Now that warmer weather is here, you might want to consider the fartlek. I am not talking about bird watching or some bizarre stretching routine; fartlek is a Swedish term meaning speed play, and it is somewhat related to the high intensity interval training I have recommended before.
Interval training has multiple purposes. First it revs up your cardio vascular workout and you burn calories at a much higher rate. It also can help you if you are interested in increasing your speed in whatever you do. This applies whether you do intervals for swimming, biking, running or whatever, but I am going to specifically talk about running here. Just apply the same basic formula to whatever you are training on.
A traditional fartlek is done for running and is simply increasing your speed for certain intervals inside your standard training run. For example, if you are running a two mile course, you may want to run 100 yards at a near sprint every half mile. Generally though, it’s not as regulated as that. The most common (and easiest) way of doing this is just randomly picking a landmark like a telephone pole or a tree and then sprinting to that goal. After the sprint take your pace back down to normal or a bit slower for a time, just to catch your breath. You can then look for another landmark and take off again.
Just to clarify, since a ‘sprint’ is not exactly well defined here, it doesn’t have to be an all out “my best 100 yard dash” sort of sprint. You just want to have an elevated speed that is toward your higher end. By inserting these intervals of higher speed on a once a week basis, your overall speed during your regular runs will increase, or you will find it easier to keep your pace up for longer distances.
If you are a city dweller, you actually have it a bit easier for your fartlek training. You can have your speed work be regulated by blocks. You could do that by running one block out of every eight at the faster pace, and the block after that as your time to recover your wind.
For a different sort of piece of the puzzle, you can also do your fartlek training on hills. This is my favorite method to punish myself (just kidding.) I sprint up the hill and then walk back down to the base of it, and do it again. Today I did that in the middle of my three mile run, where I did five hill climbs, and then ran the last mile and a half. Slope and length of the hill make a huge difference and you want to pace yourself.
All of this should be approached with a bit of restraint. Start out slowly, and gradually increase the number or length of the speed intervals as you see fit.