Speedwork Makes the Dream Work!

track-workoutIf you dream of running a faster marathon or half marathon you will need to incorporate speedwork into your training.

I personally loath speedwork.

But I know it’s good for me (like eating beets). Every time I’ve incorporated speedwork into my training I’ve markedly improved in the marathon.

No wonder Angie assigns speedwork to all her coaching clients who want to PR. Speedwork makes the dream work!

In this post I will explain key speed workouts you can use to get faster.

Speedwork to Make You Faster

Speedwork is defined as increasing the pace of your run, according to a schedule, to improve leg power, strength, and confidence; training yourself to go faster

You should aim for doing one of these drills per week as long as you’re injury free (except for the week of your marathon) during your training cycle.

Tempo Runs

tempoA tempo run is when you try to maintain a comfortably hard or challenging pace. This builds speed and teaches the body to run at a certain pace (prescribed on your training plan). They are usually run at a maximum of 80-85% heart rate.

Example: If your total mileage for the day is “6 miles” then you would . . .

  • 1 mile easy warm-up
  • 4 miles at tempo pace
  • 1 mile easy cool-down


Mile repeats (MR)

mile-repeatMile repeats are a good way to build reps into your run and alternate intensity. They are like tempo runs with short rest periods built in.

  • Warm up by running easy for 1 mile.
  • Run 1 mile hard (pace on schedule) with a 400m (or .25 mile) easy recovery jog after
  • Repeat.
  • Finish with 1 mile easy cool-down run.

For example, if your total miles to run is 7 you would run 1 mile easy; then 1 mile hard with a 400m recovery jog; 1 mile hard with a 400m recovery jog; 1 mile hard with a 400m recovery jog; 1 mile hard with a 400m recovery jog; and 1 mile cool down).


Yasso 800s

Yasso-800This is a speed workout and marathon time predictor invented by Bart Yasso. It involves running sets of 800 meters with 400 meters easy in between. It is best performed on a track. By using the average of your 800 meter times you can get an estimate of what your marathon time could be. Even if you don’t use it as a time predictor it’s still a great speed workout!

Here’s an example of how to do Yasso 800s. Let’s say the training plan called for 10 sets,

  • Run 1 mile easy to warm up.
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time.
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap
  • Run 800 meters hard and write down your time
  • Do a 400 meter recovery lap

Take all your times and throw out the fastest and slowest. Now average the rest and it should be a rough estimate of your marathon finishing time. If you averaged 4:00 then you might in a good enough shape to run a 4 hour marathon. Again, this is only a rough estimate.

You can also reverse engineer Yasso 800s. If you have the goal of running a 4 hour marathon then you should try to do each 800 meter set in 4:00. The theory is, if you can do 10 sets at 4:00 then you have what it takes to run a 4 hour marathon. Still confused? Here’s a video of Bart Yasso himself explaining it.


Strides

stridesStrides are short, controlled bursts of running (50-150 meters) to work on form and efficiency (sometimes done at the end of a workout).

Example:

  • Warm up by running 2 miles easy.
  • Then run 20 seconds hard followed by 40 seconds easy.
  • Repeat hard/easy sequence for total number of times on schedule.
  • Finish remaining distance at easy pace.


Intervals

intervalsInterval training is a speed workout where a set distance is run repeatedly with recovery jogs in between to build speed and aerobic capacity.

Example: “30/30 Intervals”

  • Run 2 miles easy
  • Then run 30 seconds hard followed by 30 seconds easy.
  • Repeat hard/easy sequence for total number of times on schedule.
  • Finish remaining distance at easy pace.


Ladder Workout

ladderLadder workout is where increasing intervals are run with recovery jogs in between; 200m-400m-600m-800m. This needs to be done at a running track. Remember, 1 time around a standard running track equals 400 meters.

Example: This ladder workout adds up to 8 miles.

  • Run 2 miles easy to warm up.
  • 400 meters moderately hard
  • 400 meters easy
  • 800 meters moderately hard
  • 400 meters easy
  • 1,200 meters moderately hard
  • 400 meters easy
  • 1,600 meters moderately hard
  • 400 meters easy
  • 1,200 meters moderately hard
  • 400 meters easy
  • 800 meters moderately hard
  • 400 meters easy
  • 400 meters moderately hard
  • 800 meters cool down


How to Make the Dream Work . . .

Every marathon training plan we offer here at MTA that targets a specific finishing time will have one speedwork or hillwork day per week. There will also be easy runs, cross-training, long runs, and rest.

If your personality type is upholder like Angie, getting speedwork done is just a matter of scheduling it in.

If you hate speedwork, like me, just realize that it MAKES THE DREAM WORK! It will be difficult to PR or BQ without it. So, the reward is worth the suffering. Visualize yourself as a speedwork machine.

As Chris Russel told us in podcast episode 137 – Qualifying for Boston, the track is a “dark place that you must force yourself to visit in your quest to run a BQ. Learn to relax into discomfort and focus on your mechanics”.

As your body changes and you get faster, you might even long for more.

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4 Responses to Speedwork Makes the Dream Work!

  1. Donghun May 9, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    Thansks for the good tips! It’s really helpful.

    • Trevor Spencer May 10, 2016 at 8:32 am #

      Glad you liked it!

  2. Adolfo Salgueiro May 10, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    Great timing… I am putting together my training plan for the Buenos Aires Marathon on October 9th and this will certainly be helpful.

    • Trevor Spencer May 10, 2016 at 8:32 am #

      Now that sounds like a fun destination marathon!

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