No time to get to a track? Don't live near a track? Hate the track with a passion?
The fartlek is your speed workout answer.
According to wikipedia fartlek is defined as:
"speed play" in Swedish, is a form of conditioning which puts stress mainly on the aerobic energy system due to the continuous nature of the exercise. The difference between this type of training and continuous training is that the intensity or speed of the exercise varies, meaning that aerobic and anaerobic systems can be put under stress. Most fartlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes and can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting.
My favorite fartlek workout is comprised of a 10 - 20 minute warm up - which is usually anywhere between 1 mile and 3 miles. If you don't have a Garmin then go for time, if you have one then go for distance on the warm up. Then run 2 minutes on - running a hard pace - 2 minutes off - jogging. Immediately after run 1 minute on - again at a hard pace - then one minute off at a very easy pace. Following one minute do 30 seconds on, and then 30 seconds off. NO WALKING ALLOWED. If you have to walk at any point during this workout then you are doing your *on* sections too hard. Adjust so that you are pushing yourself but you are still able to complete the workout without taking breaks. Repeat this at least 4 times working up to 8 times. Finish with a 10 - 15 minute cool down.
The warm up is more important in this work out that the cool down is. In order to be sure that your body is running at a faster than normal pace you want to make sure that your muscles are warmed up and that your heart rate is already up before you begin the *on* segments.So to repeat the workout is 10 - 20 WU 2 min on, 2 min off, 1 min on, 1 min off, :30 seconds on, :30 seconds off X 4 - 8 with a 10 - 15 min CD.
The hardest part of the workout will be the 2 minutes on immediately following only 30 seconds off. After repeating this cycle 4 to 8 times your legs will feel like lead. This means the workout worked!
I love this workout because it can be done anywhere, and on any surface. You don't need a Garmin. You don't need to know how far you went. The workout can be completed all on time and perceived effort.
This was a key workout for me going into Marine Corps 2008 where I took my marathon PR from 3:59 to 3:36 - 6 months after having my 2nd child.
Make sure to stretch after and revel in knowing that you are one work out closer to getting faster!