Dear Dave,

I’m not a very fast runner but I’ve been joining a fast training group once a week for several years. I’m good at keeping up during the intervals, but I have a hard time recovering and then running well the next day. I really haven’t gotten any faster in my races. What am I doing wrong?



Dear Joan,

Too much speed work in one single weekly session can do more harm than good. Your inability to recover is probably because the dosage of speed in your current program is just too great.

But don’t abandon your intervals; let’s just restructure your workouts and their frequency.

In order to improve your speed in races, you need to get stronger. Ideally I like to see my athletes perform a little speed work in almost every run session, rather than overdoing it once a week (as I fear you might be doing).

You can accomplish this by adding two types of interval sessions into your weekly training calendar. They include:

  1. Swing Pacing intervals
  2. Hill sessions

1. Swing Pacing. I refer to workouts where you hold your race pace, and then vary it a bit by going faster and slower, as “swing pacing”.

I find that swing pacing sets are invaluable for teaching athletes proper pace in simulated racing conditions. They also help your body get accustomed to sub-threshold surges that you’ll often experience in competition. You’ll be recruiting those fast twitch 2a muscle fibers and learning how to become more efficient burning glycogen.

To construct a swing pacing session that’s personalized for you, begin by projecting your race pace. For example, if your estimated race pace is 8:00/mile, then construct your interval block as follows:

½ mile @ 8:30/mi
½ mile @ 7:40/mi
½ mile @ 8:00/mi
That totals just over 12:00 minutes of pace-focused effort in 1 “swing pacing” set.
Repeat this swing pacing set 2 more times (for a total of three sets) for optimal results. These 3 sets can be embedded into an otherwise aerobically paced run of 50 to 60 minutes of total length.

2. Hill Sessions. To further build your power, I also like the shorter, faster intervals performed on a gradual (4%) hill.

After a 20 min aerobic warm-up, run 8 x 30 sec hard uphill, jogging down to the bottom very easily after each effort. Complete the session by running aerobically to a total workout time of 50 to 60 min.

As your experience with these workout formats grows, you can slowly add more higher intensity segments.

Remember: To get faster and stronger, you want to perform short segments of higher intensity training more frequently and consistently in your program.

The good news is that it typically only takes 3 to 4 weeks to begin seeing positive results.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.


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