Quick fix to speed

2004-07-20 12:37
As a coach I used to struggle with the three primary ingredients of training: How much work does each individual need to succeed, what constitutes too much, and how often can a runner train without breaking down? There was also the question of how hard did training need to be to be both effective and safe?

That's why I developed training sessions designed to test and train for these requirements and I have shared many of these in Runner's World after testing them with runners of all abilities.

Make it count

It's hard enough to find the time to train, so don't waste time training ineffectually. In order to avoid this, you need to test your current form and adapt your training accordingly.

Once baselines have been established, you can embark on a series of workouts that specifically address the area you are working on and, after a time, either race or retest to see if it's working.

VO2max (a runner's ability to utilise oxygen) has been touted as a good indicator of performance. It isn't. What is important is the minimum running SPEED at which we reach our VO2max. This is our vVO2max.

Under the bonnet

If, for example, you have a car with a 5-litre V8 engine, but it has axels made of wire, tyres made of plywood that point inwards and one gear, it is not going to be able to travel at 160km per hour! So while this car has a high VO2max (5-litre V8 engine), it has a very low vVO2max.

In contrast, a little 1000cc car with a good frame, suitable tyres, good wheel alignment and gearing designed for high speeds can travel at 145km per hour. While this car has a smaller VO2max, it has a better vVO2max.

Another factor that training can greatly impact is a runner's tlimvVO2max - the duration of time you can run at your vVO2max. For example, let's say Katie has a VO2max of 55. She achieves this VO2max at 5min/km (vVO2max) and can maintain this pace for 20 minutes (her tlimvVO2max). Training can marginally improve her VO2max, but can significantly improve her vVO2max as well as her tlimvVO2max. Here's how to do it.

Hit the track

After warming up, run at even pace on a 400m track for 20 minutes, keeping track of each lap time. Record the total distance covered. If your pace was uneven, especially if you slowed dramatically in the later laps, the test is less accurate. If this happens, rerun the test three or more days later at a more suitable pace.

Let's say you ran 4250 metres in the 20 minutes. Firstly, 20 minutes converted to seconds equals 1200 seconds, and this divided by the distance covered is .2823529 seconds per metre. Multiply by 400 and you get 112.94116 seconds per 400m, which is equal to 1 minute 53 seconds - your test pace per 400m.

Putting it to use

Now that you know your 400m pace, set aside two days out of every 10 to do your quality work, e.g. Monday of the first week (day 1) and Wednesday of the second week (day 2). Train over a 6-week period, alternating the first and second week programmes.

On day 1 run at the 400m pace as determined by your 20-minute test for the time indicated by the workout (see below). Using the example above, run 4x5 minutes at 1 minute 53 seconds per 400m. Rest for 1 minute between the repetitions and 3 minutes between the sets.

On day 2 run 4 seconds faster per 400m. Using the example this would be 1 minute 49 seconds per 400m. In these workouts the rest between repetitions is 3 minutes, and 5 to 7 minutes between sets.

Day 1

Week 1 4x5:00 and 5x4:00

Week 3 3x7:00 and 4x5:00Week 6 2x10:00 and 3x7:00

Day 2

Week 2 4x3:00 and 5x2:30

Week 4 3x4:00 and 4x3:00

Week 5 2x6:30 and 3x4:00

If you are doing hilly runs, easy runs and long runs in between with sufficient rest, you will improve.

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