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Running Faster for Distance Runners - We All Want To Do It

By Edited May 13, 2014 1 2

You Can Do It - This is How!

Track Intervals

It’s a fact, the reason that most people run on a regular basis is one of the following:

-          To get healthy

-          To look good

-          To feel good

Any other reason for running can likely get broken down into one of these three categories.  Regardless of how many miles you run, there is always a little voice in the back of your head that asks: “How can I run faster?”  Most people think that running further is the answer, but that is just part of the answer.  Being a faster distance runner at its most simple level is a two tiered approach. 

1) Build Endurance

2) Do Speed Work / Interval Workouts

 

Building running endurance is fairly simple; this example below shows how to step up your mileage very gradually.  Running an extra 0.5 (half) mile per session, on a weekly basis, is enough to build up endurance without being detrimental to muscle structure. 

CHART – A           Standard Training Template

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

TOTAL

Week 1

Rest

2.0 Miles

Rest

2.0 Miles

Rest

2.0 Miles

Stretch

6.0 Miles

Week 2

Rest

2.5 Miles

Rest

2.5 Miles

Rest

2.5 Miles

Stretch

7.5 Miles

Week 3

Rest

3.0 Miles

Rest

3.0 Miles

Rest

3.0 Miles

Stretch

9.0 Miles

Week 4

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

3.5 Miles

Stretch

11.5 Miles

Week 5

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

4.0 Miles

Stretch

12.0 Miles

Week 6

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

4.5 Miles

Stretch

12.5 Miles

Once you have built up to running at least 11 miles per week for 3 weeks in a row, you can start implementing speed work.   Speed work accomplishes the following items when performed correctly:

A)     Increases Muscle Strength

B)      Increases Lactate Threshold

C)      Increases VO2 Max

D)      Increases Coordination

Interval workouts will inherently increase muscle strength because these workouts require you to run faster than you normally run.   Running faster will build muscles that you don’t usually use at a slower pace.  I actually played many other sports like soccer and flag football for many years and my on field speed was always at its peak when I was doing speed work on the track.  Your sprinting performance and muscle strength will increase when you do interval workouts regularly.

Lactate threshold and VO2 max are terms not commonly used so it is probably not a surprise if you don’t know what these mean.  Lactate Threshold (or sometimes Anaerobic Threshold) is the point at which lactic acid starts building up in the blood stream faster than your body can clear it out.  VO2 Max is actually a measurement of how much Oxygen your body can consume during strenuous exercise.  Because interval training teaches your body to run right up against these limits, your body will get better over time at clearing the lactic acid out of the blood stream.    Clearing the lactic acid out quicker and consuming more oxygen will allow you to run faster and run farther at a quicker pace, it will take only 2-3 interval workouts combined with your standard weekly mileage to feel the effects.  (Chart C below shows how the level of difficulty changes with each succession of intervals, due to Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max and Muscle fatigue). 

Real quick before we move on, the last main item that will increase during interval workouts is your overall coordination.  Just think of your feet as the cylinders in your personal engine.  As you are running, your feet move across the ground pushing and pushing with each stride.  If you push your feet at the wrong time it will slow you down.   Interval workouts will help you increase the muscle memory of your legs to 1) push off with more force and 2) put that force to the ground very quickly AT THE EXACT RIGHT MOMENT.   With running, timing is everything when it comes to pushing off!

Now let’s talk about what the interval workout will look like since we have explained items A-D above.  Most likely you will want to perform your first speed workouts on a track and for beginners we will concentrate on running ¼ mile intervals (or 400 Meters).

Outdoor Track

CHART – B           Implement Interval Workouts

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

TOTAL

Week 7

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

1 Mi Warm up

4 Quarters

1 Mi Cooldown

Rest

4.5 Miles

Stretch

11.0 Miles

Week 8

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

1 Mi Warm up

6 Quarters

1 Mi Cooldown

Rest

4.5 Miles

Stretch

11.5 Miles

Week 9

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

1 Mi Warm up

6 Quarters

1 Mi Cooldown

Rest

4.5 Miles

Stretch

11.5 Miles

Week 10

Rest

3.5 Miles

Rest

1 Mi Warm up

8 Quarters

1 Mi Cooldown

Rest

4.5 Miles

Stretch

12.0 Miles

Now this is the important part – running at this pace will feel okay for the first part of the run and then gradually get more difficult to hold this pace.  At a more detailed level of this kind of running, see the Chart C below on how you might feel when performing each interval.   When you implement speed work, it is best to run your quarter-mile pace 10-20% faster than you run your standard mile pace.  For instance, if you run a 10 minute mile on your standard 2-4 mile runs, this translates into a 2:30 (2 minute 30 second) pace for a quarter-mile.  You need to run 10-20% faster than this pace to start implementing speed work – which translates into a 2:00 – 2:15 pace per quarter-mile. 

 

Track

CHART – C           Comfort Level During the Interval

 

Feeling Good

(not difficult)

Feeling Difficult

(have to push to maintain)

Total

Distance

Rest

Time

Quarter #1

300 Meters

100 Meters

400 Meters

2 Minutes

Quarter #2

250 Meters

150 Meters

400 Meters

2 Minutes

Quarter #3

200 Meters

200 Meters

400 Meters

2 Minutes

Quarter #4

150 Meters

250 Meters

400 Meters

2 Minutes

 

The key to running quarters is to make sure you push yourself up just over the edge of comfort, but not over exert yourself so that you cannot complete the next interval.    You will grow to know your limit once you have run a few interval workouts.   The other key item is rest time, for people beginning this effort, a good rule of thumb is to start with walking for the same amount of time that it took you to run the interval.  Now good luck with your next workout, I hope it’s an interval session!

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Comments

Oct 23, 2013 7:22am
Gibbon
Good, useful article. I've been wanting to do some interval training, and it's nice to have an organized workout laid out. Thanks.
Oct 23, 2013 12:17pm
cjammin
Thanks for the comment, let me know if you have additional questions and I will be happy to reply!
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