As a long-distance runner, maybe you don’t do speed work, it just doesn’t appeal or sound like fun. Like most, your focus is on logging lots and lots of miles and you don’t pay too much attention to your speed.
As a result, you may go years without running faster than 5K pace in training. Unfortunately, it is a great myth that in order to run distances well, you must simply run far. If you train at the same pace day after day, week after week, year after year, that’s the kind of running your body adapts to.
But break out of that rut with speed work and your body will adjust to the new demands.
If you want to see progress in your running for the long-term, you need to incorporate regular and consistent speed work into your training. If you are sick of doing the “marathon shuffle” or if you are frustrated that your times keep getting slower – then speed work can help. To get faster you need to do some of your training at substantially faster-than-marathon paces. No surprise there: The body has an uncanny ability to adapt to new physiological demands.
How does speed work benefit long distance running?
1. It improves your running economy
Short, fast repeats train your body to burn less fuel and improve your oxygen processing. This helps you run more economically, and therefore faster and farther with less effort.
2. Speed work trains the body to activate a greater percentage of muscle fibres with each stride
This makes each stride more explosive and generating more power without extra effort. This increased muscle power makes your stride more fluid and allows you to propel yourself farther with each stride, making easier distance runs.
3. It helps you overcome the pace rut
Fast repeats train the nervous system to adjust to new demands and challenge the muscles to function at full force. This translates to greater strength, faster times and helps avoid the “marathoner shuffle.”
4. Speed work increases your lactate turn-point
The lactate turn-point refers to the point at which lactic acid build-up exceeds removal. A higher lactate turn-point will improve your endurance capabilities and running efficiency.
5. It improves your overall fitness level
It does this by increasing your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular function. A stronger heart and more efficient cardiovascular system means you will be able run longer and faster without getting tired.
Everyone can benefit from speed work. Incorporating speed work into your training will make you noticeably stronger and your distance running smoother and faster while taking less effort. So let’s get to it! Let’s break out of that comfort zone, ease into speed work and enjoy easier distance run!