by Kevin Jermyn, TrackCoach.com
Have you ever heard the saying “speed kills”, well that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but speed work can be a very demanding form of training that can often leave you dead legged. But if you complete your speed work, also know as repetition training, correctly and time it well it will help you race faster and more comfortably. The purpose of this article is to discuss why completing repetition work is important and how you should do it properly.
Repetition training is very different from the other forms of training such as lactate threshold runs and VO2 max intervals in that repetition training is not based on VO2 max. Rather repetition pace is based largely on the event you are training for. The purpose of repetition training is to improve your speed and economy. Repetition training recruits the fast-twitch muscle fibers that we seldom use when doing the other types of training, but is so very important when we race. Repetition training is also very effective at improving our running economy, which refers to the amount of oxygen we consume relative to our body weight and the speed at which we are running. By practicing running fast, especially at race pace and a little bit faster, we train our body to “eliminate unnecessary arm and leg motion, to recruit the most desirable motor units while running at or near race pace, and to feel comfortable at faster speeds of running” (Daniels’ Running Formula, Jack Daniels, p. 42). Just like you can improve your VO2 max and lactate threshold through interval and threshold training, you can improve your speed and economy with repetition training. There is often a misconception on a runners speed, that it is limited by genetic factors, this may be true but no more then our VO2 max and lactate threshold are limited by genetic factors, so don’t shy away from repetition training if you want to race faster. With a more efficient running economy it is very possible to beat a runner with a greater VO2 max and/or lactate threshold.
Now that you know why repetition training is important, let’s discuss the best way to accomplish repetition training. Repetition training is primarily based upon the event you are training for, since the goal is to acclimate your body to running at race pace. There are at least two different repetition paces though, depending on the event you are training for. If you are training for an event 3,000 meters or less, your race pace will be equal to or a little faster then your race pace for that event. For example, if you are a 6 minute miler, then your repetition pace would be 90 seconds per 400 meters or 45 seconds per 200 meters. The second repetition pace is for runners whose primary event is 5000-meters or longer. In this case, your repetition pace would be 6 seconds per 400 meters faster than your current VO2 max interval pace (the pace you could hold for 10-15 minutes in a race type situation). The reason for the difference is that for the longer distances, VO2 max interval pace will actually be faster then repetition pace since the race is longer then 10-15 minutes. For example, if you are a 40 minute 10,000-meter runner, then your repetition pace would be 85 seconds per 400 meters or 42.5 seconds per 200 meters, which is exactly 6 seconds per 400 meters faster then your VO2 max interval pace of 91 seconds per 400 meters. Recovery after each repetition bout is largely subjective, since the goal of each repetition is to run at race pace or faster, you should recover long enough so that you can complete the next repetition bout as well as the last one. As a rule of thumb, try recovering around 4 times the duration of the interval bout. As for the total amount of weekly repetition training you should complete, run up to 5 percent of your weekly mileage as repetition training with a maximum of 5,000 meters.
In short, run fast in training to be able to run faster in races. Run at your race pace or a little faster, take adequate recovery, focus on running efficiently, and you will be well on your way to improving your running performance.
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