Speed Work, Day One
When I was a younger coach, I went to a clinic which was taught by famed track & field coach Boo Schexnayder.
During the lesson, a coach asked Boo, "When do you start speed work?" Boo answered, "Day 1, coach. Day 1."
Right then and there I changed my mind.
Typically, distance coaches are heavily, if not solely, schooled in the aerobic metabolism and the training of distance runners reflects such. This energy system is esteemed the highest compared to others, and rightfully so. I am not debating how fundamentally important an in-depth understanding of the aerobic system is for a distance running coach. It is critical. It is a prerequisite to coaching runners intelligently and to competitive success.
But it is not the only area of importance. In the sport of running, speed matters — a lot. Some may think it is an inherent talent, is fixed, and cannot be enhanced with training. That logic is outdated. Speed is a skill and it can be taught.
If trained from Day 1 (as Boo encourages), I've found the effects on the athlete's competitive ability is profound. They can run faster at race pace with less effort, sprint longer at the end of races, and see the risk of injury from training sharply minimized.
Speed work comes in several forms. I've constructed a model which is simple and helps me think more clearly. It breaks down for me the varying types of speed work and how to best employ them in an athlete's training program.
Here is my current Framework of Speed Work:
How You Move
What You Move
When You Move
This week, in honor of the start of indoor track season, my daily blog will be themed "Speed Week." Over the next four posts, I will unpack how I think about speed work by discussing each facet in my Framework of Speed Work.
I do not fancy myself an authority on speed work for distance runners. My knowledge is limited, but I work hard to increase it, albeit slowly. I think it is important to share thoughts and constructs even if they are incomplete and still evolving. The goal of the Speed Week mini-series is to offer how I'm doing it right now to provoke thought, encourage exchange, and help everyone, including myself, get better.
This is going to be fun — much like it is to run fast.
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm