The best competition is against yourself and running season is the perfect time to compete.
With the City2Surf done and dusted for another year, our thoughts are on the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. With not much time to train and personal best’s to smash, it’s time to dig deep and find our fast.
So, with the help of NRL player and Nike athlete, Ben Barba and Nike run club coach, Sam Strutt, Team Sporteluxe headed to Goat Island for an afternoon of speed training to help in our long distance pursuits. (Yep, apparently, working on your pace with some speed work will actually improve your long distance stamina too!)
This running session was also a great chance to test-ride the new Nike Air Zoom Elite 8 trainers we’re trialling for the running festival too. (They’re designed for athletes who want to stay light and fast on their feet, which sounds good to us, given fast was the name of the game for this session!)
After a short boat ride to Goat Island in Sydney Harbour via water taxi (with some serendipidous dolphin-watching thrown in for good measure), we set up camp, enjoyed the view for about five minutes and then were thrown right into training. Why Goat Island (apart from the amazing view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background)? Well, by chance, a circular lap around the very hilly island measured around 500m, which was perfect for this kind of training.
You’re probably wondering how a speed running session can help improve your long distance running. Nike run club coach, Sam Strutt gave us the lowdown during the session: “Overall, our biggest goal with speed work when training distance athletes is to improve running economy… We can improve our running economy by improving our running form, which can be achieved through speed work.”
In other words, these shorter, anaerobic workouts help to improve our speed because each muscle contraction becomes more powerful. Sounds good to us!
“If we are able to have more powerful muscle contractions without increasing the effort required to do so, we have just made ourselves more efficient and therefore more economical at running. Now if we are using less energy to run at a given pace, it makes sense that we will be able to maintain that pace for longer,” Sam explained.
But first, we had to warm-up. “We warm-up to prepare ourselves for the running ahead. Seems easy enough and it is, but you need to learn and rehearse a warm-up that is specific to the type of runner that you are. I like to split my definition of a warm-up into two parts: physical and mental,” said Sam.
We started with a slow jog around the island to familiar ourself with the course and to get the blood pumping around our bodies, raise our core temperature and prepare how well we use our oxygen. Then running coach Sam took us through some dynamic (or moving) stretches on flat ground, which he pointed out are the best way to warm up, correct our form and increase our range of motion to get our bodies used to the type of movement we were about to dive into.
Now that we had 95 per cent of our bodies ready, it was time to prepare our minds for the work ahead. “A well rehearsed and familiar warm-up will assist us to be in an optimal headspace… come race time or workout. The repetitive and familiar components of the warm-up and drills allows us to go through the motions without over-thinking and wasting precious energy on stress [on race day],” explained Sam.
Sam also showed us how to use the Nike+ Running app, which will become our trusty companion when we carry on the training at home.
After a couple of handy hints from NRL star Ben Barba (who was injured from a pro NRL game the night before and couldn’t run as planned, but made an excellent cheer squad, advice giver and time-keeper), including the importance of making sure your body is upright to improve your speed and reduce your chance of injury, we hit the track. The session was all about improving our running speed and boy, did we fly!
The 3.5km speed workout (including 500m warm up and 500m warm down) consisted of:
1 x 1km lap at 5 mins/km pace (or as close as we could get to it)
4 minute rest
1 x 1km lap at 5 mins/km pace (as above)
4 minute rest
1 x 500m lap at 5 mins/km pace (as above)
To cool down, we went for another 500m run (in the reverse direction, just to mix things up). We were perplexed too, until Sam explained this was the best way to regulate your temperature (yes, cool your body down) and help reduce muscle fatigue the next day.
“When we cool-down we do pull up better the next morning and are ready to go again. This could be because we are lowering the muscle tension built up throughout the workout during our easy cool-down jog and will allow for our muscles to stay relaxed, go through is restorative functions and reduce the likelihood of injury,” said Sam. “[Also], as the heart is designed to pump blood to the working muscles, if we cool-down with a run we will [help] the body pump oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the muscles. These nutrients will assist in the repair of the micro-tears we do to our muscles during exercise.”
Will this kind of training help boost our speed, which in turn will boost our long distance running? Well, that remains to be seen! But we have our suspicions it just might…