Why Speed Work, Works
What an awesome weekend, guys! I have no idea how I was able to cram so much in and still feel like I had a restful weekend.
I had the 5 Peaks Rattle Snake race on Saturday morning (recap to come this Friday) and I was struck with an awful migraine that left me cancelling all my evening plans to sleep off my symptoms. I came to around 9:30 and promptly watched Orphan Black until 3 am. (I rarely watch TV, but occasionally I find a show I am addicted to and then it just gets out of hand).
My Allegra and I. She won first for her age group in the Sport Course!
I spent Sunday with my family, eating lunch at my sister’s house, squeezing in a quick gym session and headed to the beach to watch the sunset.
This week, it’s back to the grind, including a couple sessions of speed training. I wanted to chat a bit about the how’s and why’s of speed training and it’s benefits to runners.
I will use myself as an example. When I first began running in 2010, I thought you ran by just heading out the door with running shoes on. I was correct, but only to a point. To run WELL, I needed to incorporate intervals. It wasn’t until I seriously made them a part of my regular training that I began seeing serious gains in my performance including PRIng almost every race and seeing the podium more often then not. I have shaved 4 minutes off my 5 KM time in university varsity cross country in the past number of years because of interval training.
Why Do Intervals Work?
Intervals make you focus on your top end speed which helps allow your body to get used to running at a fast speed, so you will do it more effortlessly in races. For me, the biggest thing that interval training built was STRENGTH. That explosive strength that gave me that extra kick in the last kilometre of a race and the sprints helps to develop stronger core muscles to help me in my distance runs.
You also are able to work HARDER than you ever could if you would try and sustain that speed over a long period of time. The break between your intervals allows your body to recover and it is a great way to monitor fitness.
How Do You Incorporate Them Into Training?
- If you are just starting out, make sure you have a base built up in running. I would suggest being able to run 5 KM without stopping before starting to incorporate speed work into your training.
- You want to find a local track or flat surface to do them on. Doing speed work on hills is helpful sometimes, but if the course is too steep or technical, it is hard to focus on speed.
- Make sure you warm up – to reach your top end speed, it is important to not run on cold muscles as there is a much higher chance of injury. I always do a 20 minute run before my speedwork sessions.
- Focus on your form! It can be easy to be hyperaware of speed and forget form, especially as you get tired, but making sure you are in correct posture will actually help you run faster.
- Don’t over do it. Start with one speed session a week and work to two. I only do one speed session the weeks I am racing because too much intensity, like everything, can be a bad thing. By mixing it into your regular routine, you will notice huge gains in your racing speed.
- Cool down. You are working your body hard and it will recover faster with a cool down. I normally run for about 10 minutes after my interval session.
Sample Interval Workout
20 minute warm up run
10 x 1 minute sprints with one minute recovery
10 minute tempo run
10 minute cool down
What is your favourite interval workout?