an old post from ET:
"Improving basic speed is fairly simple. The scenario I've seen many times is this. Let me introduce you to runner "Joe."
Joe is 27 years old, was decent but no better in H.S., tried to make the cross-country/track team at the local university but was unsuccessful. Joe ran 10:00 in the 3200 in H.S., and now runs local road races with an average 5k of 17:30. Joe runs about 40 miles a week and does intervals in the form of 800m and mile repeats in fartlek form with the local club.
Joe can no longer come close to a 10:00 3200. He can't do this because 5:00 for the mile is all he can muster. An 800m in 2:20 is a race for him.
Joe has 2 big problems that are equally important to address 1)Lack of mileage, 2)No speed. Joe, however has decided he wants some more success and is willing to work for it.
I look at his recent mileage and plot out a course for raising it. We go to the track and warm-up etc. and I put him through a small true speed workout. I have him run what I call an "accela 200." He starts out at mile race pace and builds speed over 200 meters until the last 20-30 are full out. This is always the final component of the warm-up and the beginning of the workout on a true speed day.
Because he has not done any true speed work since high school he will run 1 or 2 200s. I give him 5 minutes recovery and explain that he will run this next 200 as fast as possible while staying relaxed. He jogs into into it with a raised hand which is dropped when the 200 start is reached. As the hand drops I click my watch and observe. The effort to relax is apparent but he is not relaxed and isn't generating a lot of power. The time is 29.3. He walks a bit, jogs a 600 back to the start where I meet him and ask how he is feeling etc (rest was about 8 min). We decide to do another one. Same procedure, 29.7.
I let him know that he will be sore etc. but that his speed will improve. This workout is repeated once a week with the number of 200s increased to 5 after the accela 200. The recovery is whatever is necessary (within reason) to be ready to go again. Usually starts at about 8 minutes and drops to 5 minutes after a couple months. It is never reduced to less then 5.
Week 1: 29.3, 29.7
Week 2: 28.8, 28.5, 29.1
Week 3: 28.5, 28.4, 28.6, 28.8
Week 4: 28.1, 28.0, 28.3, 28.3, 29.2
Week 5: 28.2, 28.5, 28.4, 28.5, 28.4
Week 6: 27.7, 27.6, 28.0, 28.1, 27.3
(Finally gets around to buying a pair of spikes to use instead of road flats. The last 200 of week 6 was run in spikes. Joe put them on for strides 2 times during the week. He has not be sore so the last 3 will be run in spikes on week 7. Week 8 will be completely in spikes.)
Week 7: 27.5, 27.6, 27.0, 26.8, 26.6
Week 8: 26.9, 26.5, 26.4, 26.7, 26.2
Week 9: 26.3, 26.1, 26.0, 26.6, 25.9
Week 10:25.9, 26.3, 26.1, 25.9, 25.8
(During this time mileage was raised from 40-70)
This Joe levels off about here, two Joes I have coached progressed to the mid 24's, another is currently at about week 6. All joes increased there mileage and threshold running and dropped up there 5k times substantially--and didn't get outkicked at the end. In less than a year Joe is now running 15:30 for 5k and 4:28 for a mile.
FOR MOST SPEED IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT.
If muscle imbalances are present drills are introduced to correct them. Usually the speed will fix them if it is run relaxed. Drills and plyos can be helpful but usually distract from the speed and a loss of specificity is incurred. Ability for 400 meter usually starts at 61-62 and drops to 53-55.
Don't over complicate things. Don't excessively worry about drills and form. Just do it and do it relaxed. Devote 1 workout a week to speed until you start to level off. After you level off finish 1 to 2 workouts per week with 1-2 fast 200s. For most people that is enough to maintain speed and some see continued improvement.
I like 200s because that are short enough to sprint but long enough to focus on relaxation.
Some may do it different, however this works so I stick with it.
My favorite athlete to work with is one who was a B class runner in HS, showing some talent, but never developed for one reason or another. For example I am working with an 800m runner who ran 2:00 flat in HS, 2:00 as a freshman in college and then quit. This guy will never make a U.S. national team but just wants to see improvement. Two weeks ago he raced for the 1st time in 5 years, the first time ever indoors, at 4500 feet, and 1 week after the highest mileage week of his life, and without a prepratory time trial, no hard 600's etc. He PRd with 1:59 FAT. He will peak for outdoors and run much faster. The two MAJOR factors? More mileage. More speed."