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The Benefits of Speed Training

By Andrea Cespedes

Speed training is an important part of an overall strategy to improve running performance. Short- and long-distance regimens benefit from intervals of speed and tempo runs, asserts running coach Hal Higdon in his book "Run Fast: How to Beat Your Best Time Every Time." Exercisers seeking improved fitness levels and weight loss also benefit from speed training.

Calorie Burn

The calories you burn during a workout depend on many factors, including how fast you are going. A 155-pound person jogging at a modest 5 mph can burn 298 calories in 30 minutes, according to Harvard Health Publications. Work up to an 8.6 mph pace and burn nearly 539 calories in the same amount of time. While you may be unable to sustain the 8 mph pace for the entire workout, speed training with one- to five-minute bouts at the faster speed can increase the overall calorie burn of your workout.

Oxygen Capacity

The amount of oxygen you produce during a workout is called VO2 max, and it determines your ability to sustain long workouts at a hard pace. Speed training through tempo runs is one of the optimal ways to improve VO2 max, notes running coach Rick Morris on the Running Planet website. To perform a tempo run, figure a speed that is about 10 seconds faster than your 5K pace. During a 30-minute workout, gradually work up to that pace and hold it for five to 10 minutes and then back down. More elite athletes can hold the pace longer.

Fat Burning

Including speed training as part of your running workouts increases your body’s ability to oxidize fat, as found by a Canadian study published in a 2007 issue of the "Journal of Applied Physiology." Researchers found that seven high-intensity interval training sessions performed over two weeks increased the ability of moderately active women to burn fat.

Time Gains

Runners seeking to trim seconds or minutes off their personal records should include speed training in their workouts. A 2006 study published in the journal of "Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism" found that when runners worked near or at their maximal VO2 max levels in training, their overall times in running 1,500 and 5,000 meters improved. Two speed training workouts per week yielded results after just four weeks.

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