Speed Training for Distance Runners

I was asked to answer questions that were posed through a former client of mine.  She’s a great gal and works her tail off.  She has a cool blog:  http://losingweightinthecity.com and asked me to help her answer some of her reader’s questions….so here they are!  (You can find the original article here.)

10% Rule

Kimra asked about the 10% rule and whether it is a myth or reality.

Both. Think of it like this: Is it smart to go from 50 miles to 100 miles in back to back weeks? No. The 10% rule is good in this regard. Build slowly, let the body adapt to the new training and then build again.

What about this one? 10 miles one week, 11 miles the next? You’ll never build your mileage to anything substantial or worthwhile if you use the 10% rule. This is where I believe there is flaws in that rule.

If you’re an experienced runner – running for years or have higher mileage – I think you can be a little more liberal with your week to week mileage. If you’re new or injury proned, I think you have to build more slowly. It’s really about what you can handle and how much time you can devote to the non-running portions of your life – eating well, sleeping enough, icing, stretching, massaging, etc.

Speed work

Kimra also asked about why training plans included speed work.  Are speed workouts necessary?

I think you’re using the word too generally. Speed work, in your sense, is anything faster than regular run pace. However, there are plenty of paces between all-out (sprinting for 400 meters) and basic running that are very beneficial to completing any race distance.

thurs @ armory 1.20 (27)

Speed work is necessary to get faster

Threshold runs and tempo runs are, in your definition, speed work because they are faster than basic running. However, they aren’t all-out by any stretch of the imagination. Tempo runs are steady state runs – where you’re running “comfortably hard” for a set distance. The pace is usually a pace in which you can hold for 1 hour. Threshold runs are slightly faster (10 – 15 seconds per mile faster) because you are taking short breaks in between each effort.

An example of a tempo run would be this: 2 mile warm up, 4 miles at tempo pace, 2 mile cool down.

An example of a threshold workout would be this: 2 mile warm up, 8 x 800 meters at threshold pace w/ a set recovery after each effort, 2 mile cool down.

(Take note that I didn’t give specific times because every person’s threshold and tempo paces are different. I wouldn’t want Person X to do Person Y’s threshold pace because there is a very high likelihood that it’s not threshold for Person X.)

Unless you use a heart rate monitor or use a Jack Daniel’s VDOT calculator, then I would avoid using a generic workout (with times provided) you find online/in a magazine. No two people have the same threshold and doing someone else’s workout will force you to run much higher or lower than threshold and you’ll either be working way too hard, or not hard enough.

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