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A need for speed
Running

A need for speed

Posted Friday, February 13, 2015   |   642 views   |   Health & Fitness   |   Comments (3) Ready to go faster? SPEEDWORK BENEFITS EVERYONE from 5k to marathon runners. Rf reveals how to inject some extra pace into your training plan.

A confession: I ran my first marathon in 2006 when I was 20 years old and full of enough crazed enthusiasm to fuel a crowd of One Direction fans. With a beginner’s knowledge of marathon running, I avidly followed the training guide that came free of charge with the London Marathon magazine – a manageable fusion of regular runs and progressive weekly mileage. Nothing too painful. And when race day came, I ran the 26.2 miles in moderate amounts of comfort and a respectable time. Feeling a little too fresh, it was clear that I could do better. The next time I ran a marathon was in 2009, and I ran it 50 minutes faster. The secret? One word – speedwork.

So here’s the running 101 – if you plod everywhere at a moderate pace, you’ll only ever run at a (surprise, surprise) moderate pace. If you’re happy with that, turn the page now – it is, after all, an enjoyable way to train and, for the long-distance runner with oodles of time, high volume training can bring about a decent performance. But if you’ve got an ambition to improve without dedicating your life to running hordes of miles day-in, day-out, you need to start pushing through the lung-busting pain barrier and do some of your training at a faster pace. It’s time for you to say ‘hello’ to speed training.

DO I HAVE TO RUN FASTER?
So you’ve seen runners sprinting around a track or gasping for air while lying on the ground of your local parkrun and, quite frankly, running fast looks hellish. And yes, it is painful. But the gains of doing some running at a faster pace are H-U-G-E. I’m not talking about turning you into a shortdistance athlete with 30m sprint training but, rather, developing your speed ability for a specific distance with bouts of faster running.

Whether you’re targeting a half or full marathon, or have a 5k or 10k on the horizon, speed training works. As running coach, George Anderson at runningbygeorge.com, explains: “Speed training works the body in a different way (it forces your body to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibres that power speedy activity) compared to longer but slower running. So, for all-round running fitness, it’s not an aspect any runner can afford to skimp on.” As an added bonus, running fast encourages a more economical running style, helping increase stride length and frequency – a sure-fire way to improve your performance over all distances. But there’s more to the benefits of speedwork than muscle power and technique gains – high-paced running has a significant effect on the heart and lungs, too, increasing oxygen consumption and improving your VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen used by working tissues, and a good indicator of your ability to sustain running performance).

“Speed training not only increases the strength endurance capacity of your muscles, but also boosts your all-round aerobic capacity,” explains Ben Staines, co-founder of Project Fit (project-fit.co.uk). “If you train your muscles to work at a faster pace than normal, they will be far more efficient at the lower speeds of a longer run, even when the distance is increased.” Yes, you read that correctly – running faster for short periods of time will help you run well for longer periods of time, no extra miles required.

Science backs up this theory. One of the most popular areas of sports science research at the moment is HIT (High Intensity Training, or doing bouts of highintensity – or, in running terms, fast-paced – efforts). Contrary to the long-held belief that endurance can only be gained by doing endurance-like activities, such as slow and long runs, pioneering HIT experts from McMaster University report that endurance can be achieved through a series of high-intensity efforts. In fact, one study in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows that six minutes of all-out exercise can be as effective at improving stamina as 300 minutes of steady-paced activity.
ESSENTIAL SPEED SESSIONS

INTERVAL RUNNING
Running at near-maximal speed for short bursts of time (oneminute, two minutes, three minutes) or set distances (800m, one-mile, two miles) with a measured active (walking/jogging) or static (standing) recovery. Interval running develops the explosive energy systems required to boost your pace.

Beginner’s tip
“Start with short interval periods and long rest periods, and then slowly increase the interval time and reduce the rest periods as you progress.” – Ben Staines, project-fit.co.uk

Try this!
Run 5-6 intervals of 1-2 minutes with a 60-second walking recovery in between each effort. Aim to complete the last interval at the same speed as the first. The pace should only be slightly faster than you would normally run.

THRESHOLD RUNS
Threshold runs are performed at a sustained but fast pace, slightly slower than race pace. This teaches you to run fast for a prolonged period of time, and boosts your lactate threshold. Levels of lactic acid (a by-product of exercise and marker of muscle fatigue) increase the further or faster you go, so it pays to have a higher lactic tolerance.

Beginner’s tip
“The ideal tempo intensity would be an 8/10 effort, so start off conservatively. It’s far better to go off a bit slowly and be able to finish fast!” – George Anderson, runningbygeorge.com

Try this!
Threshold+ workouts are great for building speed for a half marathon. Perform shorter tempo running blocks of 4-8 minutes at an intensity that puts you at the top end of the threshold zone (8/10).
HILL REPS
Hill repetition work is the name given to running up and down an incline repeatedly. It is a great way to boost leg strength and improve your aerobic capacity. As an added bonus, swift downhill running will also teach your muscoskeletal system to run faster.

Beginner’s tip
“Although hill sprints are great for all levels of running, it is best to wait until you have a solid six to eight weeks of running in the bag before attempting these sessions.” – Shona Thomson, marathon expert at slowtwitch.co.uk

Try this!
Find a hill that is about 100m long. The gradient (about 10-15 per cent) should test you but you should be able to keep form throughout. Use a treadmill if your area is flat. Run up the hill four times and jog back down to recover. Add an extra rep each week.

FARTLEK SESSIONS
Fartlek running involves mixing speeds and intensities in a random format. Simply let your own route dictate your run – work hard up a hill, increase the pace along a good stretch of road or sprint from lamppost to bus stop. Changing the route will keep it fun too.

Beginner’s tip
“Mix up the intensity levels – easy, medium and hard. Change the pace a least 10 times during a fartlek session.” – Ben Staines, project-fit.co.uk

Try this!
Try George Anderson’s (runningbygeorge.com) ‘Through The Gears’ session, in which you set yourself four gears – very slow, jogging comfortably, threshold pace and fast pace. Then run at each gear for 30 seconds, aiming for four or five times a set.

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