Speed Sessions & Injuries

Everytime in the past that I've introduced speed sessions - within a couple of weeks I've developed some sort of injury - deep calf muscle pain / desperate shin problems / groin strains etc.

But somehow I've got to try to up my speed - even if it's just so that my normal speed is more comfortable & I get the benefit of a better running style - which I've been told I need!!!

So, has anyone else prone to injury got experience of introducing speed sessions in a way which hasn't injured them? If so please supply full details!


Shattered by Name and shattered by nature.


  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    SS, I've experienced all of the same problems when introducing speed work and did very little until this year. I now do the vast majority of my speed sessions either on a track, which has a much more forgiving surface, or on grass. Since adopting this approach I haven't had any major problems, although I still get the occasional small niggle or two.

    However, having done quality speed work for nearly 4 months I have come to the conclusion that it hasn't really helped me that much. What works best for me is doing long intervals (on the track or treadmill), tempo runs at 10k speed and my long runs at near to marathon pace.

    So, rather than do the "normal" speed sessions, why don't you simply try the above. It may work for you or it may not but at least the risk of injury will be minimised.
  • Thanks Drew - my problem I think is that I find raising my speed so desperately hard (!) that if I try it whilst on a normal run - I then can't complete the run. Pathetic I know!

    Fascinating tho' that for someone who runs as fast as you do, you don't do the 'orthodox' approach!!!
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Why not do the fast bit towards the end and then simply walk/jog for 5 minutes to cool down. During my tempo runs the cool down part is the most enjoyable as I can go as slow as I want to.

    I have tried the orthodox approach and although it certainly helps with my overall speed it just isn't right for me, at this moment in time.
  • Drew -

    have you found that your "no intervals" scam (sorry ;-)) works for distances less than a marathon?

    I have to say, you're probably an abnormally gifted runner, cos for most people, intervals are surely the only way to getting faster - though I'd agree that tempo type runs (of whatever kind) are by far the best training for the marathon distance.

  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Achilles, I'm not saying that intervals don't work. I have done lots of them, but I think that most runners would benefit more from tempo runs and long intervals rather than expecting all their speed to come from the interval sessions.

    I've only been running seriously for about 3 years, so I'm no expert, but I'm a great believer in trying out different training methods over a 6 week period and to monitor the results.

    The problem with intervals is that unless you do them correctly - at the right pace and with the right rest period (which is a key element) - you're not going to obtain maximum benefit. With tempo runs and long intervals you can't really go wrong and it is a very simplistic approach.

    As for my approach working for distances less than marathons - yes, it definitely does work, although I haven't tried anything less than 10k.

    In addition to the the article somewhere in the RW site based around running at the correct pace, I've researched various running websites which have confirmed that this approach can be very effective.
  • Drew -

    it's good to know that your system works - I have to say that since I prefer running the longer distances and especially marathons, I tend to concentrate hardest on tempo runs and fartlek and long intervals (1-2 miles) rather than grinding out the 400m reps, and so far it's worked pretty well for me too. Raising the lactate threshold (the key benefit of tempo runs) has got to be more significant for the average runner (especially over the longer distances) than building raw speed, which is the function of intervals.

    I loathe intervals and they're a surefire way of getting injured if you're not careful - although I do like to run Yasso 800's once in a while (like yesterday - ouch!) to get a measure of where I'm at, as they're an absurdly good guide to the marathon distance (they shouldn't work, but they do - run 800m in 3 minutes and you can run a 3 hour marathon, 3:30 for an 800 and you can do a 3:30 marathon - bizarre but effective!).

    I'm not sure I'm quite confident enough to throw the intervals away just yet, but it's encouraging to know that there's more than one way to skin the proverbial domestic feline. s.
  • SS

    I can't really comment on the injury aspect as I've only recently been injured! If you find that intervals slow you down during a normal run - why don't you try running and out-and-back course with the "back" run quicker than the front? My other suggestion would be to try some longer (say 1k) intervals on a treadmill, that way you won't have the danger of being stranded and tired!


    I think to a degree you are right and the problem with many runners is that they are happy to bang out 400's but not running tempo's of 20-60 minutes. Personally I think you need both, especially for racing 10k and below, as the shorter intervals teach raw speed but unless you've got the speed endurance it's partially wasted effort.
  • Whoops, sorry to anyone following this thread - I didn't get that quite right about Yasso 800's. I should have said you need to build up to about 8-10 reps at the relevant pace.
    (see www.runnersworld.com/home/0,1300,1-51-54-624,00 for full details)

    Anybody else use this excellent and intriguing work-out? s.
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    Sorry to lower the tone from knowledgable expert to stupid fairly new runner, but what exactly is a tempo run?

    I've read a few things about different types of speed work but I'm not 100% sure what a tempo run actually is. On Monday I ran just under 4 miles at what worked out to be 7:27 pace. I was running quite hard, but it was sustainable. On my long runs I probably run a bit slower than this - 8-8:30 pace. Was MOnday's run a 'tempo' run?

    Sorry to sound stupid but although I've got the measure of what's meant by fartlek, intervals, out and back etc. I'm still not really sure exactly what a tempo run is, or how to run one!
  • Minkin

    A tempo run is a run of, usually, 20-60 minutes where you try and hold a steady but hard pace. Depending what you're training for the pace can vary - at the upper time limit you might aim to run 60 minutes at marathon pace, in the mid ranges say 30-40 minutes at half marathon pace and at the lower reaches perhaps 20 minutes at slightly slower than 10k pace.

    The object of the session is to get used to running at your target race pace, it also helps build speed endurance.

    Running for long periods at pace can be very hard work so I prefer a small variation which is to split the tempo run in two and run say 2 x 15 minutes at target 10k pace with a short rest between of say 4-5 minutes.

    You should always preceed and follow a tempo run with a jog warm up and cool down.
  • I've been running for over a year, but when it comes to the technical side of training I'm a novice. At the moment I run 10k 4 times a week, starting out at 10.4km per hr and then building up to 12.3km per hr over 53 minutes (on a treadmill)- would this be classed as effective training? I've concentrated on 10k and improved my time, and I'm now going to gradually build my distance weekly. Am I going about my training to increase time & distance the right way by starting off at a slower pace and increasing this pace throughout the run? If not, can anyone tell me what other ways I can train to increase my distance & time...eg: what is interval training?
  • Claire

    Your is an absolute nightmare question to which there are about 13 zillion answers. I will give you my view but feel free to ask more specific questions.

    1. As to whether you are going the right way about building up your training, that largely depends on what you want to achieve - are you aiming for a race or do you simply feel that after a year you need to do something different?

    2. Interval training is where you run for a pre-determined time at faster than your normal pace taking (usually an equivalent) rest period after each fast session e.g. you may decide in the course of a run to include 5 x 2 minutes at a faster pace followed by 2 minutes slow after each fast. There are whole books on the subject of intervals!

    3. Running acceleration runs as you are doing at the moment is OK but you may get more benefit (physically and mentally) from designating certain sessions as slow/ steady, certain session as fast etc. etc. e.g. you could amend your current schedule by replacing 2 of your current 10k runs with a) a 5k run at faster than your current pace; and b) a 15-20k run at slower than current pace.
    4. Have you thought about running outdoors where changes in terrain (i.e. hills) and weather will make a difference to your training?

    There are lots and lots of things you can do to get better and the above is just some pointers.
  • Minkin -

    I'd say your 4-miler was a perfectly good tempo run - try doing them on a weekly basis and you'll really see the difference.

    I'd also agree with Martin that a good way of making tempo runs easier but still effective, especially if you're new to the idea, is to break them up into 10 minute chunks (or so) with easy recoveries (but not too long as you'll defeat the object). I think these are sometimes called "tempo intervals" for what it's worth - but you get the idea. The key as Martin says is finding the right pace - 1/2M pace is a useful average.

    Claire - I would say that you probably shouldn't jump into interval training just yet, but try out tempo runs and fartlek (check these out on the RW website) as a variant on your current training routine, which I'm sure is giving you a training benefit if somewhat unorthodox.

    The only thing I would say about it is make sure you're doing a proper warm-down of about 10 minutes at a gentle pace, rather than abruptly stopping having reached your flat-out speed - this is not recommended, as it doesn't give your body a chance to flush out the toxins from your work-out, and not cooling down makes you stiffer the next day and can bring on injury. Conversely, you're doing just the right thing by starting your work-outs at a gentle pace - highly recommended at all times!


  • Thanks Martin & Achilles for your advice. I've been running for a while but only did my first 10k race in July finishing in 51.2mins-since that experience I'm determined to take my running more seriously. My aim is to do a half-marathon and then the marathon next year. Your advice martin on doing three mixed runs is great, as I didn't think I'd get any benefit from running a shorter distance at a faster pace. I must admit I've become very fixed on doing 10k everytime I go on the treadmill. I've just joined a running club which I'm sure will help with my training.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Claire, an idea which I have adopted this year and which is aimed at increasing my mileage is to simply add a couple of miles onto your runs. For example, rather than do a 10 minute warm up for my tempo runs and interval training I'll quite often do 20 minutes + warm up and finish off with 5 minutes very easy then 10 minutes + at recovery pace. The more mileage you can do at recovery pace the more your base fitness will increase.
  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭
    Generally agree with the comments here.
    I tend to focus more on 10miles and upwards and find that longer tempo runs (or longer intervals - 3*1.5 miles) seem to me to be more beneficial for my racing,although I do the shorter sessions (although never shorter than 400m).
    Maybe its in the mind - I see 7 miles at half marathon pace more relevant to my goal of a halfM pb than I do 12*400m at 5k pace.

    Claire - agree about the fast/slow sessions and intervals already suggested.
    Well done with the 10k time, excellent for a first go.
  • Way to go Claire - that's a great first time effort for the 10K.

    Drew -

    Far be it from me, but what you're advocating (i.e. adding extra recovery miles) sounds suspiciously like the dreaded "junk mileage" scenario. Maybe that's not what you're saying, but surely recovery mileage (i.e. 10K pace plus sometimes as much as two minutes) isn't nearly as useful in building "base fitness" as running at "training pace" (10K pace plus a minute and a quarter or so). I've probably misunderstood so I'll just shut up.

    By the way, while we're on the subject, I'd be really interested to know what your typical (marathon build-up) training week looks like in terms of hard days, long runs, tempo runs etc. - since I've a sneaking suspicion you're onto some cunning tricks the rest of us aren't clued in on. Unless of course you'd rather keep it to yourself and maintain that competitive edge!!!!! s.
  • Thanks Achilles!

    Martin, I know you defined Tempo Run but I'm still a little confused. Based on the fact i do 10k in under 55 mins what would class as a Tempo run for me? Is it running at the same pace for the duration of your run?
  • Claire

    On the basis of your race time for 10k of 51.2 minutes or just over 5 minutes per km you could try the following:

    Session 1 - Tempo

    10 minutes warm up followed by 20 minutes at 5:15 per km. This might be too much to start off and if it is try 2 x 7.5 minutes or 2 x 10 minutes(with a 2.5 minutes pause between). The key to this session is not to feel absolutely wasted when you finish.

    10 minutes cool down

    Session 2 - Interval

    10 minute warm up.

    2-5 x 1km at 4:45 - 5:00 mins per km (i.e. slightly quicker than your current 10 km pace). Take a rest of 4-5 minutes between intervals. Start with 2 intervals and build up to 5 over a number of weeks. If the session seems too easy then you can increase the speed slightly or decrease the amount of recovery. The key to this session is to run the last "interval" at the same speed as the first and to keep the recovery intervals fixed.

    10 minute cool down
  • Martin, this is excellent. Thanks for taking the time to write it out for me. I'm going to try these two sessions this week.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Achilles, the extra mileage is done at the ideal heart rate for improving base fitness. Depending on what programmes you read this varies between 60% and 70% of WHR. The actual pace for these runs can vary quite considerably. Anything else I do has a specific reason, eg increasing VO2 max, increasing threshold, etc.

    Although there are many definitions available for junk miles for me they are when you run at such a slow pace to be of no benefit whatsoever or run when you know you shouldn't, simply because your weekly mileage is "too low".

    As for the "master plan" - yes, I do have one which I will be very happy to share with anyone, once I know it works! This will probably become apparent at the 2003 FLM.
  • I think the concept of a master plan is interesting and with the times that you are running drew I would never question either your methods or your motivation! I am interested to know whether you actually enjoy running, or do you enjoy the getting better and faster bit of running? I know on the session thread we always put the "why" but and mostly there is a reason for my runs but largely thats secondary to the fact that I like running and unlike most have never found it boring. However, I know that a few years ago when I found I had plateaued in terms of times I found it incredible hard to stay motivated.

    Is this something you are planning for? Do you think it will ever happen?
  • Drew -

    Actually, I think I'm always so worried about running so-called "junk miles" that I tend to run most of my recovery runs too fast to compensate.

    The only other thing I would say, subjectively speaking, is that too much running slow makes me feel slow.

    As for judging recovery pace with a HRM, I found I just couldn't manage with it. Actual recovery runs (i.e. where you are running to "recover" from a previous hard work-out, rather than just running at recovery pace, whatever that is) always seem to me to vary more widely than anything else in terms of perceived effort versus effort recorded by the HRM. That's one of the reason I threw mine in the drawer this time last year. (It was especially useful for tempo runs, I admit that - but that's a different kettle of fish, cos they're actually very dependent on actual as opposed to perceived effort to work properly.)

    The other reason I threw mine away was that it's a piece of junk (Nike HRM]Triax 15) which despite its funky design and orthography just plain failed to work after a while, having been intermittently faulty from the get-go - the last piece of Nike kit of any kind I'm ever buying. Actually, the reason for the rant is I got it out of the drawer again this morning and hopefully, foolishly bought yet another new battery and still the thing didn't work. As a result, and in view of coming round to your view of the over-riding importance of tempo runs, I'm going to go out and get me a nice simple and infinitely cheaper Polar HRM which I have no doubt will last forever - and I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that my money isn't going towards ludicrous TV campaigns where Eric Cantona referees football matches on board rusting oil tankers (what the hell was that all about?).

    Can't blame you for not sharing the master plan - now we REALLY know it harbours never-before-discovered killer secrets.

    best. s.
  • Claire -

    Martin's two exemplary sessions are just the ticket to get you going, but a word of caution. I notice you said you were going to do both of them in the same week! Maybe you didn't mean this, but the most important thing you need to know about speed sessions is to ease into them gradually and two new tough sessions in the same week is probably not recommended. Either of two things is likely to happen (or both) - you'll decide it's all too tough and you'll never want to do them again (which would be shame), or you'll get injured. Speed wisely and recover well and you'll be delighted with the results - watch that 10K PB plummet!

    Also, having seen what you're currently doing, I'm sure you'll enjoy your running even more once you start to bring some variety into it - and the more variety you go for, the better all-round runner you become.

    best of luck. s.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Martin, I'm motivated by success! Constant improvements are one aspect which motivates me to go out and train harder (and smarter). I'm alwasy striving for PB's on my training runs. Eventually I will reach a plateau, probably 3 or 4 years. At that stage I'm not sure how I'll react. May revert back to cycling.
  • Scenario: Seaside 5K race next Wed 28/8 . Also planned further ahead: 10Ks 15/9 (Hoylake), 22/9 (Mersey Tunnel), 5K (Seaside) 29/9, 10K (Chester Zoo) 13/10

    Since rest day last Wed 14/8

    15/8: 25 mins on grass, mainly easy
    16/8: 9.3K/5.8 miles hard
    17/8: no run but long cricket innings on hot day
    18/8: 5 miles at 6:30 pace
    19/8: 4 x 1 mile interval session off limited jog recoveries (i.e. speed endurance session)
    20/8: 43 minutes v easy on beach/road, mean HR 135
    21/8: 4.1 miles/6.65K hard
    22/8: intended easy run on grass - terminated at just over 2 miles (with last 1/2 mile q hard) when realised wouldn't make it to Safeway in time before it closed & would face frosty reception from Mrs S in consequence.

    this morning: legs feel not too bad
    tomorrow: cricket match scheduled.

    Really can't make my mind up what to do tonight....so - you, the jury, can decide What - and Why
  • oh sh*t - posted to wrong thread...try again...
  • Tough one for me to answer I have always done speedwork, though didn't have a lot of choice running on the track..... Personally I love speedwork and reps sessions for reasons outlined below.

    I do use them to get fitter, faster, but I think the main benefit I get from them is they allow me to gauge my level of fitness - I know that if say I run a session of 8*1000m reps with 60s rest in a certain time, then I know what time I can expect to run a 10k. However this has come from years of doing reps...

    The distances and number of reps have increased, as I do not run so much track now, and there are many sessions I use, though I tend to stick to 8 throughout the year, increasing the intensity of the session throughout the year...
  • One more thing - be careful. I have suffered my fair share of calf and achilles injuries - generally because I would run even more on my toes than usual, and through wearing shoes with less cushioning - only advice would be to wear your normal trainers until your calfs/achilles are used to the additional demands, then switch to less cushioned/lighter trainers if you use them..
  • Wow - what a lot of information to try to absorb. I thought the Yasso 800 was a type of motorbike...

    'I remember when' - you're probably onto something there - as I am a committed forefoot runner - don't think I'll ever leave my Air Pegasus' for any other trainer - and at my slow speed - lighter trainers honestly won't make any difference at all.

    I do get hacked off tho as despite intensive - 5-8 times a week training - over the last year - I still can only jog with a heart rate which quickly reaches 183 and stays there or just below (180 is the theoretical maximum for me but I can reach 220 in the gym when I really push myself, not the point I know!)

    Everything else I do in the gym's got easier - especially the rower - over the last year - but not the bike or the treadmill - and it's running I want to do - not rowing or cycling!

    I will try some of these tips tho,' thanks
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