Running: Speed Play

How many of you like to slip into a comfortable groove, let the minutes and miles add up, and lose yourself in your runs? Me to… this is why we run! The flow, the feeling of easy, steady effort and the satisfaction of completion keep us coming back for more of these amazing experiences!

When I first started to “train” for running, which was later in my fitness career, mid-20’s, I was introduced to track workouts and tempo runs. Man, I hated these! My ability to gauge effort was non-existent, therefore I would go too hard, too early in the workouts, and struggle to hold on and finish them. Where would this leave me? Down and out for 2-3 days not wanting to even run a step! This is how you disrupt flow.

As I’ve progressed in the sport and have a more solid grip on my abilities both in training and racing, I’ve been able to engage in these more challenging workouts and reap the benefits that come with them. I’ve also learned about another way to trickle in speed work while I enjoying my daily “cruise” runs. This form of training is termed “speed play” or “fartlek” style.

Speed play is exactly that, you mix in 10-30 second bursts of accelerated running or even sub-maximal sprinting during a run of easy pace. There is no set schedule as to when you do them, just when you feel like it. Sometimes I’ll run to a certain landmark (fire hydrant, stop sign, driveway, etc.) and other times I’ll run for set periods of time.

There are many benefits to these runs. First, I believe you can recover from them during the run much better than a standard track or tempo run. This is excellent for beginners or recreational runners, which, most of us are. Second, I believe that it prepares you to race! Setting multiple in race goals, and knowing what speeds you are capable of running makes racing fun and competing more engaging. Third, they make you faster! You’ll see your cruising speed increase, which may transfer to other runs.

How to apply:

Start walking and warm up into a jog. Take 10-15 minutes to properly warm-up before starting your first speed play interval. For the next 30 minutes have fun. Mix in some speed with your cruising pace. You’ll cover more ground, realize new abilities, and hopefully reap the benefits of turning over those legs a bit faster! To finish, slow down and jog it in. Walk around for a couple minutes and stretch your hamstrings, hip flexor, and groin area. Start with one a week and gradually increase to two of these engaging workouts each week.

Enjoy the run!

Intervals

Intervals

I just finished reading an article in the New York Times about HIIT, or, high intensity interval training. The title of the article, “How to Get Fit in a Few Minutes a Week” caught my eye, as titles like that usually do. The article does a good job of using science and study to give evidence based recommendations to the reader without too much complication in application. The concern is benefit and improvement in aerobic endurance capacity.

The “hacking” of fitness and health is extremely popular. The common theme is that we don’t have time to workout anymore. One hour of physical activity is just too daunting of an endeavor for the common human. The reasons why this is so are far too many to discuss here, so in interest of sticking to the topic I’ll move on to the nuts and bolts of interval training.

The body adapts very quickly to the stress we place upon it. If we do the same thing, at the same intensity day after day, week after week, our improvement stops, and as is often the case, overtraining and a loss of fitness can take place. Not good. Doing intervals is an effect way to layer differing intensities on top of a solid base aerobic fitness foundation.

  • What I mean here is that after running 50 minutes, 6 days per week at a moderate intensity, for 8-12 weeks it would be wise to substitute a couple higher intensity interval workouts into your week. You’ve got a base, now we can work on getting faster, building speed and power, 30 seconds of very hard effort followed by 60-90 seconds of recovery jogging, for as many as 10 repetitions.
  • Or, speaking in terms of strength training, instead of doing 4 sets of 15 kettle bell swings or burpees, resting between sets you would do 8 sets of 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This varied demand takes us out of a certain comfort with the exercise and training, forcing us to adapt and become more efficient in the movement.

These are just two examples of application. Implementation of interval training is not a daily occurrence. Recovery is essential to improvement and sustained fitness gains. A good standard to follow is 48 hours between these workouts. Here, we are not talking about complete rest. It is always advisable to perform a lower intensity, endurance based or corrective exercise on these recovery days. Looking at our week of training, usually 6 days, we can space these sessions on days 1/3/5 with our targeted aerobic/endurance or corrective/recovery workouts on days 2/4/6.

Creating a flow in our training is essential. When thinking of efficiency don’t focus on cramming the workout into 8-12 minutes of pure sprint/recover training. Instead focus on optimization of those 30-60 minutes you are working on your fitness. In the gym take 3 full body exercises: burpees, kettle bell swings, and ball slams. Use an 8 x (:20/:10) or 4 x (:30/:30) format for each exercise, resting 3-5 minutes between them. Simple and effect application for 4-6 weeks, followed by assessment of progress toward your goals is the standard assignment.

Remember. Know your desired outcome (point B). Whether you are trying to get fit from a long period of inactivity, diligently training for a competition, or fixing a problem or weakness in your fitness (mental, physical), you need to keep an accurate assessment of your training.

As Dr. Phil Maffetone (endurance athlete coach)  says: Work + Rest = Training