Can you do speed training everyday?
The short answer is yes and no.
In the pursuit of speed, people often ask: can you do speed training everyday? In fact, this is the most frequently asked question on google related to speed training.
So to answer the question at hand, you need to look at and consider a number of factors, all of which play a role in answering whether or not you can do speed training everyday:
- What you define as speed training
- Your training age & skill level (number of months or years dedicated to training & your actual speed capabilities)
- Your chronological age (your actual age)
- Your physical state (injuries, health, strength, etc.)
So let us get to it and figure out the answer - can you do speed training everyday?
Factor #1 - How do you define speed training?
If you take a nice stroll through the internet, you'll find quite a range of definitions for speed training. Some might call doing the wall drill and some 400m repeats speed work, while I myself would define speed training with a much more narrow definition, which is something to the tune of:
- Sprints done at 90% or above
- Variations include
- Various distances ranging from 25-50m in length
- Sprints from blocks or a stationary starting position
- Flying sprints done with a maximal velocity zone of 10-30m in length
- Wicket sprints done at near maximal intensity
Now, if you follow my definition of speed training, then the answer is a resounding NO, you cannot do speed training everyday. But, since definitions are not concrete things, there are definitions of what speed training is which could allow you to do speed training everyday.
If you have a holistically developed speed training program which has an ultimate goal of developing speed, then you could perform your speed training program and be in a fantastic position to run fast and stay injury free. What constitutes a holistic speed training program? Something like this:
- High Intensity Training Means
- Low Intensity & Active Recovery Means
- Tempo Endurance Training
- Runs from 50-75% in distances of 100-300m, aiming for fitness and little to no CNS stress
- General Strength Circuits
- Mobility Work
- Stationary Bike work
- Tempo Endurance Training
Now, if you consider the above bulleted list to be speed training, then the answer is a resounding YES, you can do speed training everyday.
Side note: You see, this is why having a clear idea of what you mean by a given term can make or break a discussion on any topic. I could post on Instagram about why you can or cannot do speed training everyday, and then have a bunch of angry comments telling me why I am wrong, when really there is a misunderstanding what is defined by the term speed training. A lot of people argue over things that actually agree on, thanks to a lapse in communication
Factor #2 - What is your training age & skill level?
Depending on how long you've been training, you may or may not be able to get away with doing more or less speed training than the guy next to you. In the Charlie Francis Key Concepts Elite eBook, there is a diagram which shows training age relative to the amount of lactic vs alactic work that an athlete should perform. Over the first few years of an athlete's development, increases in lactic training are suggested, but then drop off after year 3+. They are still present, but take up a lower percentage of the total workload relative to other qualities.
Stu McMillan also talks about this topic in a slightly different context, where he mentions how faster athletes need not, and should not train speed as much as someone who is slower. Why? Well for one, the faster guy does not need to gain speed but rather maintain it and stay healthy, while the slower guy needs to develop and increase his running speed. Second, faster people running at 100% intensity will experience much more stress than someone who is half as fast but running at the same relative intensity. If I go to the track with my 8 year old brother and we both sprint at 100%, it is likely that I will have greater fatigue in the days to follow, because I am capable of stressing my body and my nervous system to a higher degree.
Side Note: This is also why when a long distance runner says "you have it easy, you barely have to run far at all," they are mistaken. A slow person could never understand what the fatigue and pain feels like to blast a 250 as fast as possible, because their ability to tax their system from a short sprint is far lower than that of a faster sprinter who is capable of much higher absolute intensity outputs.
Moral of the story is this - exceptions and outliers aside, slower people can run near max more often than faster people because of the fact that the fatigue incurred from sprinting at a slow 100% is less than that of someone sprinting at a fast 100%. The faster you get, and the longer you train for, the more tactical you will need to be with planning and implementing speed specific training.
Factor #3 - What is your chronological age?
Piggybacking on this last point, your chronological age is also an important factor. Kim Collins, the oldest sprinter to ever run in the 9.x range for the 100m dash, stated that the secret to PR'ing at 39 years old was to not overdo it in training - and by that he was referring to not blasting maximal effort sprints all the time. Nobody can run fast if their ass is on the bench, and your risk of injury is pretty much bound to go up as you age. As such, older athletes need to be more aware of the signs of fatigue accrual or impending injury, and know when to tone things back or when to turn things up. Testosterone filled high-schoolers are going to be able to recover a greater density of speed work than say a 28 year old athlete in their last Olympic cycle. You might be 50 and need to sprint once per week to stay healthy. Whatever the case, keep in mind that chronological age affects your ability to train for speed on a daily basis.
Factor #4 - What is your physical state?
Regardless of your age, your physical state is the most important factor to consider with regards to deciding how frequently you can train for speed. If you have nagging biceps femoris issues that never seem to go away, then it would be ill-advised for you to go sprint from blocks and do flying 30's every day of the week. On the flip side, someone who has zero injury history (a.k.a. unicorns - they probably don't exist) is obviously more apt to sprint fast on a regular basis, maybe 3-4 times per week.
Instead of trying to fit your training in to some conceptual model you pulled out of your ass and convinced yourself is gospel, take a step back and look at each day from this perspective:
- Am I capable of performing high quality, high intensity work today?
- If not, what can I do to put my body in a state of readiness so that I can train speed in the near future?
- If I can't do that, what can I do to fix the issue which are preventing me from being able to perform speed training?
If you plan your training around when your body is ready to put in high quality work, then you are bound to have more success. If instead, you are like most of us who convince ourselves of some BS plan we must execute at all costs, then you can look forward to a career of injury and poor performances.
Your body will, 9 times out of 10, tell you whether or not you should sprint fast on a given day. Every single serious injury that I have had was preceded by signs that I recognized and chose to not listen to. Don't be me! Listen to the signs, and figure out plan B's and plan C's so that you can keep working without regressing. This may take days, weeks, or more, but the only thing you can do is listen to your body and do what you can based off of those signals. Ignore your physical state and you are bound to have a bad time.
So, when it comes to the question - can you do speed training everyday - the answer is the ever-present "it depends." This answer depends on your definition of speed training, your training age, your chronological age, and your physical state.
If you set up a holistic speed training program, keep in mind how long you've been training and how old you are, and always listen to your body, then you will be able to do something everyday which will contribute to training speed everyday. In some cases, this may be doing nothing - and that is totally fine. In fact, complete rest days are absolutely necessary for you to recover from accrued fatigue.
So, the next time you go out to sprint, make sure your body is ready and you are feeling good. Then, all that is left is to go out, do some speed training, and enjoy yourself.
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