We all know how it works: you have to run fast in training to race fast. Pretty simple, right? Well, yes and no. There’s a lot to when and how much speed to introduce into your training. For a long time, coaches (taking after the renowned distance coach Arthur Lydiard) subscribed to the concept of building a big base, and then introducing speed. The idea was that you should wait until you’ve built a solid core of strength before adding more intense workouts. However, that notion has changed over the years, with the idea now being to start getting in speed earlier in your season build-up.
The current thinking is that you should begin to incorporate some type of speed running during your base phase. So High-school cross-country runners and weekend warriors alike would be already building in those workouts in late summer (now).
It’s important to note that there is a distinction between all-out speedwork and the type of speed training you’ll do initially during your base phase. Jumping all-in could easily lead to injury or at the very least, deliver you into racing season already past your peak. With that in mind, here are a few pointers for building some speed type of workouts into your base phase before progressing into full speed work.
Hill Repeats. Perfect for getting up to speed (no pun intended). Choose a moderately inclined hill, but make sure it’s fairly long. Up to a quarter mile should do the trick. Called by some, “the gateway to speed,” hill repeats not only strengthen your leg muscles (especially the lower legs) but they also improve your cardiovascular system. Run at a hard effort—effort being the key word here—up the hill and jog down easy. Start with about four repeats and build up to 10-12.
Fartlek Running. Yes, it’s a strange word, but get used to it. Fartlek has long been used to prepare the body for racing and/or speedwork. During a medium length run of about eight miles, throw in eight to 10 steady, controlled surges. Go by effort here—fast but not all-out. The surges should last up to 90-seconds. After each one, ease up for a one-minute recovery. The pick-ups should be about 10 to 15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace race.
Long-Run Surging. Much like fartlek, but even faster and more speed-oriented. The recovery can be much longer—up to five minutes between each. During one of your weekly long runs, try adding pick-ups of a minute or so, throttling down to 5K pace. Work up to about eight of them. This is a great intro into training your body to handle the greater demands of speed. By doing so you’ll begin to teach your body the neuromuscular coordination of faster running which will lead to improved efficiency and running economy.
By the time you finish your base, you’ll be ready for the more traditional (and more demanding) full speed workouts of track intervals, etc., and should be able to handle them without injury.
Upcoming Races: Saturday, August 24, at 8:00 a.m., Camp Agapè Memorial 5K Run at Johnson Park in Marble Falls. Saturday, August 24, at 8:00 a.m., at 2601 Rattler Road in San Marcos, the Rattler Run 5K.