Friday, July 13, 2012

Speed Work or How-running-got-much-much-worse.

My Tough Mudder training has been going okay for the most part.  I've worked up to being able to run about ten miles a week and my pace has improved from a virtual crawl to a solid eleven minute mile.  Yes, its still laughably pathetic, but I never had much more than a nine minute mile in me.  In fact, my best 400m ever was about 1:48.  To put that into perspective, my eight year old son runs the 400 in 1:28.  Its okay, I don't care, I can do pullups, my kids think I'm really strong, and I know how to use a compass.  (That last one is kind of irrelevant to any of this, but it makes me feel smart.)

Try doing this 100 times; that's how running fast for more
than 10 seconds feels to me.  (PS, that was rhetorical,
don't ever bench press for 100 reps, that's just silly.)  
So, just when I was getting used to all this running and lifting all at the same time, I got a new set of instructions from my friend Dave.  I have to admit, it was the funniest thing I'd read in a while.  Mainly because it started out something like this:  "Power pacing intervals for cruising speed . . . blah . . . blah blah." It then went on to explain how I was going to sprint "for 50 meters or more" followed by a three minute run at a "five minute pace".  So, apparently, I'm supposed to run as fast as I can (about as far as I can run as fast as I can) and then somehow be able to continue running fast for three whole minutes.  And I'm supposed to do this three or four times.  This may not sound like a big deal to you seasoned runners, but imagine I told you to lift as much weight as you possibly could one time and then immediately lift about 75% of that weight for the next three minutes.  Its a long time, you might wish for death.  I didn't quite hit three minutes on the track Wednesday morning, but I did sprint 50m and continue to run for another 350m before realizing I was losing consciousness.

Dave's interval prescription may sound strange, but it is not actually strange or unheard of in training science.  VO2 max interval training can be used to boost one's ability to go faster and longer when used correctly in an endurance training program.  The effects happen quickly, but there isn't a lot of benefit to doing them too much if your goal is to increase your training volume over the long term.  If you use the right intensity, you shouldn't be able to do these more than twice a week, once is better.  And, you shouldn't use these unless you've reached a point in your training where you can maintain consistent form at high speeds.  It is powerful medicine and if you want to improve your ability to run long and fast, you need to execute these with perfect form.  If your form fatigues before you complete the interval, you don't have the postural strength to utilize these correctly.

Pushups.  Not my favorite, but a great builder of core
strength and endurance. 
So, now I'm supposed to do these intervals once a week in place of one of my running days AND (it gets better), transition to doing more bodyweight work, ie, dips, pullups, mountain climbers, monkey bars, etc.  As expected, after starting off this week with these programming changes, I sit here with sore calves, shoulders, arms, and my entire torso hurts when I laugh or cough.  I really hate change and it seems to hate me even more.  But, I know in a week or so, I'll adapt, I'll stop being sore, and I'll be able to bust out ring dips like I did in the old days (well, more like 3 years ago, but still, I can do them).    

***For more information on interval and endurance training, see Stephen Seiler's paper on the subject:  



  1. It's going to get worse before it gets better. :)