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360 YOU: What a Week of Training Looks Like When You’re Focused on Speed

360 YOU mentor TrackClubBabe shares how focusing too soon on marathon training can cause burnout in runners. Find out how she combatted that with a completely different mentality and training schedule.

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The secret to fast times and unlocking your potential is to work on short speed and mastering that first.

It sounds so simple, yet this is the biggest thing that the adult running world has been missing. Most of us become runners as adults. We skip all the distances and go right to the marathon.

The process of developing speed for a professional runner has been such a natural part of their running journey, that it’s almost as though it’s forgotten and overlooked when it’s time to coach amateur runners. Every professional runner starts as a high schooler with a speed focus, racing no distance longer than a 5k. In college, their longest race distance is a 10k. All those years developing speed set them up for future success.

And so the vast majority of amateur runners who begin running as adults have never taken the time to practice and develop speed. I previously ran marathon after marathon before I realized I was only getting slower and more tired. Once I shifted my focus to speed, everything changed for me–my love for running came back, my confidence in my ability came back, and ultimately my performances took off.

RELATED: 360 YOU: Learn to Run by Effort

I have talked to so many runners over the years that have a story similar to mine, who find running as an adult and instantly jump into the marathon. My first marathon as an adult was only two months after I started getting active and running. I never really focused on the developmental aspects of running–starting with shorter distances, working on speed, learning my body–before transitioning to the marathon. That is how all professional athletes train and progress.

But most of us amateur runners start with the longer distances and then (if you’re like me) we may get really hooked on them. I totally ignored all of the shorter distances in favor of the sexy marathon.

But what wasn’t sexy was how fatiguing the 26.2 miles, plus all the training miles built up over weeks, was on my body. At one point, I ran six marathons in 23 months. All my workouts were marathon focused. And I did not understand why I couldn’t get faster. Taking a break from marathon training, refreshing my body, and focusing on shorter distances changed everything for me. I had never trained for any speed specific work before. Once I freshened up, I found that my strength was actually speed and not endurance, which came as a shock to me. Knowing that, I was able to focus on that strength to elevate my overall progress.

Speed training made running fun for me again. It put running back in its proper place, making it less of an obsession of paces and whether or not I was hitting them. Instead, I began focusing on effort and trusting in my body–and having fun. Running should be play! And that’s what speed training can do for your running. By focusing on speed, I came back to marathon training a different runner. My marathon pace was faster than it was before and I felt a lot more relaxed.

So how did I make this change?

The first step is to focus on quality, not quantity. Quantity is important when you’re running a long race like a marathon, but that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid right now. Lower the quantity to get out of the marathon grind and raise the quality of your workouts.

RELATED: 360 YOU: Keeping Your Mind in the Race

The next step is to run workouts that help you practice fast running in short increments. To get faster, you have to learn to and practice running fast. It’s that simple. The best way to start doing this is to run various short segments based on time and simply try to run fast. You’re not shooting for a certain pace or distance. You’re not trying to perform. There is no pressure or expectations. Just run fast. Rest. Then go again!

Here is an example of a week focused on gaining speed with shorter, faster workouts and lower quantity for higher quality:

Monday

WARMUP: 15-20 minutes easy + 6 fast strides
WORKOUT: 8 x 45 seconds ON / 90 seconds OFF
COOLDOWN: 15 minutes easy

Note: ON is starting at a fast, but controlled effort. Not a sprint. Increase the effort for the last 2-3 intervals to maintain pace or pick up the pace slightly. OFF is a slow, slow jog, but you are never stopping. This is a continuous run.

Tuesday

WORKOUT: 30 minutes easy run

Wednesday

OFF

Thursday

WARMUP: 15-20 minutes easy+ 6 fast strides
WORKOUT: 5x 2 minutes ON / 2 minutes OFF
COOLDOWN: 15 minutes easy

Note: These are to be run a bit slower and more controlled than your 30 second intervals, but still much faster than your easy pace. Think: “fast but relaxed.”

Friday

OFF

Saturday

WORKOUT: Long run, 60 minutes easy

Sunday

WORKOUT: 30 minutes easy run or 40-60 minutes cross-training (exercise bike, swim, elliptical, etc.)

Once you work on your speed, your running is never the same. It helps set you up for big breakthroughs in all of the distances, including the marathon.

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This workout schedule has been excerpted from TrackClubBabe’s FAST FALL program–a 12-week speed training program with 2 levels and is highly adaptable to different levels of runners to accommodate and challenge everyone in their pursuit of faster running. For more information and to read 500+ testimonials from our athletes on how FAST guides changed their running, check out her instagram @trackclubbabe.