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.


Short Distance Challenge

Are you crazed right now? I am. SOOOOOOOO busy. Despite the fact that I didn’t have classes this week, I still found myself struggling to make time for my workouts. They haven’t been as long as I would like nor have I been able to get to a class of any kind. Bummer. Or is it?

Presents had to be wrapped and shipped. Oh, hey thanks for overcharging on the holidays, UPS.

Some runners get hung up on distance. I get it, marathoning is all the rage right now and more people than ever are taking up distance running. I think it’s awesome. Welcome, one and all, to our running community! And a very special community it is…

Image courtesy of Adidas

But there is more to running than just marathons and long runs on the weekends. I’ve actually found that my shorter runs have been kind of awesome. I am focused, fast and 100% tuned into my workout because I just don’t have the time to fool around. Result? Kick-butt speedy runs! And I like it. In fact, I am about to pose a challenge to you. For the next two weeks, right into 2012, I would like to challenge each and every one of you to only run short distances. No more than 5 miles total for a run.


  1. It’s (probably) something different for you.
  2. The next week or so is likely a busy one for you and shorter workouts = workouts more likely to be done.
  3. Challenges are fun.
  4. Speed workouts are scary.
  5. What better way to start the New Year than with a new challenge?

I know I’m crazy-busy right now with my Physics final tomorrow, last-minute trip prep, doctors visits, flying tomorrow night, the whole family will be together over the weekend, there will be baby cheeks to distract me from my workouts…as much as a long run would be nice, I just don’t see it happening.

Multi-tasking: liquid iron lunch + one-handed blogging! Busy girl.

The added bonus of doing short, hard, fast workouts is that it kicks up your metabolism and makes you a stronger runner. And since I plan on eating Mrs. Obi-wan’s cookies for breakfast, lunch and post-run snacks, the hyped-up metabolism sounds like a good idea for me!

Here are some ways to break down your runs over the next two weeks so that they’re shorter, harder and faster. Don’t forget to always warm-up for a mile:

  • Out and back: Negative split this by timing yourself on the out part and beating that time on the way back
  • Ladders: 400m-800m-1600m-800m-400m *repeat* (best done on a track)
  • Hills: duh, find a hill and try to run it at the same speedy pace over and over again OR run in a hilly park and sprint the hills while your recover on the flats
  • 5K race: Map out your own 5K race route and time yourself…maybe you’ll PR!
  • 1 minute Dashes: On Dasher, on Dancer! 1 minute sprints followed by 1 minute jogs can be done just about anywhere and if you’re really kicking your own butt, this workout takes 30 minutes max to wipe you out
  • Yasso 800s: They’re not just for marathon training! Try to run each 800m sprint at the same pace 4-5 times with full recovery in between

Are you up for the challenge? Come on now, runners. Let’s RACE into the New Year stronger and with new workouts that challenge us instead of the ‘ol 5-miler.

Who’s with me? What are your holiday running plans? Are you doing a Jingle Bell Run? Share it in the comments.

Now go out and run!

There is no “I” in TEAM

So, we’ve all heard the old adage “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM” (I always think of the smarmy character from LA in Scrooged when I hear that line!) but I really think that there might just be a little “i” in Team. At least, for me there is.

"How's everyone doing up there in the booth, Elliot?" (photo courtesy of cinemagi.ro)

I grew up and started my athletic career playing on teams. Teams, teams, all sorts of teams with all sorts of people in all sorts of sports. It was a great way to make friends, get motivated and commiserate during the hideous August two-a-day workouts that made each of us want to cry for our mommys. But we didn’t because we had each other. And we pushed because we had each other. And we succeeded because we had each other.

This is my all-time favorite softball picture. Tiny bat!

Being a grown-up can rob us of that camaraderie we so need in our lives. Competition for jobs, boyfriends/girlfriends and med-school placements make enemies of people who might otherwise be wingmen or study-buddys. I feel that this stems from an insecurity within that manifests itself in a very serious isolationist mentality. So sad. Happily, I learned that there ARE in fact people (even at NYU) who are willing to put insecurity aside and work with a struggling classmate *ahem* in, say, summer Biology. My friend, Tweedy, was an awesome example of that for me and, consequently, saved me from having to re-take an truly hideously demanding class. Yay, Tweedy! However, she is now finding that her Summer ’11 comrades are not of that same mind which left us both shaking our heads and asking “why?”.

I feel that in life, in work and in fitness, touching base with another person every now and again is helpful, if not absolutely necessary. My deeply fabulous running club proved it yesterday. So many of them seemed hesitant to push through their Yasso 800s on the first go-round. By their final loop, they were racing each other and finding a new level of speed they didn’t even know they had. Amazing! I love it when a plan comes together (first one who can tell me what character/person made that line famous, I will dedicate a post to you) and I love it even more when it was my plan. I am a little bit like an evil wizard at run club.

Ready to rock the last Yasso...

And they're off!

I, too, need to be pushed. I go to classes and clubs where I am not my own boss and seize the opportunity to race myself and anyone else in my vicinity. I love it when JB is juuuuust a little bit ahead of me at run club and I am working hard to catch and pass him. It’s the best to have a rabbit!

My rabbit.

My point is this: People need people, and don’t be afraid to join a group because you aren’t the bestest or fastest or most talented person in the group. I’m genuinely scared when I am the bestest/fastest/smartest person in the room because it means I have no rabbit to chase and it makes me L.A.Z.Y. So, join a club every now and again, try a new class and let it kick your butt. Work to your limits and then see if you can push past them to find new ones. Find a rabbit. Get that “I” out of being a part of a “TEAM”.

Now go out and run!