Forge a Heart of Steel
Two-time Olympic marathon runner,
Ed Eyestone, head coach of the Brigham Young University men's crosscountry team, knows speed and endurance at an elite level. In The Big Book of Exercises by Men's Health, he offers us 8 incredible track workouts that help beat boredom and get your tail shifted in gear. Not only will they condition your cardiovascular system, but you will also carve yourself a fat-free bodyframe. Eyestone suggests that you do three workouts per week. Do the Tempo Run, Tempo 1,000's, or Step-Down Fartleks at the start of the week. Then do Mile Repeats, 800 Repeats, 400 Repeats, or In-and-Outs in the middle of the week. Lastly, do the Fast-Finish Long Run on the weekend.
1. Tempo Run
The Tempo Run trains your body to go harder and longer by clearing lactic acid, the stuff that makes you feel the 'burn', according to Eyestone. The workout is simply a "comfortably hard" 4-mile jog. This is the most monotanous workout he offers us, but after you get a taste of his other workouts, this one ends up to be quite revitalizing and theraputic. Run at you 5-K pace, plus 30 seconds. You may want to do less volume or more volume depending on your fitness level. I would suggest you run no less then 3 miles and no more than 5 miles for this workout.
2. Tempo 1000's
This workout allows you to maintain a strict pace, and brief recoveries keep your effort level high, according to Eyestone. Basically, it intervals between 1,000 meter runs (.62 mile) with walking rest. I am becoming to enjoy this workout more and more because it is fun and challenging. You will find that you will be able to cover more distance in a shorter period of time do this than steady-state volume training. Eyestone recommends that you run at your 4-mile tempo pace for 1,000 meters, then walk 60 seconds before repeating; start with six intervals, then add one each time you perform the workout. If you are interested in developing your speed, more so than endurance, run harder, at your fastest 1-mile pace, rest 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and cut starting intervals back to three; still adding one interval each time you perform the workout.
3. Step-Down Fartlek
During my days of High School Football, the practice before a game we would cut back on sprints and perform an 'Indian Run'. One day, one of the guys asked the coach why is it an 'Indian' run? He told us that the real thing wasn't called an Indian run, it was called a fartlek. All the guys laughed and didn't believe him (They thought he was saying fart-lick). They had no clue that it was the Swedish word for "speed play", meaning you accelerate and slow down according to how you feel. In Eyestone's step-down fartlek, it is structured to become harder at the end of your run because "working hard when your tired will make you faster when your fresh". A semi-structured fartlek may start by you running at 75 percent full-effort for 5 minutes, then dropping down to 40 percent for 5 minutes. Alternating fast and slow for an alotted amount of time. However, Eyestone's fartlek shortens the hard-running segment by a minute each interval, while increasing speed; "by the last minute-burst, you should be almost sprinting".
4. Mile Repeats
You guessed it, this workout is training the length and intensity of a mile in INTERVALS. This workout is very difficult, very challenging, but Eyestone says that it is "the ultimate training tool for the serious runner". Run three to four 1-mile intervals at your 5-K pace, rest 4 minutes betweens bouts. Men's Health Tip: Budget your effort so that you run each quarter mile at the same pace. My Tip: Don't try to break any personal records. Start out slow for your first workout, it's too easy to burn out with this one.
5. 800 Repeats
This is an exciting interval workout between fast 800's and slow jogging (or walking) recoveries. It's pretty simple, just run a bit faster than your mile repeats pace for 800 meters, then jog or walk 400 meters for recovery. Eyestone recommends you start with four intervals. If you are interested in developing your speed, run at your fastest 1-mile pace, walk 400 meters, and start with 2-3 intervals.
6. 400 Repeats
Perhaps my favorite of Eyestone's speed workouts is the 400 repeats. This workout consists of high intensity bouts of exhertion mixed with slow recoveries to keep your effort level through the roof. You will be training your legs to finish in a flash. Run at your fastest 1-mile pace for 400 meters, then jog slowly for 400 meters. Start with 4-6 intervals on your first session.
Intervals between quick 200-meter runs and relaxed 200-meter runs for a distance goal. Eyestone explains that this workout allows you to recover on the go, allowing you to train at a higher overall intensity for a longer distance than you otherwise could. Simply run at your fastest 1-mile pace for 200 meters, then slow down your pace 10-15 seconds for the next 200 meters. Just keep going in that fashion until you hit the 2 mile mark. Then cool down.
8. Fast-Finish Long Run
This workout is basically a longer run with pace pick-up half way through. "You'll train your body to go long and finish hard", Eyestone says. Start out by going on your regular easy run and double the distance (I do 5-6 miles for this workout). At the half way point, pick up your pace by 5-10 seconds. Don't be decieved, bring water.