Trade LSD for Speed - Page 2
The Complete Recipe
Logging miles at a moderate pace encourages overall musculoskeletal strengthening and teaches your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to handle pounding over many miles. It also spurs capillary growth, which is involved in your body's ability to deliver oxygen to muscles.
While these physiological adaptations are important, experts say you can get too much of a good thing. "Long runs are the bread and butter and provide a great foundation for an endurance runner's training formula, but they are not the only element," explains Coach Jenny Hadfield, author of the Running for Mortals book series. "It's kind of like creating a chili recipe and only putting in beans. All you end up having then is bean soup."
Coach Paul Stofko, an ultrarunner and head coach for several ultrarunning training camps in Estes Park, Colorado, agrees: "Especially in ultrarunning, we sometimes neglect the speed work and intervals and just worry about the long miles."
LSD will get you to the finish line, but you might find yourself left in the dust with only one gear. Elite trail runner Brandy Erholtz has experienced this first hand after running high mileage with little speed training. "Slow legs can be frustrating—aerobically you feel great but just don't have the 'oomph' you need to propel yourself faster, and don't even think about a finishing kick," says the USATF two-time Female Mountain Runner of the Year.
"Speed is especially important if you want to be competitive in a trail race," says Stofko. "You have to change your pace a lot in these races. Your competitiveness on race day is definitely going to decrease if you haven't been doing any speed work.
"I have found the bigger the base, the faster I am able to go in my speed sessions and the better racing season I can have," says Erholtz. "Once the endurance is there, begin to add some variety in the form of speed."
As Hadfield says, "Add a little cayenne pepper to that chili recipe."Interval training increases both your VO2max and lactate threshold. VO2max determines how efficient a runner's body is at transporting and using oxygen during exercise. Lactate threshold (LT) is determined by what exercise intensity lactic acid begins to accumulate in your blood stream. The more you train your body, the more intensity it can handle before starting that accumulation. Together, these two markers play a major role in determining running performance.
A study published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine compared the effects of long, slow distance training to high-intensity interval training. One group was prescribed six intervals of two minutes each to complete three times a week, while the other group did 60 minutes of slow, continuous running five days a week. After six weeks, the results were conclusive: the interval-trained group showed significantly more improvement in VO2max, despite the fact that they ran fewer days.
Further, recent research out of Minnesota State University found a relationship between frequency of interval training and the amount of improvement in LT. After assigning one group to one interval training session a week and another to two per week, they discovered that the latter group saw a greater upswing in their LTs.
Regardless of the scientific data, fast running in training will mentally prepare you for faster racing. "Speed sessions just help me feel sharp and ready to race," says Erholtz. "While doing them I try and visualize both competition and race courses to create the muscle memory necessary for racing."