Friday, 25 February 2011

Foundations of Running #4: speed-endurance

Posted by speedygeoff on Friday, February 25, 2011 with No comments

The term "speed endurance" is often applied to sprinters when addressing how to extend their 100m speed to 200m or even 400m. This can also be applied to longer distance runners and is still about how to take a racing speed over any given distance and extend it to a longer distance. My own running career developed from short races over 100m 200m and 400m as a schoolboy, to races over 800m and 1500m as a young adult, and then to longer distances later on. Many people develop the other way; they start off as distance runners then see if they can develop speed after they build an aerobic base. But there is good reason to do it the way I did. Even though we talk about an "aerobic base", that doesn't mean that such a base must be the starting point. When one takes the attitude of very fast running into longer races, one achieves good results much more quickly.


I consider, rightly or wrongly, much of the repetition and interval training we do, as "speed-endurance" training. In contrast, if the interval between efforts is too short, speed is compromised, and the training is better described as "anaerobic". Or if efforts are short and the interval between efforts is too long, this is sprint training. And longer efforts with long recovery might fall into the category of time trials, tempo-intervals, or even aerobic training. In speed-endurance training, on the other hand, there should be a minimum amount of rest to enable a hard effort to be repeated, often many times.


The purpose of speed endurance is to prolong the amount of time where a near maximal speed can be maintained. Effort distance is less than one’s racing distance. Speed approaches the speed at which one wishes to race the longer distance. For example, an 800m runner might attempt sets of 200m intervals at speeds approximating 800m speed with a 200m jog recovery each time. Or, a half marathon runner might run intervals of 1k to 2k at half-marathon speed, with minimum rest.


When our speedygeese training group focuses on speed-endurance, we run fairly hard over short-ish distances, then have a recovery jog of about equal distance or less. What works, and is fun to organise when there are a large number of persons present, is a three person continuous relay, which gives participants sufficient recovery to continue on, to jog the course while the other two run hard in turn. These sessions last about thirty minutes.


If you are doing a speed-endurance session and want a second interval session in any given week, it might be best to do some hill-work or some easy fartlek running instead. Once a week speed-endurance training is quite enough for anyone. Any training session you do should have as its focus only one type of training. Our Monday night speedygeese sessions are wholly speed-endurance sessions during February, June, and October. For other months, when Mondays focus either on aerobic, strength, or anaerobic endurance, it would not hurt to do a speed-endurance session on one other day of the week.


A reduction in injury risk should result from having a complex training program. There’s little doubt that if you are doing only aerobic endurance training then you are increasing the chance of injury. There must be variety in training.


To summarise: speed-endurance training is where, if your rest between intervals were any shorter, you would be venturing into the anaerobic, and if your rest were any longer, your efforts would be all out sprints.


There are so many possible training sessions one can use. To quote Nic Bideau, "So varied are the possible combinations that rarely do the athletes repeat the same workout". As always, the principles are more important than the actual detail. Nic Bideau has many appropriate words of wisdom on this kind of training. I daren't say more except quote him at length:


INTERVAL OR REPETITION TRAINING (excerpt from Nic Bideau's article

“I prefer high volumes of work when using intervals of 6-10k or running at various speeds relevant to the athletes current fitness level for 1500m, 3000m, 5000m or 10,000m with recovery bouts as required to maintain that pace. In the first stages of a training program these are initially focused on 10,000m race pace or even slower. Closer to the main target race faster speeds are introduced at the specific pace of the event the athlete is training for. I believe that too often athletes try to run too fast in track sessions relevant to their current fitness and are too anxious to focus on their cruising speeds for 1500m or 3000m races, whereas I prefer to set the bulk of these sessions at 5000m or 10000m cruising speeds over longer distance repetitions interspersed with shorter faster work. For example, when training for an event such as the World Cross Country in March, Benita Johnson may begin the preparation in November with 8-10 x 1km on a dirt path in around 3.20 with one minute rest. This develops into 3.10 and the next step is to speed up 2 of the reps, the 5th and 7th in 3.00. This may progress to 4 x 2km reps on the track with a lap jog recovery doing the first and third rep alternating laps in 70s (current 3k race pace) and 75s (half marathon race pace), the 2nd and 4th rep all even paced at 75s per lap (10k race pace).


“There are a myriad of workouts that can be designed with this philosophy. The main aim is to always be doing enough high volume to continue building aerobic endurance while introducing some faster running that relates to shorter distance race paces and still avoid flooding the athlete’s muscles with lactate during the workout. So varied are the possible combinations that rarely do the athletes repeat the same workout. I see a couple of distinct advantages in this - they don’t go home to check their diary and compare workouts from week to week or year to year — too often athletes try to compare workouts from one period to another, which I regard as impossible to do for any real gain. You can never go to the track with all other elements of your life exactly duplicated from one day to the next so you will always fail to read into the effects of other situations whether they be weather, poor sleep the night before, harder training the week before, personal problems or whatever - and being different, the workouts always provide an interesting challenge to the athletes who don’t know exactly how they will feel not having done that exact workout before.


“Benita did a workout of 13 x 400m at 5k race pace (72s) with one lap float (marathon race pace relevant to current fitness (82s)) recovery between laps while winning the national 10,000m title in 31.49 shortly before she won the World Cross Country in 2004. This year in her preparation for the Commonwealth Games she ran 3000m in 9.10 beginning with laps at 10,000m race pace for the 1st km, 5000m race pace for the 2nd km and 3000m race pace for the 3rd km, jogged a lap then did 4x200m at 1500m race pace with 200m jog recovery before repeating the effort with the 2nd 3000m in 9.05. For other complex reasons relative to another dimension of coaching that I won’t go into here, Benita was not able to produce that fitness during the Commonwealth Games 10,000m yet it was exactly that fitness that she was able to call on that enabled her to place 4th in both World Cross Country races just a week after the Melbourne Games this year.


“Closer to the big race, these type of workouts often mimic planned strategies due to be employed in the race whilst surrounding it with volume to ensure aerobic fitness is still maintained. Before the Melbourne 5000m Mottram ran a series of 3x1600m. The first one was done in 4.20 (basically what we felt was around 10,000m race pace for him or more specifically the slowest we could imagine the Commonwealth 5000m race being run at inside the last 2km). The 2nd rep was to practice the tactic, which we hoped could take him clear of the Kenyans in the Melbourne 5000m. His training partner England’s 5000m runner at the Games, Mo Farah ran the 1st lap in 65 secs and Mottram went to the lead running the 2nd lap faster, the 3rd lap faster again and once more increasing the pace on the last lap. He ran those laps in 59, 58 and 57 for a final 1600m time of 3.59. He then eased back to 4.20 again for the 3rd rep and finished the workout by cruising 4 x 200m at 1500m race tempo with an easy 200m jog recovery. We felt he was ready for Ben Limo and he was. But, unfortunately for us, Augustine Choge had something else.


“These sessions are usually only carried out once per week.”


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