I’m A Newbie: Speed Work

Picture this: you’ve decided to start running or train for a longer distance than you’ve ever run before. Hooray for you! You download a schedule from a respected running website and set off on your way to reaching new heights in your running career.

But wait, what’s this? Your schedule doesn’t have just have XXX number of miles for each day. No, no, no. There are things in meters, multiples and foreign languages. What the what? This is not what you signed up for!

Deep breaths. Let’s break it down shall we?

It’s all just speed work. Hills, Fartleks, Repeats, Negative Splits, Race Pace Miles, Yasso 800s and everything else is all just speed work. Each of these exercises has the same goal: to improve your lactic threshold, VO2 max and anaerobic capacity to make running longer, slower miles easier on your body. That’ all. If you run faster and harder in workouts, the longer miles will seem like a piece of cake…well, tough, sweaty cake anyway.

Depending on how many days a week you are running, at least half of your workouts will be of this variety, so let’s break it down.

Speed work decoded:

Hills-Find a hill. Run up it as hard as you can, jog back down. Do it again. Lots of times.

Fartlek-“Speed play” in German, this workout is so great if you don’t have a track or a measured distance. Run hard for a short period of time, recover, rinse, repeat.

Repeats-Usually done at mile or two mile intervals, they will look like this on paper: “4 x 1600m” or some such thing (1600 meters = 1 mile). Pick a distance, run as hard as you can, jog to cool down. Do it again and try to keep the same pace. That’s it.

Race Pace Miles-Any workout will call for things to be done at race pace. Figure out what time you’re going for, divide it by how many miles the race is and you’ll have your race pace. Use it as a barometer for your race pace miles. Boom.

Negative Splits-Each mile is faster than the one previous. Simple as pie, right? Cool.

Yasso 800s-Created by the famous Bart Yasso, run 800 meters (1/2 mile) with jogging rest in between. Try to run each of them at the same pace and if you can do 10 before the marathon and voila, you’ll have your goal race pace.

There you go. Speed work, BAM! Don’t get stressed out about distance, but make sure you get your speed work in! It will make the difference between you running an awesome race and you barely finishing a race. The workouts are shorter (hooray!), more intense and will kick your ass.

You’ll love it.

Now go out and run.

 

I’m A Newbie: 3 Ways To Finish Strong

The end of a race is the hardest. You’ve started out conservatively, you maintained a steady pace, you remained calm on the crazy uphill portions and now you’re down to the last few miles, meters, feet and it’s HARD. How could you have ever prepared yourself for this? Well, I’ll tell you but a first, a little story.

My junior high school cross country coach was a dad from our community. He wasn’t a teacher, but a volunteer who took time out of his day to coach this rag-tag group of 11-14 year-olds while we ran around our local park. He was a nice man. He was also fond of the bullhorn during races. Whenever we got within about 600 yards of the finish line, we could hear his voice blaring out over the crowd and he was always saying the same thing, “Finish strong, into the chute. Keep going, you’re looking good.”

*Sidebar: Chute? This is before timing chips and you had to cross the finish line in between two ropes-a chute-as they shouted off times and stay in line as they took your bib number. High tech, right?

To this day, it’s the thing the Obi-wans and my siblings say to one another whenever we’re finishing something: a race, a class, a project, a long day…“Finish strong, into the chute.” It reminds us that we’re near the end and we have to give it all we got. If you can hear Coach, you’re almost there. Run harder!

And this is how I learned to run harder at the end than at the beginning.

In order to finish strong, you can do three key things during training:

#1. Negative split runs. You increase your pace every mile/half mile, depending on what distance you’re training for. Excellent training tool, especially for those of you who go off the line as though you’re at the Kentucky Derby.

#2. 5K finish workout. You run your long run at whatever pace you normally run long runs and take the last 5K to try to run at your 5K/10K pace. You’ll learn how the end of a race feels and how to remain calm while pushing your body. Great for marathoners.

#3. Middle of the run sprints. During a midweek run, take your middle 2 miles and break it down into 4 x 400 yard sprints with jogging recoveries in between each repeat. Then continue on and finish your run. It’s a great way to make sure your first half is the same speed as your second half, even with those speedy sprints in between.

Each of these workouts will train your body and your mind to stay focused in the middle of your race and to work harder at the end. If you do the same pace for every run and never vary your strategy, it’s difficult to anticipate what the end of a race will feel like. And trust me, you want to prepare yourself for those last 3 miles of a marathon because they will make or break you. Give these tricks of the trade a shot and you’ll be ready to go on race day!

Now go out and run. And “finish strong, into the chute!”