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Rick's Corner

Exceeding the Workout

If you want to be faster, one of the staples of your program must be some form of speed work. There are several types, which I’ll describe in a later post, but for the moment, I’ll address the tendency of most people to over-do whatever forms of speed work they choose.

It’s an extremely easy trap because you think that if doing x will make you faster, then doing x-plus will make you faster yet. Actually, the reverse is usually the case. If you overdo your speed work, you risk one of two unpleasant fates: (a) you’ll hurt yourself, or (b) you won’t recover adequately between workouts and will gradually go downhill-getting slower, rather than faster. The best you can hope for is making yourself spectacularly tired doing things you don’t need to do.

If you’re serious about running, every workout has a purpose. On your easy runs, that purpose may simply be to get outside, enjoy the sun (or rain) and hang out with your friends. But in speed work, it’s more carefully defined, and you need to know the right pace. Every good training book has a chart that’s worth the price of the book. In Alberto’s and mine, there’s a table I refer to again and again and again-even though I wrote it. Jack Daniels’ book also has a good table. These, or similar sources (ultimately including your own experience) are the sources of your target paces, distances, and numbers of repeats for any given workout.

When using these charts, it’s critical to do so correctly. Alberto’s and my system (which, obviously, is largely Alberto’s) is built around your present race times in standard race distances, such as the 5K. Daniels’ is similar. They are not built around your target race time. That’s because it’s too easy to overestimate your present abilities and set yourself an excessively difficult program.

When I do workouts, I take pride in hitting each interval as close to the target pace as possible, perhaps with a very small speed-up as the workout progresses and I continue to warm up (which happens even if you’re well warmed up when you start). One of the workouts I’m most proud of was a set of 6 x 800 repeats for which that day’s target was somewhere around 3:10. I hit: 3:09.2, 3:09.0, 309:3, 3:08, 3:07, 3:06.5. As anyone who was around that day knows, I was very happy.

When you’re running with a training partner, this means you may have to let your partner outpace you. That’s difficult, but can be mastered. I once ran a dozen quarters with a partner whose target pace was six seconds per lap faster than mine. I was intrigued to discover that when my training partner was as little as a half-second off on pace, so was I, in the same direction. Once you get used to precision pacing, the “rubber band” effect really can be that precise. 

There are several important corollaries to all of this: 

o If two runners target 80-sec quarters, the “best on the track” award goes to the one who does, 81-79-81-80-79-80-79-81, rather than the one who does 76-77-79-81-83-84-85-75, even though you’re both averaging 80s. Nor is it good to be all over the map, as in 77-81-76-83-79-84-75-85. In that case, you’re alternately hurting yourself and over-recovering. 

o Going too fast (other than minor errors) is worse than too slow. 

o There is no point in sprinting to the finish of your last repeat just to make it the fastest. For that matter, there’s no point in sprinting the last part of any repeat. It’s OK to finish slightly strong, but “steady pace” is generally the name of the game. 

If you find yourself bonking in the middle of a workout, it means you went out too fast in the first repeat or set too fast a target pace. Consider pulling the plug on the rest of the workout. Save the proving how tough you are for the race. 

©2005 by Richard A. Lovett. All rights reserved.

See this at http://running.richardalovett.com. If people want to come to my site, that’s great.

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