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Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

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Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Penelope on Tue Oct 22, 2013 6:40 pm

I'm thinking of significantly reducing my miles each month over the winter, and adding in a lot more speedwork. To preface, my racing season is over and to change things up, I'm trying to decide if I should a) only track miles and not time or pace and quit worrying about pace, or b) go the other extreme and work on speedwork a lot, get myself faster, and then rebuild my endurance from a faster new set-point, so to speak.

Just wanted to get others' thoughts on that speedwork idea.  I picture doing a brief warmup and cooldown untimed, each ~1 mile, and a very fast mile in between, like tempo run pace or even faster, several times per week.  For me, my tempo runs are at about 8:15 pace.  It seems like the best way to get comfortable at faster paces is practice / to actually run those paces, right? (That's what I did when I did cross country as a high-school runner.  Max distance was 5 miles.)  So, if I were to do an 8:15 or 8:00 mile 4-5 times per week but only do max 3 miles/day, would that pace get more pleasant / do-able and become like my new set-point?  And then gradually do 1.5 miles, then 2 at that pace, etc?  Or another idea, starting from scratch with something like a couch-to-5K style plan for beginners, but doing it at a much faster pace and slowly building endurance at the faster pace?  It seems like it'd work, at least in theory.  

Or is that entirely asinine / grossly unrealistic / and just asking for injuries?
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Schuey on Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:23 pm

Well my thought would be the opposite and say work on endurance. Since your racing season is over now would be the perfect time to build a bigger aerobic engine.

I have always had the thought that speed can come back fairly fast. Hence the reason a speed phase is typically a shorter phase and generally at the end of a training cycle. Plus it will be endurance and strength you build that will be able to support speed workouts. Plus if you stop speed work you will typically lose it faster then endurance.

So, I would work on aerobic fitness and add some fartlek workouts to have some up tempo running during the winter. This in return will make it easier for the body to transition into tempo and speed workouts. Just a thought.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Jerry on Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:18 pm

The muscle may be too stiff with the cold. If you fully warm up, you must be in heavy layers, then you will be soaked with sweat inside, very uncomfortable and cold when you cool down that makes you easier to catch cold and get sick.

If you run on the TM, I have no opinion. But I decided never to run fast at my employer's gym, cause my colleagues may think I must be very angry at something to be able to run that fast, then if I do that weekly, I must be an angry person in nature ...
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Penelope on Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:23 pm

@Schuey wrote:Well my thought would be the opposite and say work on endurance. Since your racing season is over now would be the perfect time to build a bigger aerobic engine.

I have always had the thought that speed can come back fairly fast. Hence the reason a speed phase is typically a shorter phase and generally at the end of a training cycle. Plus it will be endurance and strength you build that will be able to support speed workouts. Plus if you stop speed work you will typically lose it faster then endurance.

So, I would work on aerobic fitness and add some fartlek workouts to have some up tempo running during the winter. This in return will make it easier for the body to transition into tempo and speed workouts. Just a thought.
Hmm.  Hadn't thought of that.  Just seems like my body got used to being allowed to go slower with higher mileage, like it's in a rut almost.

@Jerry wrote:The muscle may be too stiff with the cold. If you fully warm up, you must be in heavy layers, then you will be soaked with sweat inside, very uncomfortable and cold when you cool down that makes you easier to catch cold and get sick.

If you run on the TM, I have no opinion.
Hmm.  Hadn't thought of that, either.  Now that you say it, I probably would have to do it on the TM for that exact reason.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  JohnP on Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:39 pm

You definitely don't want to do much speed work outside when it's freezing out. I once got injured (AT) from doing that and it was too cold. Even if you warm up, significant cold will tighten up your muscles.

All in all, conventional wisdom is the opposite of your plan - that is, more easy miles rather than fewer faster miles will help you more. It's difficult to maintain speed benefits over time but a better base will help your speed come spring.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Penelope on Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:54 pm

@JohnP wrote:You definitely don't want to do much speed work outside when it's freezing out. I once got injured (AT) from doing that and it was too cold. Even if you warm up, significant cold will tighten up your muscles.

All in all, conventional wisdom is the opposite of your plan - that is, more easy miles rather than fewer faster miles will help you more. It's difficult to maintain speed benefits over time but a better base will help your speed come spring.
Also true.  This is why I needed feedback, because I'm seeing now that this idea is not a good one.  I didn't even think about it being cold.  The ideal time to do some experiment like this would be in the summer, not the winter.

So it seems like speed is a short-term thing and endurance can be a longer-term goal.  Maybe I should just keep / build the endurance I have and figure out the speed later. Like conventional wisdom says Smile
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Wed Oct 23, 2013 8:49 am

Quality over quantity is only a good idea if you already have the base, and you are not quite there yet.  That doesn't mean that you can't run your base building miles a bit faster, but in general, you will get faster by building the base miles.So in essence working on the endurance will help you gain the speed.  Might seem a bit counter intuitive, but it works.  Over the last year coming off injury and surgery, I worked on slowly building back the mileage.  And I mean slowly since I was doing long runs at 10:20 pace and slower earlier this year.  I am now running those same long (and even longer runs) closer to 9-9:15 min pace and I added back in the speed about a month ago.  My average per mile time dropped with the addition of the miles and the time.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  ounce on Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:51 am

"Pace is more important than distance," says an Italian coach named Canova.  In the September 2012 Running Times named "Canova 101", pages 38-43.  This coach explains his philosophy of running at the pace you want and build up your distance at that pace.  It was a fascinating concept to me. 

I even started doing that back in the Spring, but there was a huge mountain in front of me that stopped me in my tracks.  Summer weather in Houston.  Nothing keeps pace down on a consistent basis like 77 degree mornings with a dewpoint of 75 and no wind for 3 months.  But it does build a base.

My recommendation would be to do core work as if you wanted to be a gymnast with the goal of hanging from a pull-up bar and doing a toes-to-bar by just bending at the torso.

Also, I would recommend getting a bio-mechanical evaluation because as you know from my blog, mine suck and it's affecting my running.

And work on a base using Maffetone as the guide.  Ask Mark how it's worked.  I'm on it, too, but I don't do the tests like Mark does.  But it does give you extra gears in your transmission to run faster at a lower heart rate (additional gears will lower RPM for the same speed = better gas mileage).  I was beginning to reap the benefits of it like I never have before.  And I still can, once I fix my feet.  It's so exciting for me to be on the cusp of breaking through.  I feel like Jed Clampett seein' that "a bubblin' crude."
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  mul21 on Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:51 am

There's actually an old Running Times article based on Canova's theories that I was looking for last night and couldn't find.  It outlined this inverted pyramid that he likes and went through the workouts given to 3 runners of different ability.  I may have a spreadsheet somewhere that I dumped the info into, but I'm having no luck finding the actual article, which kind of sucks, because it gave a very good synopsis of how to go about exactly what you're asking here.  I'll keep looking and see what I can find.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Chris Coleman on Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:31 pm

I don't have a strong opinion on whether you should build speed before endurance or vice versa. I think much depends on the time of year and what races are available early next season. I (sort of) like the idea of speed first, but I think this goes against well-informed conventional wisdom. If you go with building distance, though, you must vary the pace. Getting in a constant-pace rut is not only boring, but likely to lead to injury. Fartleks are great if you don't want to do interval training (and you probably don't want to start interval training in winter).
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:37 pm

I agree with Chris on the fartleks, and I do at least two runs per week during a build up phase where I run 8-10 series of 1 min hard followed by 1 min easy in the middle of a run.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  mountandog on Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:53 pm

@mul21 wrote:There's actually an old Running Times article based on Canova's theories that I was looking for last night and couldn't find.  It outlined this inverted pyramid that he likes and went through the workouts given to 3 runners of different ability.  I may have a spreadsheet somewhere that I dumped the info into, but I'm having no luck finding the actual article, which kind of sucks, because it gave a very good synopsis of how to go about exactly what you're asking here.  I'll keep looking and see what I can find.
I to recall an article in Running Times along those lines.  There was also another one in which the author got in shape for a 5k quickly by focussing on speed.  That might be worthwhile for a short-term get ready one time event only, not a winter's worth of running.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Penelope on Wed Oct 23, 2013 8:19 pm

Was it this, or something similar? http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/canova-101?page=single

I just feel like I'm in a pace rut, and that I've allowed my body to reach a new set point, a new norm.  I'm tired of 9:15-10:15 type training runs.  When I do run faster, it's hard, but so much more pleasant / enjoyable.  I'm just starting to wonder if by always letting myself run that slow, I've then set the expectation that anything faster is hard.

I know that more miles overall helps and has helped a lot of people here, but quite honestly, I'm starting to get disillusioned by the idea of more slower miles.  Nothing else in life seems to fit that model.  It seems more natural that if you want to perform a certain way, you get as close to it in practice as you possibly can.  I used to play the flute, and when I was practicing, I wouldn't slow the piece down and practice it at a slow tempo, and then just expect that when I perform it for the audience, my adrenaline and slow practice will just be enough to make me able to play it at the speed it should be at.  Or like practicing for a test like the SATs or something--if you know you have to answer a certain number of questions in a given time, you do practice tests mimicking that so the real thing feels easy or at least similar.  

When I first became a marathon runner, the idea of only doing 20 miles before the race seemed absurd--why would you only train for 75% of the race, I thought?  And how can you rely on your body to just magically perform faster in a race if you let it run 1-1.5 minutes /mile slower in training?  I know from experience that that actually does happen....at least in shorter distances for me.  But it doesn't really make sense.

If I want to run a half at 8:30 pace, it just seems logical that training your body at that pace would be the way to go.  If you run faster in the race, great.  I think of Wendy Miller, and her story of starting out by just running at 8:00/mile pace on the treadmill and adding on distance.  Wendy is really fast, so maybe 8:00/mile for her was pretty easy /slow for her, even as a beginner.  Maybe 8:00/mile for her is equivalent to 10:00/mile for me. But I've been so intrigued by her story and kind of want to replicate that and see what happens for me.  I can run 1 mile at 8:00 pace.  I can run 3 at that pace.  Maybe 5 even, never tried.  But 10 or 13? I can't, and how come? I have the endurance to run 13 at a slower pace, so it's not that I can't do 13 at all.....just thinking out loud here. 

Thanks for the thoughts
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Penelope on Wed Oct 23, 2013 8:46 pm

In thinking about this more, I'm realizing that I'm just bored.  I like to run faster than my rut pace, but it's harder on my body, so I can't do it as often as I want to.   After a hard workout, I feel so good physically and mentally, but you can't do that every day, thus the idea of doing a lot fewer miles to compensate.  It would probably be wiser to just keep doing tempo runs and adding on the length, 5 minutes / week longer or something.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  JohnP on Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:55 pm

What programs have you followed? I think most good programs, other than for beginners, will offer a lot of speed variety. For example, the Hanson plan I recently followed had four speeds each week:
1) tempo (which was just MP-15 seconds)
2) MP (for up to 10 miles per week at a time)
3) Long run (about 30-45 seconds slower than MP)
4) Easy runs (three a week - typically 5-10 miles)

Another way to mix things up - rather than regular 4-6 mile runs, do a 10 mile run one day and none the next. The 10 mile will take a lot out of you. I think if you mix distances and paces up, it will relieve the boredom.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Penelope on Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:19 pm

@JohnP wrote:What programs have you followed? I think most good programs, other than for beginners, will offer a lot of speed variety. For example, the Hanson plan I recently followed had four speeds each week:
1) tempo (which was just MP-15 seconds)
2) MP (for up to 10 miles per week at a time)
3) Long run (about 30-45 seconds slower than MP)
4) Easy runs (three a week - typically 5-10 miles)

Another way to mix things up - rather than regular 4-6 mile runs, do a 10 mile run one day and none the next. The 10 mile will take a lot out of you. I think if you mix distances and paces up, it will relieve the boredom.
Well, the problem is exactly that, I never follow a program, and now that I am saying it here, it seems painfully obvious that that is the answer.  If someone tells me to add variety, I will, but I seem to not do it myself.

I don't like structure.  But I need it.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Admin on Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:46 pm

I've done exactly what you are considering and I both enjoyed it, and improved. I took a block of time, I believe it was 8 weeks or so, and I did what I called 'acceleration-based training'. On every run I had to finish at a pace faster than I started. The workouts were hard, but fun! I had a whole variety of runs to choose from and decided each day which run I would do. I did most of them on a treadmill so I didn't worry about outdoor conditions. Coming out of that training block I went straight into a marathon buildup and PRd.

If you can do it without hurting yourself, I say go for it!

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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Dave-O on Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:17 pm

Variety is good. If you find yourself in a pace rut, then you need to change things up a bit.  After reading this thread, here's a couple of random, unconnected thoughts:

1. Strides.  Do them 2-3 times per week. Strides are a "pure" speed workout, whereas your top end speed is the only limiting factor (compared to 400 or 800m repeats, where Vo2Max comes into play).  Strides build the neuro-muscular fitness to simply run fast.  I know I've advocated for them countless times over the past years, but seriously, they are invaluable to fitness.

2. I have always found that a good sign of fitness is the ability to run a wide range of paces.  When I'm in race shape, my weekly pace range is 4:40 to 8:30 -- with lots of variance in between.  You don't want to find yourself in a weekly routine where your "easy" pace and your "fast" pace start converging. 

3. The inverted pyramid scheme Jim and others mentioned is the theory that a good training cycle has three phase: Base, Speed, Stamina.  Base is primarily mileage and long runs. Speed is traditional V02Max workouts like intervals.  And stamina is focused on tempo/race specificity. The theory is that V02Max gains only take ~6 weeks to spike, so throw that phase in to gain speed before transitioning on your more traditional tempo runs. 

4. I don't think speedwork causes injury.  I think speedwork without the right base and strength causes injury.  So if you do want to focus on getting faster and fast miles, just make sure you aren't neglecting the easy days.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  ounce on Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:19 pm

@Penelope wrote:Was it this, or something similar? http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/canova-101?page=single

The article looks longer than the one in Running Times, but that's the one.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Penelope on Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:29 pm

I think I'd have to do it on a treadmill to avoid the ice that'll be coming, and to avoid the overheating from the layers needed.

And I think as long as I warm up, and listen to my body, hopefully I won't get injured.  If niggles start to appear, I'll know it's time to back off.  

I just love the harder /faster runs, even though they take more out of you.  I don't ever the endorphins / runners' high from an easy run.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  nkrichards on Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:03 pm

Kathy...I don't have enough experience to give you any advice really but I will say that we're all different and respond differently to training.  As long as you're willing to listen to your body why not experiment a bit during the winter and see if you can put the fun back into running.  After all isn't that really what it's all about?

Keep us posted and have fun. Smile
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  mul21 on Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:58 pm

While I was going through some old training plans trying to put something together for this spring, I stumbled upon a spreadsheet with this stuff in it and I think this is the basics of the Canova program I referred to earlier. I remember specifically doing the 200s as part of this and being surprised at how well I held up on the last few. At any rate, here are the workouts:

Week 1:
2 mi., Fartlek Workout: 10–12 x 1 minute at sub-5K pace with 1 minute jog recovery, 2 mi.
Speed Workout: 4–5 x 1 mile @ 7:00 with 800m jog recovery

Week 2:
2 mi, Sprint Workout: 6 x 200m @ 90–95% of full effort with 400m jog recovery, 2 mi.
Speed Workout: 6–8 x 800m @ 3:20 with 400m jog recovery

Week 3:
2 mi, Fartlek Workout: 10–12 x 1 minute at sub-5K pace with 1 minute jog recovery, 2 mi
Speed Workout: 4–5 x 1 mile @ 7:00 with 800m jog recovery

Week 4:
2 mi, Stride Workout: 6 x :45 fast with 90 seconds jog recovery, 2 mi

I'm not sure what happened to the 2nd workout from week 4, but I suspects I skipped it due to a race at the end of that week.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Mark B on Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:37 am

@ounce wrote:And work on a base using Maffetone as the guide.  Ask Mark how it's worked.  I'm on it, too, but I don't do the tests like Mark does.  But it does give you extra gears in your transmission to run faster at a lower heart rate (additional gears will lower RPM for the same speed = better gas mileage).  I was beginning to reap the benefits of it like I never have before.  And I still can, once I fix my feet.  It's so exciting for me to be on the cusp of breaking through.  I feel like Jed Clampett seein' that "a bubblin' crude."

I'll throw my voice in here, too, talking about the low-intensity endurance work others have mentioned.

One approach is to not run by pace, but by intensity as measured by heart rate. Once you get the effective target heart rate established that balances health and fitness, It will feel weird and you'll think you're running too slow - but you'll actually be stimulating positive adaptations that will over time significantly improve your aerobic capacity.

And the best part? If you're doing it right, you keep getting faster at that same target (low) heart rate, which gives some great positive motivation to keep at it. You'll notice a moderate improvement every three weeks, and a bigger gain every six weeks. (If the gains don't happen, something's wrong.)

Once you've got a good base and the easy speed it brings, it's time to build with a bit more intensity (Hadd's Approach to Distance Training is a dense read, but helpful.) and sharpen up for whatever race you want to try. Though if you've worked the aerobic engine enough, that extra sharpening might not even be necessary.
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Jerry on Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:33 am

@Mark B wrote:
@ounce wrote:And work on a base using Maffetone as the guide.  Ask Mark how it's worked.  I'm on it, too, but I don't do the tests like Mark does.  But it does give you extra gears in your transmission to run faster at a lower heart rate (additional gears will lower RPM for the same speed = better gas mileage).  I was beginning to reap the benefits of it like I never have before.  And I still can, once I fix my feet.  It's so exciting for me to be on the cusp of breaking through.  I feel like Jed Clampett seein' that "a bubblin' crude."

I'll throw my voice in here, too, talking about the low-intensity endurance work others have mentioned.

One approach is to not run by pace, but by intensity as measured by heart rate. Once you get the effective target heart rate established that balances health and fitness, It will feel weird and you'll think you're running too slow - but you'll actually be stimulating positive adaptations that will over time significantly improve your aerobic capacity.

And the best part? If you're doing it right, you keep getting faster at that same target (low) heart rate, which gives some great positive motivation to keep at it. You'll notice a moderate improvement every three weeks, and a bigger gain every six weeks. (If the gains don't happen, something's wrong.)

Once you've got a good base and the easy speed it brings, it's time to build with a bit more intensity (Hadd's Approach to Distance Training is a dense read, but helpful.) and sharpen up for whatever race you want to try. Though if you've worked the aerobic engine enough, that extra sharpening might not even be necessary.

Mark, don't you agree you are a little too late on this?
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

Post  Mark B on Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:03 am

@Jerry wrote:
@Mark B wrote:
@ounce wrote:And work on a base using Maffetone as the guide.  Ask Mark how it's worked.  I'm on it, too, but I don't do the tests like Mark does.  But it does give you extra gears in your transmission to run faster at a lower heart rate (additional gears will lower RPM for the same speed = better gas mileage).  I was beginning to reap the benefits of it like I never have before.  And I still can, once I fix my feet.  It's so exciting for me to be on the cusp of breaking through.  I feel like Jed Clampett seein' that "a bubblin' crude."

I'll throw my voice in here, too, talking about the low-intensity endurance work others have mentioned.

One approach is to not run by pace, but by intensity as measured by heart rate. Once you get the effective target heart rate established that balances health and fitness, It will feel weird and you'll think you're running too slow - but you'll actually be stimulating positive adaptations that will over time significantly improve your aerobic capacity.

And the best part? If you're doing it right, you keep getting faster at that same target (low) heart rate, which gives some great positive motivation to keep at it. You'll notice a moderate improvement every three weeks, and a bigger gain every six weeks. (If the gains don't happen, something's wrong.)

Once you've got a good base and the easy speed it brings, it's time to build with a bit more intensity (Hadd's Approach to Distance Training is a dense read, but helpful.) and sharpen up for whatever race you want to try. Though if you've worked the aerobic engine enough, that extra sharpening might not even be necessary.

Mark, don't you agree you are a little too late on this?

 scratch 

Not quite sure what you mean, Jerry. It's never too late to spend a couple of hours deciphering Hadd!
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Mark B
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Re: Ideas on fewer but much faster miles

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