After reading up on different speed training workouts over the past few weeks, I decided to give interval training a shot during my training for the upcoming half marathon. It seemed like a good way to mix things up and try something new and outside my comfort zone. Yesterday was my first attempt. I rode my bike to the local high school to take advantage of the 400m track surrounding the football field.
I’ve seen quite a bit written about the 400 meter workouts so I decided to give it a shot. I have also recently been studying up on the Yasso 800s used for marathon training. The Yasso theory is that if you convert your goal marathon time to minutes, you should be able to do 800m intervals in that time, up to ten times. For example, if you want a 3 hour 45 minute marathon then your goal 800m pace should be 3 minutes and 45 seconds and you should be able to do 10 of those 800m intervals at that 3:45 pace with a one-lap rest period of light jogging or walking in between each one.
There’s a lot of debate in various forums as to whether Yassos should be used as a training routine to get you to that goal time or just as a predictor as to whether your marathon goal is feasible. I have no opinion either way. But I figure any interval training like this can’t make someone slower, so modifying it in a way that makes sense for you can’t be a bad thing any way you look at it.
Also up for debate is whether this same routine can be modified and cut in half for half marathon training. In other words, you take your goal for the half, convert it to minutes, and that should be your target 400m time, as opposed to 800 meters. I have seen lots of speculation on the effectiveness of this workout as a speed workout for the half marathon, but nothing concrete. I have, however, seen 400m interval training — without converted goal times and what not, just simple sprints — talked about as a good speed workout for the half.
I work better with specific goals in my head so I decided to incorporate concepts from all the stuff I’ve seen, come up with a workout and modify as needed. So here’s what I came up with:
My goal for this first workout was to complete five 400m sprints with each one at an equal or faster pace than the last hoping that I could do the intervals in under 2 minutes, 10 seconds since my goal half marathon time is 2 hours, 10 minutes. I finished my first 400m sprint with a time of 2:15 and am happy to say I took time off with each interval. I ended with a time of 1:57. I felt pretty good about that.
But, I realized a few things. First, I am pretty sure I could not maintain the pace I was running those 400 meters for more than two or three more intervals, let alone a total of ten. So even though I am proud of myself for beating my pace with each interval, I don’t think those 400m intervals are a predictor of my (realistic) half marathon potential. I wish they were! A sub-two hour half would be great! But maybe a routine of just running all-out no matter the consistency will be effective at at least speeding me up a litle bit. I guess we’ll have to see as I continue on with my long runs on the weekends. I may even slow down those 400m intervals to a 2 minute, 10 second pace and see how I feel after a few. That’s what may need to happen to get me to ten of them anyway.
Second, one full lap of rest between each sprint seemed like too much. While the sprint laps were challenging, I didn’t feel I got as good of a workout as I should have. I will either switch to a slower-paced run as opposed to a walk during the rest laps next time, or I will only rest for a half lap instead of a full one.
And third, I’m pretty sure the sight of my sprint performances are quite comical to watch. I’ve never felt less sexy in my life. Not that I think I ever really impress anyone with my normal running pace self, but this sprint stuff takes unimpressive to a whole new level.
I obviously have a lot of trial and error ahead of me. But I’m excited about it. I get bored doing the same things over and over so this should help keep me a little more motivated to do my workouts.
But as I continue to figure this whole speed thing out, does anyone have any speed training workouts they have had success with? I would love to hear about it.