Category Archives: Speed Work

Hill Repeats

I ran hill repeats on Monday morning. I had to ask around for where I could find some good hills to run the repeats on. A hill on the West River Parkway was suggested heading towards Franklin Ave. It was a pretty long hill so I chose a segment of it, which ended up being .16 miles or 258 meters. It was a good hill to run up and down 10 times in the sub-zero wind chill. Below is an elevation graph from the run:

Each repeat had an approximate gain of 44ft while overall during the 5.6 mile run I gained 9 feet of elevation. Not sure how that happened since I started and finished in the same spot! Just thought I’d show you this nice graph!

[tags] Hill Workout, Hills, Training [/tags]

What is a Superset?

This past week I ran a superset workout on Monday. It is a little confusing and took a little research on my part to figure out exactly what it meant when I first saw it. My workout on Monday was: Run 2 x 400/800/1200 meter supersets. It also had pace goals and rest intervals included.

In my training review post I described it as simply “a 1.5 mile interval with alternating paces inside the interval.” Supersets are also sometimes called compound sets and are great for building lactate threshold, VO2 max, running economy, and finishing speed, according to Running Planet.

Body builders use “supersetting” to “build more muscle in a shorter period of time.” Body Building for You defines it this way:

A superset is an advanced training technique where you perform two exercises in a row with virtually no rest in between. Supersets are an excellent technique for muscular development, especially if you are short on time. Supersets are not, however, the most effective technique for building strength or power.

Matthew McConaughey actually does weight-lifting supersets to become an action figure!

Back to the running side of things! Running Planet’s Rick Morris says:

Interval training has been used for many years and is highly effective in building your fitness. But running super sets can provide you with even higher levels of fitness and race performance. Running super sets are very similar to strength super sets. You perform two or more intervals at different paces without a rest period.

He describes three types of supersets –

1) Drop Sets – like the one in my training week these sets start out at near full speed and then back down the pace as the distance increases. These are designed to help your body: “become more efficient at clearing that lactic acid and using it to produce energy. Starting with a very fast pace also makes your 5K and 10K paces feel easier. You become a more efficient runner and are able to “float” or “glide” with a more relaxed stride at race pace.”
2) Progressive Sets – are the exact opposite, you start with a longer and slower distance and then increase it to full speed at a shorter distance. This is a pre-exhaustion workout designed to “help with your finishing kick and train your body to run fast when fatigued.”

3) Compound Sets – combine the drop and progressive sets into one workout. These are similar to ladder workouts where you increase your distance and then bring it back down – valley compound set. You can also do it the other way around and start with a longer distance and decrease it before increasing your distance again – peak compound set. These types of sets are designed to replicate the peaks and valleys of racing.

Supersetting isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend super sets for everyone, it is part of the training program so the training is designed around the intensity of supersetting. In fact my college cross-country coach doesn’t recommend super sets at all.

His thoughts:

Although a lot of people start off too fast in a race and gradually slow down, it is an inefficient way to race. Therefore, I would not recommend training your body in a way that would be an inefficient way to race.

When we talked about supersets I didn’t have all the information I presented to you to present to him, so I don’t know if that would change his opinion or not. But I think the fact that not many training programs use supersets makes a strong argument.

Last year during training I missed a couple of the early superset workouts so I opted out of the later ones as well. We’ll see what happens this year as I train “properly” from the beginning!

[tags] Super Sets, Speed Work, Training, Intervals [/tags]

A Lost Art: Accelerations

We accelerate our cars by pushing down on the accelerator (gas pedal), but we often forget to accelerate our running.

I recently switched training programs and now after every easy run I’m supposed to do accelerations. I remember how important these are because we use to do them a lot at Taylor, but since then I haven’t done them much but did do their close cousin: strides.

Accelerations are different than strides but have many of the same benefits. Often part of a broader plyometric set (or speed form training), accelerations are simple and can be done anywhere you run. All you need is about 100 yards of smooth surface.

The purpose of speed-form training is to improve your leg turnover (or stride frequency, as some call it), power, running economy, and relaxation while running. Runner’s World

Accelerations should be done after your body is already warmed-up, you should run for at least 10 minutes before doing these. It is best to already have a decent level of conditioning and some speed work history. If you haven’t done any speedwork you should focus on strides first.

  1. Pick a starting and ending point,
  2. Begin slowly. I usually walk the first step or two
  3. gradually accelerate (pick up speed).
  4. The last 10 meters or so should be at 100% but should feel smooth, as if you are gliding.
  5. Recover for about 100 meters or 2 minutes and repeat.

Build up to doing between 4 or 5 accelerations.

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A Lost Art: Striding

To become faster you have to train your body to be faster.

Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner, describes strides as…

…gradual accelerations over 60 to 80 meters. By running four to six strides several times a week, you help your legs and the rest of your body remember what it’s like to run fast. Without strides or some type of speed-form drill, it’s easy to get sloppy in your running and do only slow running with bad form. You can find yourself slipping into a pattern where you’re training to run slowly and inefficiently rather than faster and more economically.

Strides should be done after your body is already warmed-up, you should run for at least 10 minutes before doing these. It is best to already have some level of conditioning but you can add more strides each week. Focus on your form, staying smooth, you shouldn’t be straining your body.

  1. Pick a starting and ending point (about 100 meters),
  2. Begin at a slow jog
  3. Increasing your speed to 80-90% within the first 30 meters
  4. Maintaining that pace throughout the distance.
  5. Recover for about 100 meters or 2 minutes and repeat.

Build up to doing between 4 or 5 strides.

In the Complete Book of Running Coach Roy Benson says

Do short sprints (strides) with a fast, but easy, effort. Think legs, not lungs. The idea is to use as big a range of motion and as rapid a turnover as possible but for a short enough distance so that you never huff and puff.

A full list of running drills can be found at Running Planet.

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Fartleking Fun

We all want to improve our performance to some degree and I imagine most of us want to become the best that we can in running and life. To get better we have to stretch ourselves, take our mind or body someplace where its not been before.

In running as in life, there are many avenues to pursue improvement.  Probably one of the quickest ways to improve your running performance is to incorporate speed workouts.  Speed work provides three primary benefits:

  • Helps improve form,
  • Trains your body to handle Oxygen debt, and
  • Helps push through mental barriers that may be holding you back.

Under speed work there are three broad umbrellas:

    1. Hill Workouts
    2. Interval Training
    3. Fartleks

Each has a unique benefit and purpose and will help you overcome mid-race fatigue, poor finishing stretch, and overcoming oxygen debt. In my opinion Fartleks are the easiest way to do incorporate speed training into your workout schedule. Note: You should have a decent base before incorporating any speedwork into your training.

Fartlek, Fartlek, Fartlek

The word almost sounds profane, I mean who wants to lick a fart? It actually is a Swedish word meaning “speed play.”  That is precisely what you should do with a fartlek: play and have fun!  When the Europeans first popularized this aspect of training they didn’t base their “intervals” on time, but on random points during a run.

Basically a fartlek is adding a short period of acceleration, followed by a recovery, and repeating it.  Most runners generally do Fartleks by time 1 minute on, 1 minute off, etc. Fartleks train you to push through your fatigue and help you during a race when you need to put a surge in to catch a passing competitor. Your off or rest pace should ideally return you back to your regular pace.

Fartleks are great because they can be done anywhere and at anytime, they are also more fun than running repeat intervals at a track and can produce some of the benefits.  Fartleks can be done if you need to throw in some speed work but your base is a little weak, it is also done a lot towards the beginning of a training schedule to help get your legs use to running fast.

How do I do it?

It really depends on where you run, what your training looks like, and what your goal is.  I’ve done fartleks at Mounds and on the road.  Here is a sample fartlek on the road while training for a 10K:

Warmup – 10 minutes

1 minute at 10K pace – 1 minute recovery

2 minutes at 10K pace – 2 minute recovery

3 minutes at 10K pace – 3 minute recovery

2 minutes at 10K pace – 2 minute recovery

1 minute at 10K pace – 1 minute recovery

Cooldown – 10 minutes

I usually extend the cooldown to finish the course that I’m running, but you could also extend the warmup to get your mileage.  You can add more accelerations, make them longer, or do whatever you want (remember to have fun).  I would also note that when I say 10K pace, that should be goal pace, not your most recent 10K pace. In reality, pacing on a fartlek is about how you feel, it shouldn’t be 100% effort but maybe closer to 85%. Hard but not too hard.

Good luck and I’d like to hear your comments about Fartleking!

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