You Better (speed) Work

Deep down in the cockles of my heart, I’ve always known that a balanced training routine must inevitably include some form of speed work.  And I’ve also always known that I would like to shave some seconds (or even minutes, depending on the distance) off my race times.  So even though I’ve never really considered myself a big fan of speed workouts, I’ve always been able to appreciate their value, and tried to make them a part of my training.  This has been more successful at some times than at others, but I’m happy to report that lately, I’ve been pretty consistent with it!

Now, I’m slightly confused by the logic of my current training plan’s speed work.  Since working on your speed can take a few different forms (tempo runs, fartlek, intervals, hill training), and each of these forms has its own merits, I thought this plan would put me in pretty good shape.


I’m just starting week 8, and I’m a little confused about why I did two weeks of mile repeats and am now doing two weeks of half-mile repeats?  All things considered it seems like the half-mile repeats would come before the mile repeats, which would involve greater stamina.  And since this is half-marathon training, you’re kind of looking for both speed and stamina…right?  But maybe this is part and parcel of being the type who usually neglects speed work–you end up not knowing these things and making all the wrong assumptions!

Now having 7 somewhat solid (let’s say Jell-O consistency) weeks of speed work inclusive training under my belt, I finally feel like I may be coming around to the whole idea of it.  For a long time I just thought of it as torture, hence the reason I was so loathe to do it in spite of being familiar with its benefits.  There’s something about running your mile repeats in the pouring rain, or finishing half-mile repeats that you weren’t sure you’d have the endurance to do, that makes you feel like you can take on the world in the way that no other workout does.  Sure, a long run gives you a sense of accomplishment, but the satisfaction you get from running intervals is just different somehow.  I think a lot of it has to do with hitting your pain threshold and really having to test yourself mentally and physically.  And then there’s also the concrete aspect of it–you can see your splits, and easily keep track of how much you’ve improved.

One of the many things I love about running is how you can set out for five miles, and finish them–you don’t have an incomplete project hanging over you the way you might at work.  But there’s also an element of it that is open-ended, since there’s always the question of how much further you can push yourself, whether or not you’ll be able to finish that marathon, or finish the distance you have to run this weekend (I’m already nervous about my 10 miles).  That’s the beauty of speed work, though.  It’s part of a bigger project, but it’s also an entirely separate entity unto itself that can put you in touch with parts of yourself that running at a steady pace can’t.  After spending last week feeling like I might be falling into a running rut, this evening’s workout has me feeling revitalized and excited about the training week ahead.  I don’t know that I’d feel the same way if I’d set out for a few miles at a 9:30 pace.


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  1. i think it’s something about ‘building endurance-speed’ and then later in the training phase you are ‘sharpening’. plus the shorter distances are less taxing on the body. i think anyway… i haven’t read my jack daniels’ / pfitz books in awhile but i think that’s what they say…

    personally i feel like as long as i do speedwork *period* i’m doing some good for myself. i don’t feel like the science of it really matters since i’m not an elite… but i may just be selling myself short and maybe this theory is good for everyone.

    1. oh and sharpening = tuning up for the race and the shorter distances allow you to still get in some speedwork but without wearing out your muscles/muscle fibers as much.

      (again this is just what i think i remember)

    2. I knew you would have some insight into this! I should probably start reading more about speed work, but I have to admit that while I was running and thinking about how weird I found the order of the workouts I thought ‘maybe Lindsay will have a good answer for this’. Haha. I guess what confused me was that ultimately it was the same distance just in shorter intervals…I don’t know, maybe that doesn’t matter.

      You’re right, though, that it probably doesn’t really matter all that much at this level. As long as I’m doing something I’m in good shape.

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