Benefits of Speed Work
Speed work has many benefits and is one of the most important aspects of anyone's training. The most common marker of intensity for speedwork is lactate threshold, which is the intensity about which you begin to "redline". By training near and above your lactate threshold where breathing becomes labored (Zones 4&5) many positive changes occur;
- Improve your tolerance for the build up of lactic acid which in turn increases your lactate threshold allowing you to sustain higher intensity for longer periods of time
- Increase plasma volume
- Increased maximal cardiac output
- Increased mitochondrial enzymes
- Increased muscle glycogen storage
- increased maximal cardiac output
- Increased in your VO2 max
- Improve neuromuscular coordination
- Improve Economy (the efficiency with which you swim, bike, and run)
- Increase raw speed
- Sport specific Strength
Intervals can take on many forms such as Fartlek (the Swedish term for speed play), set distance (such as track repeats), and set time (i.e. run 3 minutes hard followed by a 3 minute easy recovery). Typical work to rest ratios are anywhere from 3:1 to 1:1, while another guide can be your recovery heart rate, run an interval then jog easy until your heart rate recovers to a certain point i.e. 130 bpm, then repeat the interval.
Hill Repeats are just what they sound like. Run or bike up a hill fast then recover on the way down and repeat. Hill repeats use gravity to build sport specific strength and the difficulty can be progressed by finding steeper hills, adding a weighted backpack, or climbing in a harder gear.
Speed Skills and Drills are used to imprint muscle memory and improve economy through neuromuscular coordination. For swimming this means technique, technique, technique as it is the most technical of the three sports and small improvements in technique bring the biggest gains. Strides are an important running drill in that they train your body and legs to become comfortable with a high turnover rate and in cycling single leg drills and spin ups are essential speed drills to improve your cycling efficiency.
Training can be a very complicated endeavor and can quickly become overwhelming, but for the majority of athletes implementing these intensities (easy, race pace, and hard efforts) and incorporating some drills into their routines will bring about great results. In my experience uninformed athletes are spending most of there time in zone 3 and very limited time going easy or going hard. My feeling is that they spend the majority of their time there because it feels like work and they are breathing hard so it must be working, right? There is a time and place for each intensity and by training across the spectrum you will make the most of your limited training time and ultimately become a faster more efficient athlete.
- Friel, Joe. "Intensity." The Triathlete's Training Bible. Boulder, CO: VeloPress, 2009. 46. Print.
- Bryant, Cedric X., and Daniel J. Green. "Cardiorespiratory Training."ACE personal trainer manual : the ultimate resource for fitness professionals. 4th ed. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise, 2010. 398. Print.
- Friel, Joe, and Charlie Layton. "Your Fitness." Your Best Triathlon: Advanced Training for Serious Triathletes. Boulder, CO: Velo, 2010. 24. Print.
- Allen, Hunter, and Andrew Coggan. "Power-Based Training: Where to Begin?" Training and Racing with a Power Meter. Boulder, CO: VeloPress, 2010. Print.
- Dallam, George M., and Steven Jonas. "Complex Speed and Endurance Training."Championship Triathlon Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2008. Print.
- Sleamaker, Rob, Ray Browning, and Rob Sleamaker. "Doing SERIOUS Workouts." Serious Training for Endurance Athletes. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1996. Print.