Running Bug Forums Debates and polls Speedwork after a race. Is that wise?!

  • Speedwork after a race. Is that wise?!

  • Richard Woodfield

    February 5, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    Intentionally provocative post!  I’ve been a bit surprised at various times over the months, including recently, by Bugs doing a demanding race on a Sunday and then reporting that their training plan is telling them to do some quite challenging tempo/speed training two days later.

    Obviously, among Bugs as with other runners there’s a multitude of combination of fitness, age, running experience and prowess – so I would readily accept that there’s room for wide variety of approaches to training. 

    But – if you’re not in first flush of youth and/or super fitness – are some training plans overly optimistic in their approach to resuming speed work so soon after a race? Thinking 

  • sharnie1

    February 6, 2020 at 7:58 am

    I don’t think it will come as any surprise to anyone that I’m firmly in the same camp as you Richard.  For me recovery should be the priority and the week after an all out effort race should be entirely made up of steady/gentle miles, and that applies to anyone whatever their age.  If the race was simply an event used as a ‘speed session’/’tempo’ effort then of course you should carry on with the plan – but all too often I see a pb posted (clearly not simply a speed session) then 2 days later a tempo run or a speed session.  To me this is a recipe for impending injuries and niggles, relentlessly flogging tired legs WILL only end on the physio couch.

    But it’s not only the week after races this seems to happen, I firmly believe in the 80/20 rule, whereby only 20% of your training miles should be made up of speed work.  Running slowly seems to be something people find incredibly hard to do and often fail to appreciate the value of.  The simple fact is that running at a minute and a half to 2 minutes or more per mile slower than your tempo (or 10k race pace) is the best way to firstly improve your cardiovascular efficiency (and not overlooking the value of being kind to your legs).  Improving your cardiovascular efficiency combined with a little speed training yields the biggest overall improvements in pace over time. 

    There is a good reason that even the Kenyans do the bulk of their miles at 9 – 10 minute mile pace ……  and frankly if it’s good enough for them when their top paces begin with a 4 or a 5 then the benefits should be fairly indisputable??

  • JillyMP

    February 6, 2020 at 8:37 am

    Excellent topic Richard, and I’m in agreement with both you and Sharnie. i think even those in the first flush of youth, should respect their legs. The elites do it, but us mere mortals are more often than not, riding on a high after a successful event.

    I’m as guilty of this as anyone in the past. Three years ago after my one and only ultra (August) where my legs nearly dropped off on the Cornish Coast, (and Sharnie was lovely and sent me messages off support, I’ll never forget that, thank you x), well the next day, after a long journey home, thought I’d do a fast two to stretch out the legs. Continued with Snowdon marathon training with no real break, and hey presto, benched two weeks later, for most of that autumn.  

    I’m reading this excellent book I was given for my birthday “Fast After 50” and it stresses the need for rest and recovery over and over again. It also says that if it’s a B or C race (not A as in top priority) and is treated as training, then it’s ok to continue with the plan. Have x-country this Sunday, and planning on trying to implement tempo intervals into it! 

    Long run today instead of Sunday due to x-country, and will, like Sharnie has mentioned above, go slow. Interestingly, tapped in my stats into the Runners’ World pace calculator for a 3:55 marathon, and my long slow run pace can go to 11min/miles. You have to go slow to get fast.

    Gone off piste, but yes, after a tough race or even one where I pushed myself beyond my training plan, I would always go easy now. Had too many foot issues to take the risk. (And I actually like the easier sessions too).

  • Sharon McShane

    February 6, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Completely agree with the comments above, if I’m doing 5 running sessions a week, no more than 2 would be what I would deem a hard session and the long run is classified as hard even though it is slow. This is where I find hr training so useful, what you think might be an easy pace could indeed be harder than perceived (sometimes maybe due to vanity?) But when training to hr you have a range for each type of session and the paces do vary quite considerably depending on weather conditions and how you are feeling on the day. I’ve read threads on other websites where people have done no speed work at all purely hr training at less than 75% max working hr and still achieved PB’s in races as you are building up your endurance levels. 

  • Lizzy

    February 6, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    I have noticed it a couple of times too Richard. I for one wouldn’t consider running speed after any race, its tough enough after my LRs to focus mid week on my speed work. 

    You put your body through a lot in a race and it needs to recover. HR training has taught me a bit about my running & my body. The stats show a lot more using the HRM, can see what im putting myself through. Took me so time to get use to seeing my 1st mile in 11 min/mile. Before using HR training it would have been my mind telling me thats way too slow, then suffer with pace control for the whole run. 

    I appreciate slower and recovery much more now. 

  • Richard Woodfield

    February 6, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    Great feedback, thanks Bugs!  Looking at my garmin stats, year on year my av pace taking all runs for a whole year is gradually going south.  Hopefully Fingers Crossedthis mainly reflects, what I think is the case, that a lower proportion of my runs are intended to be at tempo pace or above. 

  • sharnie1

    February 6, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    @Richard – but your pb’s are heading in an upwards direction so slowing the general trend has done the race paces no harm??

  • Dorothy Meikle

    February 7, 2020 at 6:12 am

    II find a very easy, short RR after race day, then a rest day works best for me.  

  • Richard Woodfield

    February 8, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    @sharnie1 I’m certainly pleased to have got HM and 10 mile PBs in 2019 despite – or maybe even because! – of lower overall average speed for year as a whole.  

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