Marathon Note #6- “I feel the need, the need for speed!”


(Note – we will always meet and start on Bridal path just in from Engineer’s Gate entrance to Central Park at 90th and 5th ave – meet spot is under the HUGE TREE!)
The Importance of Intervals in your Training 

I came across this great article (below) outlining a study on the benefit of interval training like we are doing in our weekly runs. but as you read this I offer a word of caution before doing an interval workout. Make sure you are really starting to listen to the signals your body is giving you. Are you fully recovered from your weekend long run? How do the legs feel? Where is your morning body weight and resting pulse? As your weekend mileage is growing, you might not be ready for a full on speed workout and thus doing the workout at 75% effort might be warranted. Listen to your body and look for the signs that you need more rest (ie. elevated morning heart rate and/or body weight, sore muscles 1-2 days AFTER your long run). Also, this is the time when people start to get fall colds. Do not try to train thru a cold – best to take a day or two or even 3 off and get it fully out of your system before resuming training or it will just linger! We want you all to be healthy come race day!

The article –
Are you not enjoying your running as much as you could be? Perhaps you’re not suffering enough.
The vast majority of runners do not perform any interval workouts, or runs featuring repeated short segments of fast running. Interval workouts are typically performed by serious competitive runners and are avoided by non-competitive runners, in part because of their perceived unpleasantness.

One of the key differences between competitive and non-competitive runners is the way in which each group is motivated to run. Competitive runners are motivated by race goals, and are therefore willing to deal with a fair amount of discomfort in training in pursuit of those goals. Non-competitive runners are more concerned about simply enjoying the running experience. Ironically, however, a 2011 study suggests that non-competitive runners who avoid doing intervals for fear of a negative effect on their enjoyment of running may be missing out on a powerful enjoyment booster — as well as a great boon to their fitness.

Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University recruited eight recreationally active men to participate in the study. They were asked to perform two runs on separate occasions. One was a 50-minute steady run at a moderate intensity of 70 percent VO2 max. The other was an interval run comprising six intervals of three minutes at 90 percent VO2 max, each interval followed by a three-minute active recovery at 50 percent VO2 max, all sandwiched between a seven-minute warm-up and a seven-minute cool-down at 70 percent VO2 max. The two workouts were designed to elicit a similar amount of total energy expenditure, and they did. After each run, the subjects were asked to rate their perceived exertion (how hard it felt) and how much they enjoyed the workout.

Interestingly, while they rated the interval workout as more difficult (14 vs. 13 on a scale of 6-20), they also rated it as more enjoyable — by a long shot: 88 vs. 61 on a scale of 1-100. While both workouts burned the same number of calories, past research has shown that the interval type of workout is actually a more powerful fitness booster, because of the short bursts of high-intensity running. It’s not the kind of workout you’d want to do every day, but a training schedule featuring, say, five moderate-intensity, steady runs per week plus one interval workout will get you fitter than a training schedule featuring six moderate-intensity, steady runs per week. This wouldn’t mean much to the non-competitive runner who is more concerned about enjoying the running experience than maximizing her fitness, but what we find in this new study is that the hard, more effective workout is also significantly more fun.

And from my own article on building speed for running:
Joining the long run and tempo run, is the third ingredient of our recipe – speed work. Back in the early 1980s, Olympic gold medalist Peter Snell teamed up with the University of Texas Southwestern to study the effects of tempo verses interval training on a group of runners. All were tested at the 800m and 10k distance before and after the study, however one group did two tempo workouts per week, while the other group performed two interval sessions per week. As for the results, the greatest improvement at both the 800m and 10K distance came from the group that did the interval sessions (an average 2.1 minute improvement in their 10k times verses a 1.1 minute improvement from the tempo group). The moral? To run faster, one has to spend time training at faster speeds, so the body can become more efficient and comfortable at these higher speeds.Speed work is the third ingredient (first two are the long run and tempo runs) introduced into the training mix, usually making its first appearance just before the start of the competitive portion of the season (April/May). Speed work is best done on a track, but if that is not an option look for a place with firm and flat footing, preferably with measurable intervals (like our .56 mile Delacourt loop in NYC’s central park). As for the type of workouts, the options are limited only by one’s imagination for variety. Ideally the total distance covered in the intervals should be between 2 and 4 miles (ie. 12 x 400yd repeats = 3 miles), and some variations to consider include:·         8 to 12 400yd repeats with an easy 200yd jog between
·         6 to 8 800yd repeats with an easy 400yd jog between
·         Hill repeats (find a hill about 1/4mi long and run hard up the hill and easy back down)
·         Distance ladder (ex. 4×400, 2×800, 1×1600)
·         Speed ladder (3×1200, with 1st 400 at moderate pace, 2nd 400 at 10k pace, and the final 400 above your 5k pace).


Nearly every athlete is looking for a “magic” workout, the one intensity that will cause the most improvement. However, one training intensity will not be most effective let alone “magic”. In fact any single training intensity used exclusively is a very ineffective way to train. If you search the training literature or consult different coaches, you will find hundreds of different approaches. So which is best? If we knew the single best approach, then we would be making fortunes training world champions. I am sure if you asked the coaches of the medalists at the most recent Olympics you would get a myriad of approaches. With this said, we do have a point of view and it is based on the theories of Jan Olbrecht. We call it high/low. Dr. Olbrecht does not have a name for this approach but it consists of several different elements that have the objective of training the energy systems to a proper balance.

First, developing aerobic capacity to a maximum level. There is probably never enough aerobic capacity for an athlete. However, how does one maximize it for an athlete on the day of the race?

·         High – In order to train every fiber one must train near VO2 max and there is research to show that high level training is very effective at building aerobic capacity. But if too much high level training is done then it is possible to break down aerobic capacity rather than build it up. Training is a process of breaking down and building back up. Thus, too much of a good thing can have negative effects. In these triathlon examples the “high” rarely gets above 15% of total volume and is often near 10% of total volume.

·         Low – Long slow distance workouts help build aerobic capacity because they speed the process of regeneration and also because they have a positive effect on other cellular processes that help with aerobic capacity. Long workouts at low intensity will work all the slow twitch fibers. Thus the “low” is very good for the training of the slow twitch fibers.

Second, develop anaerobic capacity to a proper level. Unlike aerobic capacity anaerobic capacity has to be carefully adjusted. The right level of anaerobic capacity to produce maximum energy production for a race depends on the strength of the aerobic system and the race itself, primarily the length of the race. In general short races require high anaerobic capacity and long races require low anaerobic capacity. This is what we mean by balancing the systems. For a long distance triathlon the level has to be fairly low but see the comments in these various slides for the proper level. For the Olympic length triathlon the athlete will need a moderate to good level of anaerobic capacity. It will not be as high as a competitive swimmer, rower or middle distance runner but it cannot be too low.

Anaerobic capacity cannot be trained as readily as aerobic capacity but it is possible to build or suppress it with certain types of training. Dr. Olbrecht’s book discusses this in detail. But some specifics are:

·         Sprints are an excellent way to build anaerobic capacity but must be used only in small amounts each week. The stronger the anaerobic capacity the more sprints the body can tolerate and are probably not ideal for long endurance athletes targeting Ironman or a marathon.

·         Long slow distance and intervals near the maximum lactate steady state are excellent ways to suppress anaerobic capacity. Endurance athletes have fairly low anaerobic capacities for two reasons. One is that genetically they don’t have the predominance of fast twitch fibers that is necessary for high anaerobic capacity and second is that long slow distance and anaerobic threshold training is common for many distance athletes and both these training techniques lower anaerobic capacity. It is possible to take athletes with fairly high anaerobic capacities and lower them so that they are good endurance athletes. Many triathletes are ex-swimmers and competitive swimming is a sport where most successful athletes have good anaerobic capacities. It is unlikely that athletes with naturally low anaerobic capacity can be made into good sprinters, but the reverse is possible.

The intense workouts near the maximum lactate steady state are only used sparingly and only when necessary to reduce anaerobic capacity. An example of this would be before a major competition and primarily for distance events.

Another benefit of higher anaerobic capacity that Jan Olbrecht has found is that an athlete will be able to withstand more intense workouts if his/her anaerobic capacity is higher. Thus, he recommends raising it during preparation phases of training but reducing it to the appropriate level prior to the race for which the athlete is competing. This is why you will see recommendations for higher anaerobic capacity during base training. This higher level of anaerobic capacity will cause the athlete to compete at a lower pace during this time because they know that their lactate threshold is lower. But the athlete knows that anaerobic capacity can be lowered later on prior to the important race. This will raise the LT and, allow the athlete to compete at a higher percentage of VO2 max.

My own version of HI/LOW is a bit more simple – when looking at your training week, you never want to schedule back to back HI intensity workouts and so we will build a week with this HI/LOW concept in mind. Alternating HI intensity days (like hill repeats and intervals) with LOW intensity or cross training.


Athlete User Guide –

Manually uploading a workout file to TP –

Everyone is set up with a FREE BASIC TP account but you do have the option to upgrade to PREMIUM and here is a list of benefits (main one being to log future events in your TP calendar to see – like a planned vacation to plan training around)

Basic vs Premium – New athletes get Premium for FREE for 14 days then your acct will revert to a FREE BASIC acct – main difference on your end will be that you will be unable to move workouts around on your own and enter future events like vacations – but nothing changes on my end and I can move days for you!

Intensity Factor (IF) is simply how intense a workout was relative to our threshold and can be read as sort of a percentage of 1 with 1.0 being your threshold (that same pace we will soon determine in a 3mi field test). If the Intensity Factor for your workout was .80 then we could say that you performed that workout at 80 percent of your threshold. General endurance (your long runs) work falls in the 60 to 70 percent range, while a harder tempo workout would be closer to 80 to 90 percent. Additionally, depending on the duration of your race you may see an IF of up to 105 percent or 1.05.


1.  MARATHON QUIK TIP #5 – Gradually Increase not only your WEEKLY total miles but also the length or your LONG RUN. While your training plan should gradually increase your mileage as you progress, if you aren’t following a specific plan (which you all are!), be sure to give yourself plenty of time before race day to increase your mileage slowly, and an increase of one to two miles per week is more than enough and will keep you on track with your goal.