What the Pros Do to Run Fast
They work hard to get the results they do, but have you ever wondered exactly what workouts Canada’s top triathletes do? Here are some tough run sessions that five pro athletes do to conquer their races.
The actual interval varies from 800 m to 1 km to 1,600 m depending on where I am in the training year. Typically I’ll focus on 800’s to start, do that for four to eight weeks, once or twice per week, then move to another distance to keep the stimulus changing and the body guessing.
The actual distance of the entire workout varies between 5 km and 14 km. My first track workout of the year may be only 6 x 800 m. But then they get progressively longer.
The paces I aim for also vary. For the 800’s I look for a pace time that is 30 seconds per mile faster than my typical goal half marathon race pace. As an example: in a race I aim to run between 1:12 and 1:15 for 21.1 km, which equates to about 3:30 per km. This translates to an 800 m pace of between 2:25 and 2:35. I take two minutes rest and do it again.
The first few intervals of a given workout can often feel quite hard, but then the legs open up a bit. The last two or three will again start to feel quite hard. Once the intervals get a bit longer the goal pace times slow slightly. On a 1,600 m or one mile interval, I may only look to go about 15 seconds faster than my goal race pace.
The aim of these workouts is to train the body’s ability to hold a fast pace. They’re not max effort intervals, but they’re still very hard and with the limited rest interval they hurt by the end.
Here’s what a typical interval workout would like:
• 30-minute warm-up run
• 10 x 800 m (10 per cent faster than goal half marathon race pace off the bike) with 2 minutes walking rest
• 15-minute cool down run A longer interval workout would be as follows:
• 30-minute warm-up run • 6 x 1,600 m (five per cent faster than goal half marathon race pace off the bike) with 2 minutes walking rest
• 15-minute cool down run
For some reason I love 1 km repeats. I do fast six by one km repeats, with three minutes rest between them. For my paces I go sub 2:40 with five by 200 m at the end. I did this workout 10 days before the Sydney Olympics. It seemed to work.
Hill sprints are my favorite type of interval workout. I find that these really help with my run form, specifically: quick turnover, high knees, powerful leg drive and balanced arm swing. I tend to do them more in a winter training block where the focus is on form and power. My longer tempo runs, or faster track workouts come closer to the race season.
Generally I progress from a fairly steep hill, with a 20 second interval, leaving on 1:30, to a more gradual hill with a 30 second interval leaving on 2:00 (covering more ground for the latter).
The whole workout generally looks like this:
• 15 minute warm-up run
• 5 to 10 intervals (depending on fatigue, and how form holds up)
• 10 minute run focusing on form
• 5 to 10 more intervals
• 15 minute cool down.
I often do the following during the summer and call it the over/under workout. This can be done on the track or on a gravel path do reduce impact. This workout is really good to simulate a race with changes in paces. It’s also good to learn how to pace yourself because if you start too fast you won’t be able to finish the workout. It’s really important to respect your paces.
Warm up with a 15 minute jog followed by three minutes steady, two minutes easy and drills. I always begin with four to six strides.
• 8 to 10 x 1 km over threshold / 1 km under threshold.
For example, if threshold is 3:35/km, then the execution should be as follows:
• 1 km at 3:50 followed by
• 1 km at 3:20 without rest.
Cool down with a 15 minute jog, drills and a few key plyometric exercises.
This workout gets me fit fast.
I don’t venture to the track that often. It’s a bit difficult sometimes to find one that is always open where I’m training. But when I do, I have one workout that I usually end up doing. It’s a good one to repeat monthly to see how you’re improving.
Warm up about 3 km on the track. Include build-ups on the straight-aways (as strides) and go easy on the turns for half a mile.
• 2 x 800 m at slightly faster than half-marathon race pace effort with 200 to 400 m walk-jog between.
• 2 x 400 m at the same pace.
• 2 x 200 m at the same pace. Cool down for 2 km on the grass inside or alongside the track without shoes.
This is short and simple, with some solid effort.