Tag Archives: speedwork

My biggest Chicago training mistake

Hindsight is typically 20/20 when it comes to training mistakes. Often you couldn’t have known at the time you were making a mistake, as experience afterwards is what ultimately taught you that what you thought was right turned out not to be right.

I trained a lot in Chicago as a runner, and I got into pretty good condition for where I was at. I learned how to prevent and safely work through injuries, and I logged a substantial volume of miles while running in dozens of races during the few years I seriously trained.

Looking back, I realize that something I did at every speed or tempo workout was actually counterproductive to my recovery and growth. It was hard to miss in large part because most of the people I trained with made a habit of the same thing, and even coaches didn’t realize this was counterproductive.

But the mistake inadvertently slowed my growth from these workouts, and had I know not to do it then I likely would have recovered more quickly and grown stronger workout-over-workout than I ended up doing. It may have made a substantial difference in how I performed in marathons and other key races.

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A Good, Quick VO2Max Workout for a One Mile Loop

man running beside street

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Pexels.com

Got a one mile loop near home that you can run uninterrupted? Training for a 10K or longer? Want to work on speed but do more than just 200-400 meter speed reps?

Run or jog to your loop and make sure you get about 10-15 minutes of easy warmup running in. Stop at a spot on the loop with a clear landmark and some space to move around.

If the loop provides a landmark about 3/4 of the way around, great. But if there’s no clear way to tell where 3/4 mile is, that’s okay.

Do some dynamic stretching, relax a bit, then run 4-5 strides… little 10-15 second fast runs to get the feel for running fast.

From your landmark spot, begin to run fast… about one tick below how hard you’d run a mile time trial. Focus more on moving your feet and arms quickly and steady, than on trying to go hard.

  • If you know where the 3/4 mile mark is on this loop, you’ll run this fast until you reach the 3/4 mile mark, and then slow to an easy recovery jog.
  • If you don’t know where the 3/4 mile is, but you know how fast you can run your fastest mile… subtract one minute from that fastest mile time, and round down. That is how long you will run fast before you slow to an easy recovery jog.
  • If you have no idea about either of those items, run fast for 5 minutes before you slow to an easy recovery jog.

No matter which way you choose to do it, jog easy until you get back to your starting point. Then, repeat the fast run as you did before.

Do this fast-slow run process three whole times, and you’re good. If you did this right, you’ll definitely want the workout to be done after the 3rd time.

Jog home. Eat something with protein.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

It never has to be exactly 400 meters

photo of road near tall trees

This trail might not be exactly 800 meters, and that shouldn’t be a problem for your 800 meter repeats. Photo by Matthew T Rader on Pexels.com

Most writers refer to speedwork repetitions in meters because they’re often run on a competition track, and such tracks can measure out 100 meter increments. On a track, you can run exactly 200, 300, 400, 1200, 2800, etc, meters.

Of course, many don’t have access to a track, and many American runners don’t use the metric system given our nation refers to distance in imperial miles.

The easy answer for conversions is that 400 meters is about 1/4 mile, 1600 meters is about a full mile, and so on.

But another complication of not running on a track is that measuring out exactly a quarter mile for a rep, let alone 400 meters, on a public right of way is unclear and difficult. Our parks paths, landmarks, etc, aren’t ever spaced out exactly right. A space between two light posts, benches, ends of a stretch of path, city block, can be 530 meters, 0.3 mile, 677 meters, etc.

Plus, relying on your GPS watch for distance doesn’t solve the problem, because your GPS readings aren’t totally accurate. A mapped run often shows you running through landmarks as the GPS signal guesstimates your actual route. It certainly won’t measure out your exact distance or velocity. Map the actual route run on an Open Maps interface, and you’ll find a difference of several tenths of a mile.

So how do you run those 800 meter repeats, or quarter mile repeats?

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Is it ever okay to do two quality workouts on back to back days?

woman in gray crew neck shirt running on brown soil during daytime

Cross country runners often train long the day after a race. It’s possible for others to do back to back hard, quality workouts. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

First, to clarify: A quality workout for runners is any run with more than 5 minutes of a challenging volume of running:

  • Fast or otherwise hard running
  • A very long period of running
  • A run with intermittent fast running (such as speed reps)

Secondly, in brief… yes, back to back quality workouts are not only okay but beneficial in some circumstances.

In fact, one demographic of runner actually practices this regularly: Interscholastic cross country runners.

Many cross country runners will run a race or a speed workout on Saturday (a quality workout), followed by their long run on Sunday (also a quality workout). They have an easy day Monday and then follow a more balanced schedule through the school week.

Now, is that healthy? Running guru Jack T Daniels will actually recommend in some of his Daniels Running Formula training plans that, during the peak phase, you do two quality workouts back to back. This is the only period in his plan that you do so. In other phases of such plans he spaces out the quality workouts as others do. In most plans you do the long run later in the week (while he is one coach whose cross country plans have you do a race or quality workout right before a long run).

So while many running minds recommend you avoid running quality workouts back to back, here is Daniels not only scheduling back to backs but in many cases putting them in the important peak phase. Are those other running minds wrong?

Well, no. Most plans might schedule more demanding regular and quality workouts, and perhaps their quality workouts require more recovery. Putting their workouts back to back may be a terrible idea. In Daniels’ case, the back to back quality workouts he schedules are not as daunting: A 3 mile cross country race and a long easy run. The 2nd workout in particular is done at a lower intensity, just for a longer than normal period.

Another training plan where back to backs are possible is IronFit. Because the rest days can be slid elsewhere in the week as needed, and because the workouts need to be done in order, it’s entirely possible that speedwork and a tempo run might be back to back.

Of course, most plans won’t dare schedule a back to back for the reasons stated. That said, they are not taboo. If schedule adjustments force the possibility, or you’re crafting your own training plan where you may need to book back to backs, there is a smart way to do it.

So here is how you should approach the possibility of scheduling a back to back:

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Speedwork tip: Using the track to maintain pace

people doing marathon

The track’s periodic markings can help you manage your pace during reps. Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

If you’re doing speedwork on a track, and trying to maintain a certain pace on speedwork reps… with some basic math, you can use each 100-200 meter sections on the track to monitor how fast you’re going.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to run 400 meters in 2 minutes (2:00). Your GPS watch will probably give inaccurate pace readings. This is not only because of the GPS margin for error, but because going in circles in the same location can lead your watch to believe you’re not moving much at all.

However, you can use the time reading and the markings on a track to keep pace.

To run a 2:00 rep for 400 meters, you need to travel 100 meters in 30 seconds (100 meters x 4 = 400 meters. 30 seconds x 4 = 2:00).

On most modern tracks, the 100 meter mark, 200 meter mark, and 300 meter mark will be indicated, along with of course the finish line at 400 meters.

At every one of those marks, you can look at your running time and see if more or less than 30 seconds has passed since your last measuring point. More than 30 seconds, and you need to pick up the pace. Less than 30 seconds, and you’re exceeding your projected pace (whether or not you need to slow down depends on your goals for the rep).

If you struggle with doing math on the fly, you can use your watch’s lap function to get your time between time-points.

This approach is similar to occasionally reviewing your speedometer while driving to make sure you’re not speeding. You can check your watch and make sure you’re on track for your desired pace.

So, if you wanted to run 400’s in 1:45, then you check to make sure you’re running every 100 in about 26 seconds (1:44 total).

If you’re running 800 meter repeats and trying to do them in 3:50, you can check every 200 meters to make sure you’re crossing at 56-57 seconds… or every 100 meters at 28-29 seconds.

And of course, if you’re not on a track but out and about on the roads or trails, you can do some math using measurements from Gmap-Pedometer to assess your time at certain timepoints. It’s not as even as the track, but will still help you in the same way.

Of course you don’t need to check your pace every 100-200 meters. Maybe you only check occasionally, or for the first couple and last couple segments, to make sure you’re on pace. But this approach will help you monitor your pace on reps and guide you towards speeding up or slowing down as needed.

 

Tagged , ,

The 2-1-1 speed interval workout

Here is the speed interval workout I was developing before my left hamstring quickly developed an unrelated strain:

As always, you want to avoid running routes where you’ve got to cross streets and navigate pedestrian traffic in tight quarters. While you may do this on a treadmill, I generally recommend avoiding speed interval workouts on a treadmill.

As always, warm up with some easy running, dynamic stretching, drills and such.

Start running at a moderate but easily sustainable effort. This can be a particular pace, or just by feel.

After 2 minutes, increase the pace to 5K or 10K pace, depending on your race goals. Maybe one of those races is your goal, or maybe you’re running something longer and this is for running economy. Use 10K pace for longer race goals and the 5K pace for shorter ones.

Hold the faster pace for one minute. After 1:00, slow to a comfortable walk.

Walk for one minute. After one minute, resume your moderate but easily sustainable effort, and repeat the cycle.

You may repeat this cycle up to 20 times. The less mileage you’re putting in every week, the fewer reps you’ll want to do. I would keep the total distance of this limited to the distance of your typical regular run.

The 2-1-1 Speed Workout

  • Warm-up
  • 2min at moderately easy run pace
  • 1min at 5K-10K pace
  • 1min walk
  • Repeat the above 2-1-1 steps until finished.
  • 80 minutes max.
Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Park Bench Run: An easy speed workout

trees in park

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A couple weeks ago, I planned to do some tempo work along a park loop as part of my run commute home. But once I left work and got to the starting point I knew I did not have enough gas in the tank to do the planned 800 meter reps AND take a full cooldown run home. I also didn’t want to take the bus, nor did I want to bag the workout completely and just jog home.

I took one 800 meter rep that went okay, but I knew doing several more was out of the question. What wasn’t out of the question was doing them as part of the run home, a hedge that allowed me to still get the speedwork in while curbing the amount of overall miles and reducing the overall stress of the run.

I didn’t want to do a full out uninterrupted tempo run home, but several reps of a few minutes each was totally fine. So here’s what I did:

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,