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Speed Training And The Distance Runner

"How To Do Speed Training, Combined With 5k/10k/The Marathon!"

speed trainingAs this is a web page for the longer distances, speed training is not always the major focus. However, if you are an explosive kind of a runner like I referred to in the 5k training article you can think otherwise.

Even if you have elements of this in you. And even as a marathon runner.

Runners that have a main strength in speed work - would want to take this into consideration when training.

A 5k speed training model means..

A speed based 5k training is endurance + speed for the more explosive type runners.

What this means is that you can add speed work in your training program with a very good effect.

You have muscles that can easily adapt to this.

This is different from the main bulk of distance runners. About 90 % will have trouble with speed training.

At least too much of it.

It causes the muscles to tighten up and the increase in muscular tone gives tense running and slow times.

Either way, if you are doing speed work, please check out the running tips page for injury preventions.

Just to be sure.

You may be one of the "lucky ones" that can deal with this training if

  • You have experience with more explosive events in other sports.
  • You have previous experience with the shorter events in running.
  • You have the ability to "bring out" force if you jump vertically and have sort of a "natural upper body strength"

If you also, always seem to run into trouble when the running repeats are long + the longer runs you may be one of those speed type guys.

It has to do with muscle fiber composition. If you have a large number of slow twitch muscle fibers you will run into trouble when doing speed training - but if you have a good mix/or mostly fast twitch you are one of the 10%.

If You Are One Of The Lucky Ones, What Is The Best Way To Do This Speed Training ?

And if you are not the explosive type:

You may still take some of these elements, try it out but be be very,very careful and not overdo it...

Well, here it goes.

What you want to aim for is periods, or blocks of speed training in your training schedule.

For a sprinter, it is possible to have a gradual buildup and long periods of faster work.

This seems not to be the case with most distance runners. Here, it seems that speed-blocks works much better.

What Is A Speed-Block And What Kinds Of Sessions Are We Talking About ?

The ideal is probably to cycle it on a

  • year,
  • monthly
  • and week basis

What you are doing here is to get variation within all phases of your training. You are taking the longer perspective on the yearly basis. You look at a monthly, 4 week type plan, plus at the weekly plan.

Yearly. 6 Months "On" Seems To Work Best For Most.

On a year basis you want to start the speed training cycling within but not over 6 months prior to your main goal.

Say your main competition/5k is on August. You then want to start touching the speed work in February. Not before. The first 3 faster sessions should at that time be about 1/3 of the total work you usually do.

Otherwise, the fast change to another type of running stride may cause injuries.

So 6 months away from pure all out speed work and 6 months "on".

This is a common approach of the top 800 meter runners in the world and applies to the speed-type long distance runners as well.

If you are training for a marathon, it is even more important to have these "off" and "on" periods for parts of the year.

Monthly. Try And Take a Few Weeks "On" Speed Work, Some Off.

On a monthly basis, a suggestion is to cycle it

  • 3 to 1
  • and 2 to 1.

What that means is : when you are say 3-6 months prior to your goal, put some focus on speed work for one week, then 3 weeks off the speed work.

When you then get closer to your goal, within 3 months or so, go over to 1 speed work focus week pr 2 weeks.

Weekly. Aim For Speedwork Early In The Week

Then within a week cycle I have very good experience with two things :

  1. Speed work early in the week to freshen up the legs.
  2. Plus have speed work 4 days before really hard workouts..

Try it and you will see the results.

I could see the question coming up.......the answer is right below....

So, What Are Typical Speed Training Sessions For The 5k ?

fast runningTypical sessions are mixes of these three.

1.Runs of 60-80 meters.

  • About 8-10 repeats and long recoveries,
  • Say 3-4 minutes between each.

What you are doing here is working your phosphate system.

Which is a totally different system compared to the aerobic / anaerobic system you use while running endurance / really hard repeats.

Main thing is : you need those long recoveries.

2 minutes is too short. 3-4 or even 5 minutes is better. Otherwise you will 1) burn the central nervous system much more easy - "overdo it" 2) start accumulating muscle tension and some lactate acid.

The result ?

Much long post-workout recovery time..

2.150 meter runs. 3-4 and 5-10 minutes between each.

These are a special "secret" of many of the world best 5000 meter runners.

Even those who chose an endurance based approach. What you are doing here, is about twice weekly in the competition season, about once weekly before that : run 150 meter sprints after workouts.

  • The first 50 meters floating
  • Accelerating through the curve of the track
  • Sprinting through the straightway

This give you a fantastic push-off that will help your finish and general muscle strength.

That is : if you are a more speed-orientered 5k type ;)

3.Then you have the strides.

About 10-15, uphill or flat after hard sessions. You will stride out, get in a float and only push it abit at the end of each stride.

These all should do for parts of the year. Start off each up each of them and "dance your way" through, going faster and faster in a progressive manner.

My experience (just a personal view..) is to do these after the harder sessions and not try and combine the easy days with speed work - even strides.

This ensured proper recovery and the recovery days, that is needed in any marathon/5k/10k training schedule.

I wish you all the best with your speed training.

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