2011-06-07

Speed Training Twice Per Week

This week is our first experience of the season engaging in two different kinds of speed workouts in the same week. Previously, we have done two tempo runs, or one fartlek run; but we have not yet done one tempo run and one fartlek run. In the future, we'll be adding a track workout to the mix, too (and I will discuss the ins-and-outs of track workouts when we get a little closer to the date).

The difference between how to approach these workouts may not be immediately intuitive, particularly if you have less running experience. That's why today I'd like to briefly discuss how to approach multiple speed training workouts in the same week.

Tuesday: Tempo Run Day
I mentioned before that tempo runs are an opportunity to work on your speed, your pace, your endurance, and your mental grit. This week, because you have a fartlek workout coming up on Thursday, I'd like you to focus on the speed, endurance, and mental grit components of this workout.

Again, the idea with a tempo run is to push yourself up to the point of being slightly physically uncomfortable with the pace you're making, and hold yourself there for the duration of the run. As you continue to train, that point of discomfort should gradually become a faster and faster pace, wherever it is.

So, during a tempo run, you should not really be thinking about comparative pacing. You should not be worrying about whether or not you can finish the run at your current pace. You should simply push yourself into discomfort and hold. To that end, you might even consider leaving your watch home during your tempo run, or at least resisting the urge to look at it. You shouldn't get caught up on what pace you're running and whether it is "fast" or "slow." What you should focus on is the way your body is reacting to what you're doing.

Learn to read your body's signals, then get comfortable with an uncomfortable pace.

Thursday: Fartlek Day
In contrast to the tempo run, this week's fartlek workout should be more pace-centric. Specifically, you need to learn to identify the difference between a faster pace and a slower pace.

In the beginning phases of your development as a runner (or if you're just rusty), you will likely only have two speeds: "go" and "go slow." But marathons are long and involve a wide spectrum of pacing needs and strategies. Especially for competitive runners, it becomes necessary to "attack" (or "defend!") at some race stages, and recover during others. Part of the goal of fartlek training is to get used to the idea of multiple attacks and multiple recoveries in a single outing.

More to the point, you should be able to vary your speed at will without it costing you the whole race. Going faster during some segments of your run shouldn't kill the rest of it.

Therefore, while your tempo run is a good opportunity to see how long to you can continue at a fast pace, and how fast that pace can be, your fartlek run is a good opportunity to find out at what pace you begin to use up your anaerobic fuel sources, and to try to keep that from happening.

In a Word
This week, Tuesday is "go fast" day, and Thursday is "pace well" day. Let's do it!