This week is a deload week with only 3 runs (2 x Easy with Strides and 1 x 5k pace specific). It is a deload because I recently finished a 4-week training block. I thought it would be a fun exercise to review the last 4 weeks and think back about what I learned.
Training Block Purpose
The intent of the training block was to increase running volume while focusing on Mile and 5k race paces. Before I started the training log on this site (Sept 2017), I had done a lot of running this season. But ALL of it (other than WU and CD) was a faster than Mile race pace with lots and lots of walking recoveries. There was NO distance work. The focus was more on 400, 800 and Mile race paces. I will summarize my early season approach in a future post, because it was quite unique and I feel I benefited tremendously from it.
However, I signed up for a 5k race in early November. And the I felt like I was lacking the endurance necessary to hold a fast pace for 5k. Hence the reason for this block. So I wanted to maintain my top end speed while practicing 5k pace and increasing general endurance via “Easy Runs”.
I started by playing around by adding a lot of “stuff” to my easy runs. Things like:
- Alternations: switching between Easy and Marathon pace,
- Surges: speeding up to 5k pace for 30-45s then going back down to easy pace,
- Progressions: gradually increasing the pace in the final few KMs of an easy run.
I did for two reasons:
- I use a lot of these techniques with my running clients to improve specific skills like quickly settling in to a different pace (alternations), learning to pick up the pace smoothly within a longer run (surges), and getting in the habit of finishing strong despite accumulated fatigue (progressions) AND
- The main reason. I thought I would find running at Easy Pace boring. I like to run fast. And the training for the previous few months focused on this. So I figured that by adding variety into the run I would benefit physiological and psychologically. But I was dead wrong.
I quickly learned that my Easy Runs need to remain Easy. The exception being Strides which I did at least 2x per in the final 3 weeks of the block. The big difference between Strides and the other “stuff” above is that you get to walk to recover before during, and after doing strides.
If I have to change my pace and I don’t get a walking recovery afterwards my form really suffers. I’m not a believer in learning to “tough it out” and run through bad form. Run quality is the most important element in my training and I don’t want to comprise it. Once I removed everything except for stride from the Easy Runs the improvement was immediate. And I enjoyed my runs very much.
This doesn’t necessary mean that YOU should remove things like this from your training. Many of my clients really enjoy these additions and feel like they benefit. However if are like me in that you feel that your speed is your main asset over your endurance, you’re probably better off making sure that your easy runs remain easy without adding extra “stuff” other than strides.
Power and Recruitment
I also used Hill Sprints and Flat Sprints as a potent stimulus to maintain power and fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment. The Flat Sprints were more beneficial for me than the Hill Sprints. I do like the feeling of strength that a hill sprint develops. And I will continue to do them in the future. BUT they did not translate into better running for me. If anything they messed me up a bit.
The Flat Sprints immediately improved my technique. Especially on this run. I run a lot via elastic recoil. Flat sprints are a lot more elastic than Hill sprints. Hill sprints are more muscular. So it’s pretty clear to see why I feel I got more out of the Flat Sprints.
The caveat to mention here is that I did no accelerate from zero. I would do a 3-second gradual acceleration before each sprint. So I would already be in the upright stage of sprinting when the interval started. Had I accelerated from zero, surely I would have accumulated more fatigue (similar to that of Hill Sprints) and probably benefited less.
And, of course, I did multiple runs at Mile and 5k-pace. Plus I devoted an entire workout to 3k pace which has a favorable “speed” impact on the 5k and “endurance” impact on the Mile.
At first 5k pace was uncomfortable for me. Not because it was “fast” or “hard”. More because I did know what the stride rate to use to hold that pace. During my running at Mile pace or faster I very quickly settle into what feel like a “natural” stride rate. Although I have improved my feel of 5k-pace over the last 4-weeks, I still think that I haven’t found the right stride rate yet. I suspect that I may be using too high a stride rate which is a by-product of all the faster running I have been doing.
This may mean that I am not taking full advantage of my hip extension strength and elasticity. I am going to do a 5k TT soon and I am interested to observe what stride rate my body “naturally” chooses after holding 5k-pace for 2-3k straight.
Here are the weekly pie charts by distance so that you can see how things varies from week to week
- “Jog” or “WU/CD” is slower than easy pace running. I do this for 5min as a WU and CD for each workout
- “M+” is marathon pace or a bit faster
- “Str” is “Strides” which are run at Mile race pace, but for short duration around 100m with 45-60s walk between
- “HS” are Hill Sprints that I run up at 9/10 max effort on a steep grass hill near my house.
- “FS” are Flat Sprints that I run at 9.5/10 max speed on paved surfaces
- All the other ones like “3k”, “5k”, “Mile” are the paces that I would use for races of that distance. If I put a “+” that means I may have gone faster than the indicated pace by a few sec/km. Typically this would be as part of a progression from one rep to the next (i.e. start at Mile pace for rep #1 and then go 1-2s/km faster on each subsequent rep)
And now here is the pie chart of all the weeks combined.
From this chart, it’s evident that I did manage my speed work quite well spending the majority of “speed” time at Mile (recall that Str is also Mile pace) and 5k-pace with a good chunk at 3k pace too (which supports both 5k-pace and Mile-pace). I am pleased with this. I can probably handle a little bit more total distance at 5k pace, but not much more, especially if I don’t want to compromise my recovery.