Speed work implemented into a well-structured triathlon training plan or a marathon training plan, will benefit all athletes. Just the very mention of speed work can have athletes diving for cover, especially if they see it as being too complicated to get their head around all the different pacing, and timing of the intervals to monitor, or it could be the simple fact that the prospect of pushing their bodies and lungs to their limit doesn’t much thrill them with the thought of the ensuing pain. But if you have a target time in mind for your race, then adding speed work of short fast intervals into your plan can definitely give a boost to your finish times and fitness.
With a solid foundation of training behind you incorporating both tempo runs and long run sessions, speed work will transform and give a boost to your overall aerobic fitness. Running at a faster pace than you are used to will improve your VO2 max, lactate threshold and running economy, but will also take you out of your comfort zone and teach your mind and body to handle the greater demands and stress you are putting it under.
Run intervals slightly faster than goal race pace so that on race day your pace will feel comfortable.
When building speed work into a plan keep these guidelines in mind:-
Be aware of the pace you are starting at as going off too fast can result in you only being able to complete 2 – 3 intervals within the session before collapsing.
A feeling of a 9 on the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale is what you should be looking for.
Pacing the session at the same continuous speed all the way through the session is what you should be targeting, and avoid it tailing off towards the end of the workout. If this happens then your judgment of speed and pacing needs a bit more work.
The recovery intervals between the repetitions can be varied in length and depends on your fitness and how challenging you want the workout to be. By reducing the length of time between the intervals you will produce a tougher session. A ratio of 1:1 is a good place to start ie 800m fast 800m slow recovery jog. Changing this ration to 2:1 will result in less recovery time for your body ie 800m fast 400m slow recovery jog.
By breaking the speed work distances up it will keep the sessions feeling fresh and interesting and can range from 400m through to 1 mile with the varying recovery times.
Two key sessions can be done below:
Mile repeats – 15 minute Warm Up, then 2 x 1 mile at your current 10km pace with 3 mins jog recovery. Cool down with 20 minute at a very easy pace.
Add this workout to your plan a week later with 1 additional mile and progress across the following weeks building to 6 mile repeats.
Shorter intervals for time starved athletes – 15 minute warm up, then 15 x 40 sec repeats at current mile pace with 20 sec very easy recovery. 20 minutes very easy cool down. This will boost your VO2 max and help increase leg turnover.
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