Also, do the same kinds of speed and agility workouts that you read about for road training (fartlek, hill repeats) apply to trail training, or should we be tweaking them? Most of the non-racing snakes that I’ve spoken to struggle with these same things.
Fast and far
Hi Robyn, speed and endurance is one of those tough double-edged swords. Most athletes seem to decide to pursue only one or the other. Truth is, they work extremely well in tandem.
You were born with both fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibres in your muscle make-up. Due to family genes and other factors, there will be a dominant speed or endurance quality hidden inside your body. The latest research shows that your environmental circumstances, from crawling to walking, the games you played, and the exposure you had when developing muscles, have a huge influence on your propensity for speed or endurance.
This is all great, but when you make that New Year’s resolution to run an ultra-distance event, the above is all just theory.
My approach is always to make any athlete faster while they prepare for endurance events.
The hard and fast workouts push your lactate threshold higher and higher and automatically assist you for the endurance running. The flipside – more long, slow distance (LSD) runs – will not work in your favour to make you faster; you will only do the distance at a slow pace.
To address the second part of your question: you can most definitely use the road running principles of fartlek, hill repeats and tempo runs. The big mistake most runners make is not knowing and measuring how fast they should run these workouts. It is like target shooting: you cannot take pot shots. Rather, find the target, keep your aim on it, and then execute.
For more speed
Start your plan at the current level of fitness and not with your personal best from 10 years ago. Determine your pace levels by working backwards from your target goal.
For instance, if you want to run 10km in 60 minutes, your short interval pace should be around 5:35 minutes per km. Warm up lightly for 10-15 minutes, do five 3-minute repeats at interval pace with 1 minute rest, followed by a 15-minute cool-down.
The pace chart in the magazine is useful for a runner with this profile…