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Half marathon training update: Tips to effectively integrate speedwork into training

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Remember when the track wasn’t covered in snow? Yea, me neither… soon friends, soon… until then the treadmill will have to do on the icy days.

I hopped on the treadmill yesterday morning and thought to myself, “It’s time to put my big girl shoes on and get to work.” If I want my body to get stronger and faster, then I have to be willing to go to the uncomfortable places. Yesterday’s workout went as follows:

10 minute warm up

2 miles at half marathon goal pace (between 6:50 and 7 min/mi)

5 minute recovery jog at 10 min pace

(repeat two more times)

10 min cooldown

Total: 9 miles; 6 miles of speedwork

 

As many of you already know I am training for the Hyannis Half Marathon held at the end of February. Since my goal for the race is to shave off about two minutes (gulp!) of my previous half marathon time I have started to integrate speedwork into my training two to three times a week.

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Run Hard then Rest Up!

I want to be crystal clear that I DO NOT run hard 6 days a week. My body won’t allow it, and (my bet is) neither will yours. During speed workouts you challenge your body by running at a pace well out of your comfort zone. By running at a faster pace you are shredding the muscles in your legs and glutes in order to make them stronger. If you want the full benefits from speed workouts then you must be willing to have easier days built into your weekly schedule. Even though the speed workouts change and the overall mileage slowly increases through the training cycle I will continue the same basic Easy- Hard- Easy- Hard routine to provide my body time to rest/repair.

During the past couple of weeks I noticed my body feeling particularly exhausted (i.e. never feeling rested, difficulty concentrating, being short-tempered). I took an honest look at my weekly runs and I accepted that I was pushing myself too hard. I was running about 60-90 seconds/mile too fast on my “easy” days and not giving my body time to properly rest/repair. This road will only lead to burnout or injury.

I have started to force myself to run slower on my “easy” days and I have noticed an immediate positive change in my energy level! Thank goodness! This is yet another reminder to listen to your body and make adjustments in a training plan when needed.

Instead of looking at my workouts on a day to day basis I have begun to look at my effort over the week.

Weekly workouts

M – OFF running

T –  Speedwork (track)

W  – **EASY DAY** Recovery run (3 mi,  9:30/10 min pace)

Th  Speedwork (road/tempo run)

F – **EASY DAY** Recovery run (3-4 mi, 10 min pace)

Sa  – Base run  (5-7 mi, 8 min pace)

Su – Long run (13-15 mi)

 Total Miles: Ranging from 38-50

 

 

Three tips to incorporate speedwork into your running:

    • Have a specific workout in mind (see sample workouts below). If you have a plan then you are more likely to follow through!
      • My best speed workouts are ones where I allow my body to properly warm up over about 2 miles (I like a long warm up) and then am motivated by completing a very specific workout. I don’t “wing it” well. I do best with a plan!
    • Have a goal training pace: McMillan Running  is a great resource for finding your training paces.
      • Not sure how to use their site? Feel free to message me and I’ll do my best to help you!
      • Having a goal pace will help motivate you on the track, road or treadmill. Maybe you can’t hit the pace yet (or you can only hold it for 5/10 repetitions) but that’s why you’re training: to get better, faster and stronger!
    • Expect to be tired! Speed workouts will tax your body unlike any other run! They are often shorter in duration, but a much harder effort.
      • My narcoleptic episodes hit midday. Anyone notice how I haven’t been blogging as much recently? Well that’s because I’m passed out on the couch!  If I need a nap and Lilly is napping I ignore the dirty laundry and sneak in a 30 min snooze.
foam roller

Recovery is part of the process. Meet bengay, heating pad and foam roller- my three best friends during training!

Recovery is a critical component of speed work! Recovery includes the following:

    • Hydrating and properly refueling after rigorous workouts
    • Foam rollering/stretching
    • Compression socks!
    • Running EASY (shorter distance/slower pace) or crosstrain the day after speedwork
    • Most importantly, listen to your body

 

3 Sample speedwork drills

1. Track workout: 10 x 400 with 200 m slow recovery jog.

Translation: Run 1 lap around track @ training pace (found here), jog for half a lap, then go again! Repeat 10x. (about 4 miles total)

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The blue line marks my change in pace during a recent track workout- 10×400.
The farther the line dips down, the faster I ran. Ideally a runner will maintain the same peak pace across all 10 repetitions- so don’t run your first repeat too fast!

 

2. Interval road speedwork: 10 x one minute speed bursts @ race effort (pace will differ depending on elevation change)

Translation: Warm up for about 1-1.5 miles. When ready run hard for 1 min @ 5k pace (or faster), jog for 1 minute. Complete 10 repetitions. Cool down jog for 5-10 min. (About 35-40 minutes total.

 

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A recent 10×1 minute speedwork run.
Notice how my pace (blue line) isn’t as predictable and consistent as during the track workout graph above. That’s primarily due to changes in elevation throughout the run. It’s OK (and realistic) to be unable to maintain the same pace throughout the entire speed burst- as long as you’re putting in the same effort, the results will come!

 

3. Road speedwork: 3 x 2 miles (see workout above) or 3 x 15 minutes.

Translation: 1 mile warm up, run at half-marathon pace (or simply put- a sustainable, but challenging pace), 5 min recovery jog (repeat two more times), 1 mile cool down.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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