Speed Workouts For Distance Runners
Why Use Speed Workouts For Distance Runners?
In general, the bulk of training utilized by a distance runner is in the form of endurance training. From long runs to interval training, athletes who compete in the 800m, 1600m or 1 mile, 3200m or 2 mile, and the 10km run all build their training around endurance. This should come as no surprise, as the primary stressor of these events is the duration over which they take place.
While endurance training is of the utmost importance for distance runners, many distance runners fail to achieve as much success as possible because they neglect to use speed workouts in their distance running program. Distance runners can benefit from including speed training in their running program in the following ways:
- Increasing speed reserve.
- Increase training speed.
- Improving the kick at the end of the race.
- Improving running economy.
Increasing Speed Reserve
Speed reserve is essentially the idea that, when comparing two athletes, the faster athlete will run faster at every level of perceived exertion or effort.
Say two athletes are both running at 80% effort, but one athlete can achieve a 1 m/s higher maximal velocity than the other athlete. Given that their endurance qualities are similar and appropriate for their given event, the athlete who can run faster will beat the other athlete regardless of the effort level.
Increase Training Speed
While obviously we want to run faster in competition, the biggest improvements in competition performance will come as a result of training at higher speeds.
Initially when you increase your running speed, you will only be able to use it for a brief period of the workout. Eventually, this new running speed will sustain throughout the workout, allowing you to do entire workouts at a faster speed than before. This will have a potent training effect in the long term, allowing you to take that newfound speed and apply it to your longer runs. This in-turn will take your endurance work and increase the speed at which that can be performed.
Improve The Kick At The End Of The Race
Because your speed reserve will be higher, your maximal speed will be higher, and your ability to run fast while fatigued will be improved, speed workouts for distance runners are an effective tool for improving your kick at the end of the race.
We have all seen distance races that are won in the last portions of the race. The ability for athletes to increase their foot speed while fatigued is not something that can be developed strictly through long, slow runs. This ability to shift gears must be trained in a specific manner, and one important aspect of this is speed workouts for distance runners.
Improve Running Economy
Because speed training will help improve your sprinting technique, your body will be exposed to stressors that require it to move in an efficient manner.
As is the case with strength training for distance runners, speed workouts can be used by distance runners to improve running economy and efficiency. This is a result of the combined effects of increased speed reserve, increased maximal velocity qualities, improved running technique, and tissue adaptations such as changes in the tendons which allow for greater elastic storage of energy while running.
How To Use Speed Workouts For Distance Runners?
Speed Workout Guidelines
While specific workouts may vary, the general guidelines for speed workouts for distance runners are as follows:
- Speed workouts should be performed when the athlete is well rested and healthy.
- Speed workouts should be performed over short distances, such as 40m to 80m per repetition.
- Speed workouts should be performed at 90-100% effort, ensuring that each sprint is as fast as you can safely run at that time.
- Speed workouts should be performed with near or complete recovery between repetitions.
- Speed workouts should stay below 400m of total sprint volume, excluding warmup runs that are below 85% effort.
Speed Workout Implementation
When you choose to implement speed workouts into your distance running program is up to you, but the most benefit is generally gained when speed work is initiated earlier in the year. The reason being, speed is a general quality for a distance runner. The goal with speed workouts for distance runners should be to increase running speed early in the year, using the rest of the training year to blend this newfound running speed into training and ultimately full race distances.
Adaptations that allow for faster sprinting speed can take quite a bit of time to occur, and as such one needs to set aside ample time to develop speed and perform speed workouts.
A safe route would be to include one speed workout per week into your distance running training program, keeping it present for at least 8 to 12 weeks. If you run the 800m or 1600m, you can probably get away with more speed training such as 2 sessions every 10-12 days.
If you are interested in improving your distance running performance, it is important that you consider including speed workouts for distance runners into your training program. By doing something simple, such as 6x50m once per week at 90-100% effort, you can build the skills and qualities needed to run your endurance training and races at a faster pace.
Do you want to run faster?
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