I wish I was an expert on this, alas I am not. But I do know that speed work offers a variety of benefits to anyone who does it no matter what pace they are running. The purpose of speed work is to put stress on the bodies systems to mimic those that one would feel during a race to strengthen muscles and help the body build new neuro pathways that build muscles memory and strengthen the body over time. It allows us to become confident on our abilities, feel adjusted to running a faster pace, and for the bodies fast twitching muscles to gain strength.
It can come in the form of a tempo, intervals or fartleks and will vary based on the individual and the distance which they are training for. There were quite a few years of my adult running life where I eliminated any type of speed training from my workouts, in those years I never saw a PR nor did my body ever really make any physical gains in strength. It wasn't until I got back into running after a year of one injury after another that I begun to realize that speed sessions have a lot of benefits for the body.
- Improved stamina, or V02 Max. The body makes adaptations to the lactic that is being produced which helps create a higher lactic threshold, meaning we all can become one step closer to being like Dean Karnazes.
- Higher caloric burn. When the bodies systems are working harder to output energy in addition to maintaining normal body functions, then the rate at which calories are being burned increases. For anyone who is looking for weight loss, increased intensity will definitely help with that.
- Builds confidence. Speed sessions can be looked at as a practice for race day and can make an individual feel more comfortable in their abilities to run outside of their comfort zone.
- Recruits different muscles then easy runs. This is a HUGE benefit for long distance runners especially. Running is a great full body sport, but if we are running the same pace on every run we are calling the same muscles to do the same work, and this can cause imbalances in the bodies strength and not maximize our potential.
- Teaches the body to run more efficiently. Speed work is a great time to think about stride, turnover, and form. When we work on all of these pieces of the puzzle our bodies will make adjustments to doing the same tasks in a more effective manor at any pace.
Things to remember about speed sessions:
- These workouts are not a race, pace yourself. A lot of runners take their speed work too hard, I know that I have a time or two. A great rule to remind yourself of when your legs are feeling extra speedy is that by the end of the workout you should feel like you have one more interval or mile left in you. If you don't and you end the workout feeling beat, this is a good sign that you may have taken the workout a bit too hard.
- Get in a good warm-up and cool-down.
- Focus on your form.
- Keep your breathing under control. If your breath becomes labored, you are most likely working too hard.
- Don't do too much too soon. For most people one speed session a week should be plenty. Allow a day or two for recovery and make slow increases in intensities.
- Run your own pace. It is easy when you are at the track or on a busy path to out run the other runners. Keep in mind that we all have a different pace which we feel comfortable at and we do not know what workouts other runners are taking on, so it is best to just focus on yourself and the gains that you yourself can take from the workout.
- Use this a great time to practice focusing. What works for me during speed sessions is that I picture myself on various parts of the course for my next upcoming race while repeating a mantra to myself. This allows me to set in my mind how I want to feel during the race and feel mentally prepared to take on whatever may come on race morning.
- Have fun! While this should feel harder then an easy run, it should also feel fun.
- Don't force a workout. Some days our bodies aren't just up for what is on our agenda. If a speed workout seems like too much for that particular day, take to an easy run and give the workout a try the next day.
Today was mile repeat day for me. Goal was 6x1 mile repeats @10k pace, which is subjective considering that I have never ran a 10k nor do I really want to. So I assumed that my 10k pace would be + or - 6:30.
Splits 6:22, 6:21, 6:28, 6:32, 6:29, 6:30.
For the first two the wind was at my back and made my pace feel relatively easy. At three the peanut butter and banana toast that I had for breakfast 2 hours earlier made a reappearance, and the stomach never quite recovered.
If or when you are training for a marathon what speed workout is a no miss for you? What workout helps build your confidence and builds your strength? Any speed sessions that you think I should add to my training to buildup the strength I need to cross that finish line under 3:10 in October?