Speedwork, also known as interval training, tempo runs or fartlek runs, is a key component to any endurance athlete’s training routine. This is especially the case for obstacle course racing and mud run athletes, as the ever-changing race pace requires constant adaptation. However, speedwork is one of the most avoided days for many athletes, because it’s “hard work,” “too tiring” and/or “not fun.”
Speedwork has many benefits. However, the most important is that your body learns to adapt and tolerate a build-up of lactic acid. Lactic acid causes fatigue in muscles. During moderate or easy exercise, builds up slowly. When exercising at high intensity, lactic acid builds quickly. Through speedwork, you force your body to adapt to the build-up, which can help you push through those last few obstacles on race day. Speedwork has also been known to increase your cardiovascular strength, thus boosting your endurance. With the facts aside, it’s something every runner should include in their training.
When I started training again, some of my favorite workouts were ones that took me off the beaten path, out of the gym and into the world. The speed workout below takes you off the track (and treadmill), and let’s you start from right outside your doorstep.
TELEPHONE POLE SPRINTS
Beginner – Duration 20 minutes
Find a road safe to run on—either one less traveled or with a sidewalk. Sprint from one telephone pole to the next, then jog past the next three telephone poles. Repeat this pattern for the twenty minutes. Use the jogs as a recovery and the sprint should be an all out effort.
Advanced – Duration 45 minutes to 1 hour
Again, find a safe road to run with telephone poles. Sprint from one pole to the next. Then, jog to the next pole and begin another sprint. Repeat the pattern for the duration of the workout.
If you want some variation on the workout, just change the number of poles you sprint and jog so your body is constantly adapting to the changes. Since it’s summer, be sure to carry water with you on your run, as well as a gel or bar (especially for the longer sessions). With a few weeks of speed training, you will see differences in your longer runs and overall conditioning.
That’s the dirt for this week! Next week, we talk hydration and nutrition for race days and training days.