Prepare to get your Geek on.
Over the last couple of years I've put in a ton of work and not all of it was actually running. If I went back and added up the hours I'm betting I've spent more time reading, studying, planning and evaluating than I have running. A lot more. Having kept my spreadsheets, logs and copious notes I can happily say that it is paying off nicely. Very nicely.
Since I've experienced some great gains (went from a 5:38 1500 meters to a 5:16 in just two seasons) I'm inspired to do even more. To learn more, push more and maybe actually reach my stretch goal of breaking 5 minutes in the mile. But the more I train, and the more I read; the more I find out stuff I didn't know. Thankfully, each time I learn something I immediately see how it's going to help me get faster.
This past week I went out and paid for a customized training plan from McMillan Running. You've heard me talk about Greg McMillan and his calculator (check out his site here). I've been using the calculator for a couple of years now along with the workout suggestions, and the price of a customized plan was very reasonable, so I bought one to get me through the State Games of America in early August.
Since I've been dishing out advice and stories I thought I'd share a nuance Greg explains for the workout I did this morning. The difference between a Speed Workout and Cruise Intervals.
Both of these workouts involve intervals, and look very similar on the surface. However, they train you for two very different things, both of which you need to race fast.
I've done a number of Speed Workouts where I run 5 or 6 800's at a fast pace with about the same amount of rest as there is running. 1 to 1 ratio is what Bart Yasso recommends for marathoners when doing this workout. I tended to run an 800, then walk a little bit and jog a 400. Then I would stand still for a few seconds to get me to 3 minutes of rest or so, then go hard again. Last week I did 5 x 800's and they were all around 2:46 with the last two faster. My legs would just burn earlier and earlier in the reps until I was just completely rubber legging it down the last 50 meters in my last rep. Super hard feeling workout.
In Cruise Intervals like this morning, I ran 6 x 800's only they were all over 3:00 on purpose. Specifically, I ran 3:02, 3:06, 3:05, 3:04, 3:03, 2:59. The object is to make them "comfortably hard" but make each one a tad faster than the one before it. I sort of blew the first one, because I wasn't paying as much attention to my splits and went out a little fast. So these are decidedly slower than my Speed Workouts, but not a ton different. The next difference was the rest. I walked maybe 25 to 50 meters after each rep, then jogged to finish out 200m. Without stopping I rolled right into the next rep. The effect is that my breathing and heart rate, never really came down like it does during a Speed Workout. I was still panting as I began each rep.
Now instead of my legs burning as I was finishing each 800, it was my lungs and heart. I was just gasping the last couple of times and right after the last rep, which I pushed to the 2:59, I had those sudden dry heaves. That was the only time I stood still during the workout and it was only for a second or two during each heave. I had to keep jogging to finish the workout.
To top it all off, Greg had me doing 3 x 200's and those are supposed to be at my goal race pace for my 1500. The goal is 5 flat, so that's 40 second 200's. Even though I was super winded, my legs felt great so I wound up doing those in 36, 35, and 33 seconds. Once again there was no standing still and only a 200 meter jog between each.
Two similar workouts that train two different things. The Speed Workout is designed to work my legs and develop strength and speed. The Cruise Intervals workout is designed to increase my VO2 max which is basically how efficiently my body processes oxygen for energy. Instead of so much muscle development, this develops the cardiovascular system. It makes it easier to run faster longer.
Combining these two types of workouts means I will get faster, and it will feel easier. They feed each other.
The 200's at the end help me develop the ability to kick even when fatigued as well as make me mentally tougher under those stressful moments of finishing a race like the 1500.
Having done both types of these workouts I can tell you they feel completely different, so I know they're doing what they're supposed to do.
If you're looking to improve your pace, even for a Marathon, combining these types of workouts will make a huge difference in your race times.