Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Speedwork - Yay or Nay?

I mentioned before that I am a coach this year with Woodlands Fit.  I have quite a few new runners in my group, which I love!  They are excited, enthusiatic and eager to learn everything they can about running. 

This week, we're finally introducing speed training to our schedule and I have been reading all about the advantages and disadvantages of speed training.  On one hand, speed work can help improve overall speed and endurance by combining short, high intensity bursts of speed, with slow, recovery phases, repeated multiple times during one exercise session.  This can result in an increase in cardiovascular efficiency (i.e. the ability to deliver oxygen to those working muscles), as well as increased tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid.  On the other hand, it has been shown that faster paced training runs can also increase your risk of injury. 

What are your thoughts on this?  Are the gains from consistent speed training greater than the risk of injury?

After reading all kinds of articles on the web, I have made the following suggestions to the runners in my group:
  • With speed training, it's necessary have a solid running base - based on what I've read, this "base" is at least 2-3 months of running 3 times per week
  • Running on a track or other soft surfaces (like grass) may be more forgiving and help prevent injuries.  
  • Be sure to warm up before speed training with a slower, more casual pace run and then cool down with the same afterwards. 
  • Finally, if experiencing any persistent aches or pains, it may be wise to skip speed training altogether.  Let's face it, the runners will still finish their race without it...I'd rather that they make it to the starting line and not be sidelined by an injury.
As I also mentioned, due to my hip injury, I have been very conservative with my running lately.  For many years, I just speedwork, no hills..just running to run.  Then, I decided I wanted to get faster and stronger.  For the past few years, I've pretty much used the "to run fast, you have to run fast" school of thought.  I have done intervals as part of my training, but for the most part, I've just pushed harder and run faster.  (This may or may not be due to me pushing the snooze button too many times, resulting in me needing to run faster to get my miles in before work.....just sayin'.)  But, I was also sidelined from January until May with a hip injury...perhaps from not being so smart about my "run faster" philosophy?  Who knows. 

All that I know is that I want the runners in my group to enjoy running as much as I do and make it to their "A race" properly prepared and injury free!

What is your speed training philosophy?  Do you do it when training for races?  Do you just run faster?  Do you think it's unecessary?  Do you not really care and just run?


Cindy said...

this is timely...just came off my second speed session ever and while i can truly say i hate it, i know it's good for me and will make me a better, faster runner.

i've found i've been able to do ok by just running harder and faster on my weekly runs, but i tihnk it's diminishing returns after awhile. i've been able to get my times down to a certain level but i think if i really want to push it, then i do feel you need speedwork. i'll let you know if the speedwork makes a difference this round...aiming for a 1:50 half so we'll see! :)

Teamarcia said...

THis is tough. Speed work has made me a different runner. MUCH faster and more efficient. I've reached goals beyond my wildest dreams. But I'm injury prone too, although my injuries have stemmed from wrong shoes and ramping up too fast. I guess I'd still recommend speedwork. But it must be done carefully.

Lisa said...

My belief is that with new runners they need to build the base first. Like you said for months before even thinking about speedwork. What little I've done of it on the past, it's definitely worked.

Duckie said...

WIth a good base, speed work can be invaluable. For me it has really tightened up my form and taught me how to run faster. I spent a number of years without it and did not get one bit faster. I truly hated running until... I started doing some speed work. Now I love it.

Ironically, I am also injury prone but my current injury is more irritated by running LSD than shorter speed sessions. The doc cleared me to do the speed work (and race) but cut all the long and recovery style runs from the calendar. (Those sessions are done on the bike.) It guess it's good that I like it since it's all I am doing these days!!

K said...

I am not a fan of speed work, per se. I love hill training and I do run tempo runs, however, track speed work I am not a fan of. Most every injury I have ever incurred has been the direct result of speed work.
Now, I am not a speedy runner anyway, so for me, what will increasing my pace actually get me down the line? Would I win a race? Probably not. Would I finish faster than a middle of the packer, maybe...but at what cost?
My pace has gradually increased through increased mileage, better form, hill work, and tempo runs.