny solo races, and they will make you faster. What we're doing today is a type of interval training. With intervals, you work hard for a few seconds or minutes, then take a break to catch your breath. Intervals are a really efficient way to build endurance in your heart and lungs, and running fast helps build muscle in your legs.

It's also just plain fun. We're going to run some quick one-minute "races" with two minutes of recovery in between. During the recovery segments, you'll just walk and catch your breath. (If you feel like jogging, that's fine, but not required.) Here's the workout:

  • Start with with 10 minutes of easy jogging, or a walking/jogging mix, whatever you usually do.
  • If you're at a track, you'll run the straightaway. Stand in the innermost lane, at whatever looks like most a starting line, and run. This should be about 80 to 90 per cent of your top speed. You should feel tired but not dead by the end.
  • If you're not at a track, run this by time. Run for one minute, likewise at 80 to 90 per cent of your top speed. If you note where you started and where you ended, you can put your watch away and remember those landmarks.
  • After running your mini race, take it easy for two minutes. If you walk slowly back to the start, that's about the right time. Take a little extra time if you need, but remember, if you feel like you want to collapse, you ran a little too hard. Take it down a notch next time.
  • Repeat. Do a total of four mini races, and see how you feel. Beginners can quit here. Experienced runners, knock yourself out -- 10 or 12 would make a good workout.
  • Cool down with 10 minutes of easy jogging or walking. Timing isn't critical here -- five minutes is fine, or you can stay out longer if it's a nice day and you're enjoying the sunset. Just make sure to end on a high note, and your brain will record this whole workout as a good memory.

Speedwork -- that's the runner's term for intervals -- can take many different forms. If you'd like to explore further, check out our guide to speedwork. Going forward, try to work a little bit of speedwork into your routine each week. You can do today's workout once a week, or pick a different workout each time.

One of my favourite simple types of speedwork is the 30-20-10, where you run 30 seconds slow, 20 seconds medium and 10 seconds fast. Another is the fartlek, where you just make it up as you go along: Run fast when you feel like it, and recover when you feel like it.

Some running apps have interval programs built in, or you can try this 27-minute audio track where record-setting sprinter Michael Johnson talks you through a speed workout with plenty of encouragement and heart-pounding music.

Whatever you choose, speedwork is a fun way to get stronger and faster, while adding variety to your workout routine. Try it out, and let us know how it went!

This post is part of the Lifehacker Fitness Challenge, a series of mini challenges to spark (or reignite) your love of running.


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