The spring racing season is upon us and there are plenty of races on the local running calendar. If you are planning on running on one of them and would like to set a personal best at a future 5k or just get out of plodding along at your current pace. Picking up “speed” comes along faster than building up endurance. Once you have endurance to run a set distance of 5k, 10k or even a marathon improving your pace comes a lot quicker. Endurance training can take a long time for your body to adapt, your muscles to get stronger and your cardiovascular system more efficient.
Your body has two types of muscles, slow twitch which are used for endurance and the fast twitch which are used for burst of speed. To run a fast 5K you have to exercise and train both those muscle fibers. The slow twitch muscles are trained with your regular daily distance runs. To energize those fast twitch muscles you have to throw in some specific training.
There are lots of ways to do that. Before any of the methods you should make sure you warm up. Run a half mile or a mile at a slow pace. You can go to the track and do some track workouts. A typical workout training for a 5K would be to after you warm up to run once around the track – typically 400 meters or a quarter mile – at a pace that is a little slower than your 5K race pace. Then see what that time is, take a break by jogging slow and do another run around the track a little faster. Repeat that four times with the last time around being the fastest. Track workouts should not be painful. Be careful not to do too much too fast as that could lead to injury the same way piling on too much mileage can lead to injury.
If you don’t have convenient access to a track a great place to do some speed work could be on local boardwalks. After a warm up count off 4 or 5 lamp posts and follow the pattern as on the track. The advantage of the boardwalk is there are no turns which help minimize the risk of injury placing too much pressure on one side.
Another way to build up speed is to do hill repeats. Find a local hill – not too steep especially when starting out – and again after a warm up run up the hill at a steady pace. As with the above you should be breathing hard going up. Jog carefully down – be careful running down the hill as running down can lead to injury especially the knees. Run slow and under control going down. Depending on the grade and length of the hill repeat that several times. If your legs start to feel weak and “rubbery” you should stop.
You should not do more than one of these workouts per week especially if you have not done speed work before. Mix it up so you don’t get bored as well. On the track you can do a ladder – run half way around or 200 meters, recover for 200 meters then increase the distance on the second set to 400 meters or once around, do a recovery run and then run two times around or 800 meters. Then go down the ladder and run 400 meters and 200 meters. You can vary the workouts to keep it interesting. It’s good to do the workouts with a group but just be careful to not get in race mode with people who are faster than you. Run your own pace or again you will increase the chances of injury.
If interested in a coached group which will do a combination of the above and guide you there is a “Speed Class” starting on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 in the Spring Lake – Wall area. Get information and register here. The group is led by Karen Charles a Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach and accomplished local runner at RunCollege.