Speed Sessions & Injuries

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20/08/2002 at 19:57
Everytime in the past that I've introduced speed sessions - within a couple of weeks I've developed some sort of injury - deep calf muscle pain / desperate shin problems / groin strains etc.

But somehow I've got to try to up my speed - even if it's just so that my normal speed is more comfortable & I get the benefit of a better running style - which I've been told I need!!!

So, has anyone else prone to injury got experience of introducing speed sessions in a way which hasn't injured them? If so please supply full details!


Shattered by Name and shattered by nature.
20/08/2002 at 22:17
SS, I've experienced all of the same problems when introducing speed work and did very little until this year. I now do the vast majority of my speed sessions either on a track, which has a much more forgiving surface, or on grass. Since adopting this approach I haven't had any major problems, although I still get the occasional small niggle or two.

However, having done quality speed work for nearly 4 months I have come to the conclusion that it hasn't really helped me that much. What works best for me is doing long intervals (on the track or treadmill), tempo runs at 10k speed and my long runs at near to marathon pace.

So, rather than do the "normal" speed sessions, why don't you simply try the above. It may work for you or it may not but at least the risk of injury will be minimised.
21/08/2002 at 20:52
Thanks Drew - my problem I think is that I find raising my speed so desperately hard (!) that if I try it whilst on a normal run - I then can't complete the run. Pathetic I know!

Fascinating tho' that for someone who runs as fast as you do, you don't do the 'orthodox' approach!!!
21/08/2002 at 20:58
Why not do the fast bit towards the end and then simply walk/jog for 5 minutes to cool down. During my tempo runs the cool down part is the most enjoyable as I can go as slow as I want to.

I have tried the orthodox approach and although it certainly helps with my overall speed it just isn't right for me, at this moment in time.
21/08/2002 at 21:54
Drew -

have you found that your "no intervals" scam (sorry ;-)) works for distances less than a marathon?

I have to say, you're probably an abnormally gifted runner, cos for most people, intervals are surely the only way to getting faster - though I'd agree that tempo type runs (of whatever kind) are by far the best training for the marathon distance.

21/08/2002 at 22:28
Achilles, I'm not saying that intervals don't work. I have done lots of them, but I think that most runners would benefit more from tempo runs and long intervals rather than expecting all their speed to come from the interval sessions.

I've only been running seriously for about 3 years, so I'm no expert, but I'm a great believer in trying out different training methods over a 6 week period and to monitor the results.

The problem with intervals is that unless you do them correctly - at the right pace and with the right rest period (which is a key element) - you're not going to obtain maximum benefit. With tempo runs and long intervals you can't really go wrong and it is a very simplistic approach.

As for my approach working for distances less than marathons - yes, it definitely does work, although I haven't tried anything less than 10k.

In addition to the the article somewhere in the RW site based around running at the correct pace, I've researched various running websites which have confirmed that this approach can be very effective.
21/08/2002 at 22:53
Drew -

it's good to know that your system works - I have to say that since I prefer running the longer distances and especially marathons, I tend to concentrate hardest on tempo runs and fartlek and long intervals (1-2 miles) rather than grinding out the 400m reps, and so far it's worked pretty well for me too. Raising the lactate threshold (the key benefit of tempo runs) has got to be more significant for the average runner (especially over the longer distances) than building raw speed, which is the function of intervals.

I loathe intervals and they're a surefire way of getting injured if you're not careful - although I do like to run Yasso 800's once in a while (like yesterday - ouch!) to get a measure of where I'm at, as they're an absurdly good guide to the marathon distance (they shouldn't work, but they do - run 800m in 3 minutes and you can run a 3 hour marathon, 3:30 for an 800 and you can do a 3:30 marathon - bizarre but effective!).

I'm not sure I'm quite confident enough to throw the intervals away just yet, but it's encouraging to know that there's more than one way to skin the proverbial domestic feline. s.
22/08/2002 at 07:29

I can't really comment on the injury aspect as I've only recently been injured! If you find that intervals slow you down during a normal run - why don't you try running and out-and-back course with the "back" run quicker than the front? My other suggestion would be to try some longer (say 1k) intervals on a treadmill, that way you won't have the danger of being stranded and tired!


I think to a degree you are right and the problem with many runners is that they are happy to bang out 400's but not running tempo's of 20-60 minutes. Personally I think you need both, especially for racing 10k and below, as the shorter intervals teach raw speed but unless you've got the speed endurance it's partially wasted effort.
22/08/2002 at 09:04
Whoops, sorry to anyone following this thread - I didn't get that quite right about Yasso 800's. I should have said you need to build up to about 8-10 reps at the relevant pace.
(see www.runnersworld.com/home/0,1300,1-51-54-624,00 for full details)

Anybody else use this excellent and intriguing work-out? s.
22/08/2002 at 10:14
Sorry to lower the tone from knowledgable expert to stupid fairly new runner, but what exactly is a tempo run?

I've read a few things about different types of speed work but I'm not 100% sure what a tempo run actually is. On Monday I ran just under 4 miles at what worked out to be 7:27 pace. I was running quite hard, but it was sustainable. On my long runs I probably run a bit slower than this - 8-8:30 pace. Was MOnday's run a 'tempo' run?

Sorry to sound stupid but although I've got the measure of what's meant by fartlek, intervals, out and back etc. I'm still not really sure exactly what a tempo run is, or how to run one!
22/08/2002 at 10:48

A tempo run is a run of, usually, 20-60 minutes where you try and hold a steady but hard pace. Depending what you're training for the pace can vary - at the upper time limit you might aim to run 60 minutes at marathon pace, in the mid ranges say 30-40 minutes at half marathon pace and at the lower reaches perhaps 20 minutes at slightly slower than 10k pace.

The object of the session is to get used to running at your target race pace, it also helps build speed endurance.

Running for long periods at pace can be very hard work so I prefer a small variation which is to split the tempo run in two and run say 2 x 15 minutes at target 10k pace with a short rest between of say 4-5 minutes.

You should always preceed and follow a tempo run with a jog warm up and cool down.
22/08/2002 at 12:30
I've been running for over a year, but when it comes to the technical side of training I'm a novice. At the moment I run 10k 4 times a week, starting out at 10.4km per hr and then building up to 12.3km per hr over 53 minutes (on a treadmill)- would this be classed as effective training? I've concentrated on 10k and improved my time, and I'm now going to gradually build my distance weekly. Am I going about my training to increase time & distance the right way by starting off at a slower pace and increasing this pace throughout the run? If not, can anyone tell me what other ways I can train to increase my distance & time...eg: what is interval training?
22/08/2002 at 13:16

Your is an absolute nightmare question to which there are about 13 zillion answers. I will give you my view but feel free to ask more specific questions.

1. As to whether you are going the right way about building up your training, that largely depends on what you want to achieve - are you aiming for a race or do you simply feel that after a year you need to do something different?

2. Interval training is where you run for a pre-determined time at faster than your normal pace taking (usually an equivalent) rest period after each fast session e.g. you may decide in the course of a run to include 5 x 2 minutes at a faster pace followed by 2 minutes slow after each fast. There are whole books on the subject of intervals!

3. Running acceleration runs as you are doing at the moment is OK but you may get more benefit (physically and mentally) from designating certain sessions as slow/ steady, certain session as fast etc. etc. e.g. you could amend your current schedule by replacing 2 of your current 10k runs with a) a 5k run at faster than your current pace; and b) a 15-20k run at slower than current pace.
4. Have you thought about running outdoors where changes in terrain (i.e. hills) and weather will make a difference to your training?

There are lots and lots of things you can do to get better and the above is just some pointers.
22/08/2002 at 13:21
Minkin -

I'd say your 4-miler was a perfectly good tempo run - try doing them on a weekly basis and you'll really see the difference.

I'd also agree with Martin that a good way of making tempo runs easier but still effective, especially if you're new to the idea, is to break them up into 10 minute chunks (or so) with easy recoveries (but not too long as you'll defeat the object). I think these are sometimes called "tempo intervals" for what it's worth - but you get the idea. The key as Martin says is finding the right pace - 1/2M pace is a useful average.

Claire - I would say that you probably shouldn't jump into interval training just yet, but try out tempo runs and fartlek (check these out on the RW website) as a variant on your current training routine, which I'm sure is giving you a training benefit if somewhat unorthodox.

The only thing I would say about it is make sure you're doing a proper warm-down of about 10 minutes at a gentle pace, rather than abruptly stopping having reached your flat-out speed - this is not recommended, as it doesn't give your body a chance to flush out the toxins from your work-out, and not cooling down makes you stiffer the next day and can bring on injury. Conversely, you're doing just the right thing by starting your work-outs at a gentle pace - highly recommended at all times!


22/08/2002 at 13:36
Thanks Martin & Achilles for your advice. I've been running for a while but only did my first 10k race in July finishing in 51.2mins-since that experience I'm determined to take my running more seriously. My aim is to do a half-marathon and then the marathon next year. Your advice martin on doing three mixed runs is great, as I didn't think I'd get any benefit from running a shorter distance at a faster pace. I must admit I've become very fixed on doing 10k everytime I go on the treadmill. I've just joined a running club which I'm sure will help with my training.
22/08/2002 at 14:10
Claire, an idea which I have adopted this year and which is aimed at increasing my mileage is to simply add a couple of miles onto your runs. For example, rather than do a 10 minute warm up for my tempo runs and interval training I'll quite often do 20 minutes + warm up and finish off with 5 minutes very easy then 10 minutes + at recovery pace. The more mileage you can do at recovery pace the more your base fitness will increase.
22/08/2002 at 14:15
Generally agree with the comments here.
I tend to focus more on 10miles and upwards and find that longer tempo runs (or longer intervals - 3*1.5 miles) seem to me to be more beneficial for my racing,although I do the shorter sessions (although never shorter than 400m).
Maybe its in the mind - I see 7 miles at half marathon pace more relevant to my goal of a halfM pb than I do 12*400m at 5k pace.

Claire - agree about the fast/slow sessions and intervals already suggested.
Well done with the 10k time, excellent for a first go.
22/08/2002 at 14:31
Way to go Claire - that's a great first time effort for the 10K.

Drew -

Far be it from me, but what you're advocating (i.e. adding extra recovery miles) sounds suspiciously like the dreaded "junk mileage" scenario. Maybe that's not what you're saying, but surely recovery mileage (i.e. 10K pace plus sometimes as much as two minutes) isn't nearly as useful in building "base fitness" as running at "training pace" (10K pace plus a minute and a quarter or so). I've probably misunderstood so I'll just shut up.

By the way, while we're on the subject, I'd be really interested to know what your typical (marathon build-up) training week looks like in terms of hard days, long runs, tempo runs etc. - since I've a sneaking suspicion you're onto some cunning tricks the rest of us aren't clued in on. Unless of course you'd rather keep it to yourself and maintain that competitive edge!!!!! s.
22/08/2002 at 14:46
Thanks Achilles!

Martin, I know you defined Tempo Run but I'm still a little confused. Based on the fact i do 10k in under 55 mins what would class as a Tempo run for me? Is it running at the same pace for the duration of your run?
22/08/2002 at 15:30

On the basis of your race time for 10k of 51.2 minutes or just over 5 minutes per km you could try the following:

Session 1 - Tempo

10 minutes warm up followed by 20 minutes at 5:15 per km. This might be too much to start off and if it is try 2 x 7.5 minutes or 2 x 10 minutes(with a 2.5 minutes pause between). The key to this session is not to feel absolutely wasted when you finish.

10 minutes cool down

Session 2 - Interval

10 minute warm up.

2-5 x 1km at 4:45 - 5:00 mins per km (i.e. slightly quicker than your current 10 km pace). Take a rest of 4-5 minutes between intervals. Start with 2 intervals and build up to 5 over a number of weeks. If the session seems too easy then you can increase the speed slightly or decrease the amount of recovery. The key to this session is to run the last "interval" at the same speed as the first and to keep the recovery intervals fixed.

10 minute cool down
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