Every runner can attest to the fact that speedwork isn’t easy. It is after all speedWORK. While you may be the type of runner who enjoys that type of work make no mistake about it, it’s going to be hard.
Below are five tips, tricks, call them what you will to help make the work part of speed work easier.
Set Your Self Up For Success: It’s important to head in to a speed work prepared for what is to come both mentally and physically. You can help yourself on the physical front by making sure you are hydrated, that you enter with fresh legs by taking it easy on your easy run prior to the workout, and by fueling with nutritionally dense foods. You can help yourself on the mental front by defining your success in something other than just numbers. Could you consider the workout a success if you complete all the repeats no matter the pace? Could you consider the workout a success if for the first time you jog the rest periods rather than walk them?
Warm Up: Cutting your warm up short, or worse not doing one at all, because you want to get the workout over faster isn’t going to do you any favors in the long run. First, stop skipping those dynamic stretches you keep reading about online. Leg swings, calf raises, squats – do them. Then move on to the part of the warm up that involves running a slower pace for a mile or two. At this point many runners stop, get a drink of water and procrastinate. This is delaying the inevitable, now is the time to do the work, move straight from the warm up to the workout to avoid any last-minute anxiety.
Slow Down Your Breathing: It’s easy to let your breathing get away from you when your legs are moving quicker than your average easy run. Just because your cadence is faster doesn’t mean that your breathing should be as well. It may seem hard to take a deep breath when you kinda-sorta-maybe feel like you are suffocating but a deep breath is exactly what you need. Shallow, rapid breathing is not helping you get the oxygen you crave. Taking deeper breaths allows your lungs to use more of your air sacs thus allowing you to take in more oxygen, making those repeats or intervals feel less painful!
Focus On The Moment: Running is one part physical and two parts mental. Speed work is no different. If you have 8 x 800 meters on tap for the day, it doesn’t do your mind any favors to focus on the 7 800’s you have left, when in pain on the first 800. A mantra I use in the moment is “love the one your with.” Worry about the 800 you are running in that moment. The rest you can worry about later. This is similar to the approach I suggest to athletes when training for and running a marathon. It doesn’t do you any good to psyche your mind out in mile 1 worrying about the 25 more that you have to go.
Take Care Of Yourself: At the conclusion of a speed-workout it’s easy to lay down and marinate in your own sweat. Resist the temptation to binge on foods that are going to make you feel less than great. Reach for whole, unprocessed foods, and make sure to re-hydrate adequately. Grab that foam roller and roll instead of sitting on the couch when you have the urge to binge watch the next Netflix release. How you feel the next day after a speed workout is going to affect the amount of dread you have heading in to your next workout. When you crush the workout and wake up the next day feeling great, you are setting up a positive feedback loop that will lead to less apprehension of speed workouts in the future.