Helping Runners run FASTER!
SPEEDWORK? YES PLEASE, BUT AT WHAT PACE?
One of the best ways to improve your running is to incorporate speedwork. Runners can engage in speedwork once or twice a week and gain huge benefits. If you do speedwork, which is difficult and taxing, it is best to do so at a pace that is the most optimal for you. But at what pace? Many runners struggle with this concept. Your pace depends on a few key factors. First, your pace is influenced by your current training phase. Next, it depends upon what your pace is at your current lactate threshold. Finally, it is contingent upon what your pace is at your current VO2 Max?
The first thing to consider is that your speedwork pace is influenced by your current training phase. In any good training plan I prefer there be three distinct phases. These phases include a base phase, a lactate threshold phase and finally a VO2 max phase. Each phase begets the next phase. Doing the appropriate type of speedwork session that fits in the right phase is important. The base phase should be sufficient enough to allow the runner to conduct lactate threshold workouts (during the lactate threshold phase) and then recover adequately before the next challenging run. Also, it is ill-advised to attempt too many VO2 max speedwork sessions during your base phase or lactate threshold phase. Doing so may lead to excessive fatigue and injury.
Next, is lactate threshold pace. This is the pace that most can sustain, without fading, for about one hour. As you run the lactate levels in your blood increase. If you are running a pace beyond your threshold, the lactate levels will reach a point where the body can no longer clear the lactate creating a deficit forcing you to slow down. This is the “fading” effect or “dying” toward the end of a race (or in the middle if you go out way too hard). Improvement in this area allows you to hold a faster pace for longer before that deficit tilts against you.
Lastly, is your VO2 max pace. This pace can be sustained, without diminishing, for about 10 minutes. Sometimes referred to as the “razor’s edge”, this pace is very challenging and is not comfortable. At this pace, you are utilizing roughly 98% of your max heart rate. Improvements in this realm will allow you to uptake more oxygen but also more efficiently exploit that oxygen in the working leg muscles. Also, the leg strength and power you create during intense VO2 max speed work sessions create a sensation of ease during slower race paces.
Executing speedwork sessions at the appropriate pace in the correct phase of training can lead to tremendous improvements in your running. The most important things to do are to get a plan with three distinct phases, determine what your paces are at your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold and then execute the proper workouts at those paces. Finally, get ready for new PR’s!
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