This talk about speed with runners that have been running some time is all part of the fun and camaraderie of the sport, but what else would you expect in a sport where the pinnacle event is a race to see who can cross the finish line the fastest. The concern comes when new runners, particularly those who have very few miles under their belts, start worrying about it too much.
All too often when talking to new runners, I find that they are overly concerned with their speed. They are often concerned with how fast they did the mile, or how they should incorporate some speed work into their workouts. This can be for a multitude of reasons -- from trying to get faster to burning more calories, but whatever the reason, focusing on speed without a good base can get very discouraging, not to mention it can be dangerous as well.
A new runner that focuses too much on speed will more than likely get discouraged because their body just is not ready to perform the way they think it should be able to perform. This, many times, can lead to giving up, or if they have the determination to push harder, can often lead to injury. We can all agree that if we want to attain our goals, we need the drive and determination to push ourselves past our comfort levels, but if we do this too fast or too hard, we can fall susceptible to injury.
After abstaining for 2 years, I just recently started to add some speed work back into my routine. The funny thing is that, although I didn't worry about speed and hadn’t done any speed work prior to that time, the speed came, regardless. Each time I hit the road I was building a base, and each time I would get incrementally stronger, and yes, faster.
During my first year of running, I started with a 5K in 36:37 and the very next year ran the same race in 23:23. I also ran a 10K in the first year in 1:03:59, and 10 months later ran a 10K in 48:03. All of this was done by just putting in the miles and letting my fitness level build.
I know the temptation can be overwhelming as a new runner to build speed up as fast as possible, especially if you are competitive by nature. However, remember that focusing on speed too much and too early can not just be discouraging, but can also potentially sideline you with injuries for a long time. Why not leave the worrying about speed to others and just get out there and be consistent. The speed will come.
This was the first of two articles that I wrote for the Running Hoosier Magazine in Late 2009. I haven't edited it at all and it is just like it was printed in the first issue of Running Hoosier Magazine. The Running Hoosier Magazine had a short life with only a single issue due to lack of funding, however I did write a second article which I will be publishing in the next couple weeks. Since this has been over a year ago now some of this is dated, however the main premise still remains the same and I still feel strongly about the content. The time each person uses to build their base can vary quite a bit and in many/most cases will be much faster than 2 years. I had the additional challenge of dropping 90 lbs that first of those two years which meant I needed to be extremely careful in many ways to avoid injury.
What are your thoughts on speed work and injury? Do you recommend speed work for new runners before they have a chance to build their base?
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Great post! I will try and remember your thoughts.ReplyDelete
Great reminder. I think I will print this out and post it on my fridge to remind myself that I don't need to make every run an all out effort!ReplyDelete
I took FIVE years building my base. And I didn't even know that was what I was doing. Now that I have endurance, I thought I'd give speed a try. I just began working on my speed this past November. And I am happy to report no injuries, which has to be due partly to a base that took 5 years to build. I think you have great advice here.ReplyDelete
I was such a slow adapter when it came to running that I basically ran easy for 10 years before I tried any speed. I agree, new runners and all of us for that matter, should learn to relax and enjoy running first.ReplyDelete
Related to all this is the difference between "race pace" and any other running you do. A lot of people think you should go all out all the time, when that is not the case at all.ReplyDelete
You MUST build a base first before even thinking about speed! Good for you for pointing it out.ReplyDelete
Taking your 5k from 36 to 23 in 1 yr is astonishing! Good stuff Tim.ReplyDelete
I feel the same way! I am not person who likes speed work but i have notice in time my time have improved over time just for running on a regular basis. Great postingReplyDelete
I am still working on my base, I am not worried at all about how slow I run even if the resident cyclist in my office makes fun of my 13 minute pace. :KReplyDelete
Very nice easy to read post!
what a great post..im in my second year of running and busted myself in the first chasing speed and busted my ankles and knees..now im more relaxed, enjoying running, talking, no music....every now and then i just find myself flying and its fantastic, other times i dont really care..seems the way to stay sustainableReplyDelete
I agree that you need a solid base before incorporating speed work. Another thing to remember is to make sure you build cycles into your training each year so that you have a recovery and base building phase each year where speed is not a main focus.ReplyDelete
Thank you everyone for stopping by, reading, and adding your thoughts and experiences, it is much appreciated. Also thank you so much for sharing this post, I have really enjoyed reading all the feedback all over the internet!ReplyDelete