Speed Training…Good for Whom and How Much?
Speed training has a plethora of pros and cons. The most vital ‘pro” is it will most definitely increase performance. The scariest “con” is that it hurts (pain is weakness leaving your body…blah blah blah) and it has the potential to injure.
Let’s start with the CONS
Who isn’t it right for? New runners or those coming back from an injury. Increased speed means increased impact loading (the pounding our body takes when the foot impacts the ground). This increased loading has many ramifications most notably increased muscular and joint stress as well as some range of motion issues (from the longer running stride that comes with speed training).
Who is it right for? Everybody else. Your muscular and cardiovascular system will both reap gains from speed training. Proper speed training will guarantee increased performance.
So what is proper training? Ideally 1 time per week (for you endurance/endorphin junkies) and ideally when you have not run the day before and will not be running the day after (but you can to some cardio cross training with cycling, rowing, swimming or speed lawn cutting!). The other consideration would be how to pick your speed training venue. There are three options, 1 a track, 2 on the straight and narrow and 3 on a hill.
All these venues are good locales for speed training gains. On a track distance and time are easily monitored. The downside is that it can be boring and some bodies do not respond well to corner running. On the straight and narrow (never mind the narrow part, I just put it in for afftect/effect..whatever). This is my personal fav. Much like a fartlek run, pick a distance or time – increase your speed for that duration then slow down and recover. Use light standards, hydrants, red cars or some other arbitrary point – the key would be no less then 3 minutes of increased work followed by no less then 2 minutes of active recovery.
On the hills – this has virtually the same affect/effect…whatever as the other two. Doing hills should be a real consideration if your desired “A” race is a hilly route – both up and down has ramifications for your body.
How speedy is speed training? Good question. As you would guess fast is all relative. So without knowing your Lactate Threshold the simple answer is – after about 30-40 seconds of work you should be breathing relatively heavy with the ability to still have a 4-5 word chat with your partner without having to cough up a lung. Please note, too fast isn’t extra good it is not good!
Why does this work? 2 very distinct reasons 1) it stresses your cardio system at a muscular level. You body will respond to this stimulus. This training keeps your muscles stressed for oxygen. As a result it will be better at extracting and utilizing the oxygen sent to it via the blood stream. This stimulates the muscles to produce more oxygen burning enzymes so you can go faster and longer. The second point is based more on doing your long slow distance or base work. This base work increases your muscles ability to use, tolerate or get rid of Lactic acid (or hydrogen ions – but that’s another story). Bottom line is your base work increases the oxygen permeability into the muscle by creating new capillaries or blood vessels.
To get faster you have to both:
• run slower longer, i.e. base training and
• run faster – speed work.
Speed work should be done once per week, with repetitions of 3-10mins of sustained work followed by active recovery then do it again.
You should be short of breath but not coughing up a lung at the end of each rep.
Don’t do it if you are injured or fairly new to the pounding of running.
Change it up – don’t always use the same venue, try the track the trails and the hills
I will guarantee a vast improvement in your performance times with 1 speed workout per week (along with 2-3 other runs) after only 8 workouts. It may hurt a bit when you are doing it put the dividends are big.