Speed Training Benefits Performance and Health

20 Sep Speed Training Benefits Performance and Health


In his book The Ripple Effect, Greg Wells makes it clear. Speed training improves our performance and our overall health. ‘Speed training will be a powerful way to improve both your overall fitness and specific fitness in your type 2 muscle fibres and the anaerobic system inside your muscles’. Amateur and recreational runners often sidestep speed workouts assuming those are best suited for the elites. Not so! We can all benefit from speed training. Definitely a type of workout to include in our quests for endurance, strength, and improved health.

The Science Explained: Speed Training focuses on varying your pace from an easy jog right up to max effort. You’ll be using both your aerobic energy system and type 1 muscles fibres, (used for endurance & anaerobic energy systems) and type 2 muscle fibres (used for power and speed). Our endurance parts are highly efficient. They produce very little waste but they do not generate much in the way of power. The strength parts produce those bursts of speed we need and want for sprinting. They highly inefficient and produce lots of waste, aka lactic acid. Speed workouts teach the body how to process this metabolic waste while running. What does this mean for us? We improve our ability to recover after running up a hill or doing short sprints. Bonus: these workouts also enhance our overall fitness.

Speed Training How-To: If you want to improve your speed, you have to practice running fairly fast AND then recover enough to do it again and again always with good technique. (Short blocks of exercise (repeats) followed by rest–Recovery Interval.) With improved fitness, you can lengthen the amount of time at higher speeds and decrease the RI. Do repeats at the designated pace, not slower, not faster. If you run too hard in the first ones and need to do the latter ones slower, you are not spending much time at your max aerobic power. Shall I say you will have missed the point and purpose of the workout?

Note: It is a good idea to work with a coach or trainer who will help you design speed training sessions and properly incorporate them into your program. Adaptation is key. Always make sure you warm up properly before speed training. When doing speed work with others, focus on your own pace. No good reason to keep up or attempt to ‘best’ someone else. Speed work is not a race.

Final Note: If something you wanted was offered on a 2 for 1 sale, most of us would buy. Speed workouts might not produce a PR, or win your race but it will boost your overall health. Take the advice of Wells: add Speed Training to your regular running schedule and reap the benefits, all of them.

Greg Wells, PH.D.: Wells is a physiologist, an exercise medicine researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, and a professor of kinesiology at the University of Toronto. In his book The Ripple Effect–Sleep Better, Eat Better, Move Better, Think Better–Wells explains ‘The Seven Keys to Moving More’. Key #3 is Build Your Speed. ‘Good health can be as natural as breathing. We must all eat, move, sleep and think. If we do them well, we are capable of extraordinary things’.

Do you include Speed Training in your running program? What benefits have you experienced?

Cheerios and thanks for reading, Linda



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