It’s speed day!!! What now? We like to go fast, but how fast?
If I’m not first, am I really last? (Thanks Ricky Bobby). Speed work, at its core, is all about running faster, for a much shorter distance, usually in an interval format. You focus on great running form, and tap into those energy systems that you might not use in your other training runs. It burns, it hurts, and you come face to face with yourself several times over. It’s essential because training for a higher speed threshold can contribute to faster, more effective training runs, which in turn contribute to...yup, PR’s!!!
Soooo speedwork is (run it by me again)....?
Simply put, its running lower volume intervals, at a higher intensity usually at or right below your VO2max. Instead of sending you down a google search black hole of calculations for your VO2max, just think of it as close to parallel to your heart rate. That number that we’re looking for is around 90% of your max heart rate. As a ripe old 32 year old, my max heart rate sits at 188 bpm ( 220-age). 90% of that is 169 bpm (.9x max heart rate). So for speed work I would want my heart rate to be at > 169 bpm.
How long am I supposed to be dying for?
By now, looking at the above numbers, I’m sure you’ve figured out that this pace isn’t sustainable for very long. It’s also not something that should have a high cumulative volume for the day. Take 3 miles, break it up into shorter intervals. 12x 400m (.25 mile), 6x 800m (.5 mile) or 3 x 1 mile. Recovery periods are short and active, allowing you to flush out some lactic acid, but also keep your heart rate up.
How many times per week should I face this certain death?
If you’ve done the ground work and built a solid base of endurance and conditioning, you can do speed work 1x- 2x per week separated by 48-72 hours to allow your CNS and muscles to recover.
Why am I doing this to myself again?
*Coaches Voice* THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SPEED. You go faster, then you go longer, then you go faster for longer. That’s the easiest way to think about it, without all of the science.