Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Speedwork 101

When you're a new runner, or even if you've been at it for a while, understanding some of the pacing terms can be confusing. Tempos? Marathon pace? Fartlek? What does it all mean? Below I've listed some of the common terms and what they really mean:

Fartlek--This is a Swedish term that means speedplay. Basically, after warming up, you can throw in a variety of distances and paces to challenge yourself. For instance, you might run a ladder--2 minutes hard/2 easy, 4 minutes hard/2 easy, 6 minutes hard/2 easy, and back down again. Or, you could choose to go hard from one streetlamp to another. It's a less structured workout than others and for that reason, it can also be a lot of fun.

Pace runs--If you have an upcoming event that is important to you--say a 1/2 marathon or marathon--running varying distances at your goal pace is a great way to get your body to learn what that feels like. So say you have an upcoming 1/2 marathon and your goal is a 9-minute pace. After warming up, spend 2 to 4 miles running at that 9-minute pace, and then cooldown.

Intervals--These are shorter periods of fast running followed by short periods of recovery. You can run intervals on the road or track. Shorter intervals, which can range from 200 to 800 meters, are probably best run on the track, are most suited for shorter races, like 5ks or 10ks, and should be run hard. Between each one, jog easily but don't recover completely. Longer intervals, from 1,200 to 1,600 meters, are often run around goal race pace. Mile repeats at 1/2 marathon or marathon pace, is one example.

Tempo--This is one of those murky terms that seem to have many definitions. I personally like, and feel as if I benefit from, tempo efforts. Tempo might be described as "comfortably hard," a distance you can maintain for a few miles, but at an effort that challenges you beyond your normal aerobic pace. See? Murky. For me this ends up being around a 10-miler race pace. How long you hold it varies widely too, but I'd recommend anywhere from two to five miles, depending on your fitness level.

Keep in mind that no matter what type of speedwork you choose, you should first have a solid base underneath you. Ease into it with shorter distances or fewer repeats. Don't be tempted to run back-to-back speedwork either--this will only invite injury. And if you're just getting started, you don't want more than one day per week of speedwork in your routine.

Feel free to email me with any questions.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Easy Peasy

When we're training for an event, it's easy to get caught up in wanting to do lots of speedwork in order to improve. Speedwork is important, don't get me wrong--you have to go fast to be fast. But the majority of your running should be at a much more sedate pace.

Keeping the majority of your miles easy will serve a few purposes. For one, it helps stave off injuries. For another, it trains your body to tap into fat for fuel. And you know what? Most of us have enough fat on our bodies to sustain for an entire marathon! But all that fat does you no good if you haven't trained your body to access it.

How much time should you spend doing speedwork? Assuming you have a good base under you, speedwork should account for about 10 percent of your weekly total. So if you're running 30 miles per week, a safe amount of speedwork would be 3 miles per week. The more experienced you become, and the more miles you add to your base, the more time you can spend at faster speeds, within reason.

The rest of your training should be at a more relaxed, fairly conversational pace. On long runs, aim for a pace a minute to a minute and a half slower per mile than your marathon pace. Don't know this pace? One easy formula for determining your pace is to train at 80 percent effort or less--80 percent of the pace you could run the same distance in a race (assuming that's 100 percent).

So the next time you're tempted to pick up the pace on your long run with buddies, hold back a bit. Your running will thank you in the long run.