Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is This Really Important? Because It Sucks.

Speed work, ugh.

I am a self proclaimed novice runner. Or should I say novice "serious" runner. I'm definitely new
at marathon/long distance training.

I did a teeny bit of speed work on a torn up middle school track with Team in Training but only because they told me to and because they told me exactly what to do. Yes, I am a sheep. Yes, I will do whatever you tell me if I think you know more than I do.
How important is this torture anyway in the overall scheme of things? Because it sucks.

Today I went to laps at a nicer middle school today. I don't know track talk (meters and all that), but I did one warm up lap (400m?), then a fast lap, a slow lap, two fast laps, a slow lap, a fast lap, a slow lap....I had intentions to do more when my stomach started misbehaving and I thought I better get started on the mile run home (BTW, I made it just in time, but that's another post).

Do you do speed (not as in drugs, that's another post). If so, how crucial is it for training? And why? And what's your formula?
Today when I was running around the track, heaving, I decided I am more of an endurance runner (i.e., I can hang in there for long distances at a steady pace) than a speed runner. I just don't like feeling like I'm going to keel over at any minute. But I guess that is the point of that quote about not dying and things making you stronger.


  1. http://www.arunnersblog.com/the-final-speed-workout/

  2. Two recommendations:

    Start with 30/30s. That is 30 seconds fast and then 30 seconds at a slow jog or walk. When getting back into speed work, go with 12-16 reps and build from there at each session. Once you get to 20 reps, you can opt to go distances or you can do 60/60s (or 45/45s).

    The other option is to start with 100 yard sprints. Which is really easy on the track. Do your sprint on the straight and then jog through the turn to the next straight.

    I would also suggest a mile warm up and a mile cool down. Meaning, don't go doing speed work until you drop, that's not the point.

    Finally, remember speed work is not about how far you go (in thirty seconds) or how fast you go (over a 400m distance), it is about foot turnover. You want to use essentially the same stride during speed work as you do in your regular runs. Granted, you will naturally have a slightly longer stride, but most folks tend to want to stretch out their stride which actually is an invitation to injury.

  3. What's that saying, "If it doesn't kill you...."

    I'm fairly new to speed work and I have had little success doing it on my own. I prefer to tag along with the group so they can force me to run faster.

  4. Great post. I need to learn more about speed work and am interested to see the comments.

  5. I did my first "speed workout" on the track a few weeks ago and havent done it again because I have done a 5k and 10k in teh following weeks and I think that counts as speed work because I dont run that fast when I am running alone. So basically I do "Speed work" once a week. and i think it has helped make me a faster runner on my regular- slower-paced runs. in the track workout my sister and I started out with a mile warmup- nice and slow. then we went at a comfortable speed for two laps and picked up the pace for two laps- gradually. did this three of four times i think? and then did a nice and slow mile cool down. i liked it because you knew after those two fast laps were over you could go nice and slow and catch the breathe before starting in again

  6. I LOVE speedwork. I'm a speedster by nature so it's way easier to comprehend throwing down a few 400's or even 800's. It's the long distance sustained speed that I'm working on.

    I think it is definintly worth it. Don't give up on it! Sounds like you got some good advice just do some more research. There are lots of speedwork workout ideas online. I usually make sure I find a training plan with speedwork already embedded into it. If it does't - I find a new one. I would go bananas if I didn't incorporate speed sessions into my week.

  7. The REASON you do speed work is it will [theoretically] improve overall performance [as long as you do it properly and don't injure yourself]. You'll be stronger and faster in the long run. If that's not important to you... don't do it! There are times I'm content with completing events and the competition isn't as important. Depends on my life space. Your comments contain some great speed workout suggestions!

    PS: You look pretty fast to me!

  8. Speed work sucks. I just don't have the mental toughness for it, I think. My coach runs intervals with me occasionally (I'm a total sheep too), and we run along a trail here in town. Half mile hard/half mile recovery. Sometimes .6 hard/.4 recovery. Personally, I can't to a track. I get bored and go home.

  9. I am starting to work on speed too and I am also clueless about track talk! Thanks for this post, it is generating great feedback and I can also use :)

  10. You should do a speed session or tempo run at least once a week. Speed workouts are a must if you want to improve your times and run faster. I like to do them because they are challenging. Don't get me wrong, long runs are challenging to, but those are done at a comfortable pace. Speed workouts push your cardiovascular system to the next level. You will become a more efficient runner and your form will improve.

    Runnersworld.com's active trainer gives you speed workouts in their training plans. They usually consist of a mile warmup, then for examle, 3 miles at a fast pace with 1/2 mile recovery jogs in between each mile, followed by a mile cooldown. It really depends on what you are training for. My plan is based on a half marathon, and the speed workouts differ from week to week. I find that these workouts really help me on my long runs. I definitely feel a benefit from it.

    So, get those speed workouts in!

    Good luck!

  11. I am totally the same. I am not a fast runner by any means, but I can hang in there for 20 miles at a steady, slow pace - no problem. I have just started to embrace speed-work and I think it's really helped me build up my quads. I mainly do sprint intervals on the treadmill. It's great when you're stuck on the treadmill b/c it breaks up the monotony.

    I hate it and it sucks and I'm cursing and sweating the whole entire time, but everything I've read says it's necessary if you want to improve your pace time. So, it's a necessary evil.

  12. I have never been consistent in speed work, but my whole summer is going to be devoted to getting speedy for a 10K. I'm a bit lost, but trying!

  13. I think speedwork helps but I like hills best. I do hill fartleks and think they've helped improve my running. But, speedwork tends to improve your form, as well as make you faster, so that's good!

    I like 200s and 400s because you can go really fast!

  14. I need to do speed work. OK, what I really need is a miracle, but am hoping that the speed work will help me require less of a miracle!!! I have not started yet, I am kind of putting it off. You have encouraged me, I think I will start next week and take some advice from your comments.

  15. I don't do speed work because that is how I got injured several times in the past. I suppose that's why I gravitate towards marathons and ultras, because it's more about pacing and endurance than speed. I guess it comes down to what you are trying to accomplish. If you after fast times, you will need to do it. If you looking to finish lots of races and not risk getting hurt, then you probably want to avoid it.

  16. Speedwork is an enigma to me. I ought to go to one session just to check it out. I've heard much about it and most folks I know have great results. With training its a smorgasborg of opportunity to overlay what will be most successful to the individual. For example, I don't recomment Xanax for sleep the night before a marathon. Definitely not 2.

  17. It is always practical to listen to advices of the people who have already been into speedwork. I know that you can do it! Just let the fire of running grow inside you and I know you will become the best you! : )

  18. Runner's World did an absolutely awesome piece on speed work in their latest issue. It's available online at http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-267--13152-0,00.html.
    Check it out - it will answer all of your questions.

  19. I have a love/hate with speedwork. The first time I tried it, I ended up pulling a muscle in my calf. That made me scared to try it again. But during my last marathon training all the stars were aligned. I would pick one of my morning short runs and make it a speed workout. Nothing fancy, just sprint a couple blocks then jog a couple. I definately got faster. Haven't done any speed work since then and I am a super slow poke now.

  20. I hate speedwork, but I realize that it's necessary. Along with all of that other crap....like strength training and abs (yuck). Hope to see you in San Antonio!!!

  21. Good for you for getting out there! There is a good article on track work in this month's Runner's World. Of course, I haven't gotten out there to do it ;)

  22. I'd love to just stick with the distance running, but introducing speedwork really has helped my pace.

    I don't hate it any less though.

  23. I've found that speedwork is the icing to the cake that is base mileage.

    Some past performances for thought:

    Early marathons heavy on quality (speedwork) and lower on mileage (40-50 miles per week): Best time was 3:36

    Recent marathon (Richmond 2007) done with only a lot of base miles (about 90 per week): 3:16

    2006 Grand Rapids Marathon done with 80 miles/week incorporating two phases of speedwork: 3:10

    Clearly, for me at least, the base mileage was the most important factor and was worth at least 20+ minutes of improved time. The speedwork got me a little extra something (6 minutes) and shouldn't be discounted for the optimal performance.


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