The track must have been calling me this morning. Waking up at 5:00 a.m., I attempted to roll over, back to sleep. But it did not work.
The track cannot be denied at some point. Our local high school has a program in which the fieldhouse with a 200-meter indoor track is open mornings from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m.
That’s plenty of time to get in some speedwork. But it’s so early that it can be hard to get the body to wake up.
Experience tells you how to make it work. Warmups are slow. Very slow. Then you stop and stretch. Take a pee. Stretch some more. Do a few strides. Now you’re ready.
I managed 6 X 400 at 6:20 pace this morning. Not bad for the first week in January. It’s nice to run intervals indoors because you get checkpoints every 200 meters. Even when you’re a bit slow for a lap, it’s still a reward for your efforts. Speedwork is all about the metrics. Very rarely does anyone run, bike or swim fast without putting a watch on for timing.
The same goes for doing speed work on the bike. Yesterday evening I came downstairs to check on my girlfriend during her indoor bike training. She had the Garmin on and was in the middle of a hard interval when I showed up. Knowing that it’s not fun to be distracted while putting out the watts, I grabbed a Le Croix and headed back upstairs. She’s very disciplined about her training.
Three weeks ago during my swim coaching session, Whitney assigned a set of 50-meter laps. I’d swim like heck going down. Rest 15 seconds and come back slow. That was honestly the first time I’d “let it all out” in swimming. My progress has been more focused on being able to add distance.
But speed work does important things for all of us in all the sports we try.
It does the following:
- Raises our anaerobic threshold and increases the heart rate for a positive training effect
- Tests and lengthens “performance muscles” and ligaments in ways that slow training never does
- Imitates or replicates race conditions by stressing the body in controlled conditions
- Gives empiric feedback on real fitness levels
- Provides competitive opportunities in group training sessions
They call it speed work. Cyclists typically don’t have a “track” on which they can go to focus their speed training. On the bike that means throwing in hard intervals or surges during longer rides, or choosing a hill or stretch of road to consistently test your speed.
I use an oversized city block and do right turns on a .7 mile criterium course. I also use a 20-mile course on which to test fitness.
Triathletes can laugh a bit when considering whether the running “bricks” they do after a hard ride constitute speed work or not. Ideally, you learn to transition from the bike into full-on racing mode. But there are days when a brick is the farthest thing from speed work you can imagine.
All these situations give us opportunities to do speed work. Even in the base-building period (such as January through March) it pays to do some light speed work to measure progress.
They call it speed work. And don’t you forget it.