By Dave Manthey
Our Speed workouts are not “races” and so you don’t need to come out and prove that you’ve “got it” every single week. (Because you won’t.) Joel and I don’t want you to bludgeon yourself to death because that’s not smart training! If you are tired/gassed or have never done our Speed workouts before, it’s OK to back down the intensity a bit. It’s better to get in the mileage and feel fresh for your Saturday long runs versus have to cut back in other areas of your training because you’re too sore after pushing it harder than you should have on Tuesday. This is TRAINING SMART – It’s SpeedWORK, not SpeedRACE. Save the all-out efforts for race day! But on the flipside… If you have a big goal that you are committing to (setting a new PR, qualifying for Boston, etc.), and if you are feeling good… Then you should absolutely push it harder if you’re feeling good. The Kenyan’s train this way… If they are feeling good they will go hard, but if they don’t have it, then they shut it down a bit. Pushing too hard when you “don’t got it” isn’t going to do much good for your training (although it may make you mentally tougher).
- Pace does not matter – Exertion DOES. Research shows that runners benefit the most during hill workouts by keeping their heartrate consistent. So try to avoid the “surge, crash, walk” blow-up that can plague people during hill workouts. (If you’re breathing so heavy that you’re forced to walk/stop that’s because you’ve gone anaerobic, which means your muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen for the demands you are putting on them!) By keeping your Perceived Effort (PE) and pace consistent, you’ll be able to run the entire workout confidently, gain more physiologically, AND you will recover faster.
- Take it easy on the first repeat – If you’ve never done this workout, don’t get caught off guard by trying to smoke the first one. Try to progressively make each repeat slightly faster as you get towards the end of the workout. We always stress that for every Speed workout, but you should follow that mantra even moreso for this one. You don’t want to blow up early and ruin the entire workout… So your goal should be to make that final repeat your best one!
- Focus on form. Even if you get tired, you must maintain your focus on proper form. You’re better off doing each repeat slightly slower than you could, if that means you maintain better form. (Not to mention you won’t crash, like I mentioned in #2 above.) That means NOT slouching, running “tall” with a straight back and open shoulders, using your glutes/hips/core, staying forward on your feet (not heel-striking), using short/quick/light steps (see #4 below), driving forward with your knees and pumping your arms for momentum, etc. Faster repeats with sloppy form is a big no-no.
- Short, powerful, quick steps are what works best. Trying to “stride out” longer to eat up more ground only means you’ll be landing with your feet not underneath your core, and that puts more load/strain on the hammies, and will wear you out so fast because it’s just not efficient. The steeper the pitch, the shorter your stride-length should be (also true for downhill running). Try to imagine yourself on a bicycle, and shifting into a “granny gear” where you are able to spin faster up a steep hill, without trying to overpower the pedals.
- If you are battling tweaks and small injuries, arrive a little early to spend 15-20 minutes to do some good stretching of those longer muscles, especially the glutes/hammies and calves. Then during the workout, use pain as a guideline. For example: if you have a nagging calf issue that flares up after the first few repeats then it’s OK to say “that’s all for me today”, as trying to run through an injury may set you back several weeks in your training, or worse… Cause you to miss your target race completely. Remember that each workout we do is one of many, and if you miss one or have to cut it short, that’s OK. Because you can’t set a PR in your race if you can’t even make it to the start line!