Thursday, July 10, 2014

How Fast Is Fast Enough In Training?

Alana Hadley doing sprint work

How fast is fast enough in training?  In other words, what is the fastest pace we need to train at in our preparations for our goal race?  I've done a lot of thinking on this question and have talked with many other coaches and athletes as well and so wanted to share with my thoughts and findings.   

One of the problems we face in training is that we have many systems to work and race demands to cover and only so many stress workout in which to do them.  We need to work primary systems and demands on a regular basis so we must prioritize what we do and how often we do them in order to regularly work on the areas most critical to our race success.  

Though my experience with athletes, talking with other coaches, and an analysis of the physiology, I have decided that the cut-off point is at ~12% faster than goal race pace.  I simply can't justify dedicating a full workout to working at any faster than 12% quicker than goal race pace.  While working at faster than that does have its benefits, the benefits reaped don't merit the full use of a precious resource, a whole dedicated workout.  Now that doesn't mean that I never have an athlete run faster than that, I just don't dedicate a whole workout to it.  I may have them do some strides or pick-ups during an easy run or acceleration sprints during a drill circuit that easily exceeds this pace, but the whole workout isn't dedicated to this type of pace.  

- If goal race pace is 7:00 per mile I wouldn't dedicate a full workout to any pace quicker than 6:10 pace
- If goal race pace is 6:00 per mile I wouldn't dedicate a full workout to any pace quicker than 5:17 pace
- If goal race pace is 5:00 per mile I wouldn't dedicate a full workout to any pace quicker than 4:24 pace

For marathon runners one of the faster dedicated workouts I have them do is:
12-16 x 600 @ 12% quicker than goal marathon pace with 1:30 jog recovery
(for a marathoner targeting 6:00 per mile goal pace these 600's would be targeting 1:59)

This workout is a supportive workout that not only covers our speed needs but also stresses our VO2 Max significantly and is long enough (4.5 to 6 miles worth of work + 1.5 to 2 mile in recovery jog + warm-up and cool-down) to provide some work to both stamina and endurance as well .  So while technically a speed workout it also supports other areas important to a marathoner, so I can justify dedicating a whole workout to this periodically.  If I have them work any quicker I would have to reduce the repeat distance and/or the number of repeats and thus I would loose some of those stamina and endurance benefits which make that justification harder to make.

Note:  this analysis and post was done with the 10k to marathon race distances in mind.

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley

1 comment:

  1. This seems like a great training principle, do you think a recreational athlete could apply this to the 5k was well? My pb at 5k is 20:37 and 12% faster is just a few seconds faster per mile than my mile pb.