If you run to improve health, lose weight or stay fit when on a racing hiatus, you likely plod at the same pace for the majority of your miles. This approach provides results for a finite amount of time; when you plateau, consider increasing your intensity to help you achieve your goals. Here's why and how to incorporate speed work into your weekly routine when you're not training for a race.
How Speed Work Benefits Recreational Runners Who Want to Get Healthier
If your goal is to improve your overall health through running, speed work can help you achieve this in a way that easy running can't.
Speed will help you build stronger muscles.
Speed work recruits different muscles than slow runs do; it strengthens the bones, ligaments and joints so they can absorb and adapt to higher workloads.
More: Run With More Muscle
This effect is similar to weight training. The heavier the weight you lift, the stronger your muscle will become because the muscle has to resist more weight. With speed work, the more you push the leg muscles to move faster, the more total muscle fibers you activate and the more explosively you contract them. This results in greater strength and injury resistance.
Speed will boost your heart health.
Speed sessions evoke an increase in the maximal stroke volume of the heart. This is a fairly complicated cardiologic discussion but, simply stated, stroke volume is the amount of blood that can be pumped from the heart in one stroke. A greater stroke volume decreases the heart rate and, in a sense, makes the heart more efficient.
You'll see progress.
One of the biggest challenges of not training for a specific race is staying motivated. Running an easy pace every day gets boring and you'll feel like you're not making any progress.
Completing speed workouts and repeating the same type of workout every two to four weeks will allow your body to run faster with less effort. Bonus: You'll feel fitter.
Even if you don't have a race goal, switching up your pace can keep you going on those days when you need extra motivation to get out the door or when the weather gets bad.