The winter weather is finally beginning to fade away and spring is slowly starting to blossom, which means it’s time for runners to start mapping out their spring and summer training and race plans with more detail and structure.
“Spring is an important time for elite and competitive runners because we are preparing for upcoming outdoor track racing, as well as spring and summer road races,” says Marty Beene, a Level 2 USA Track & Field (USATF) certified coach and creator of Be the Runner.
Below, he offers two different workouts (both of which should be performed on a track) that all runners can use to improve speed, performance, and ultimately, kick their spring training into high gear.
Workout #1: Carpenter 200s
“For runners focused on shorter distances, my favorite workout to improve speed is one that I call ‘Carpenter 200s,’” says Beene. “I named it after a friend of mine with whom I used to do this workout. It's simple, but extremely challenging, and is oriented toward runners training for an 800-meter race, although anyone who wants to improve their speed could benefit from it.”
Beene suggests that runners do this workout at least two times during the season, but preferably three: once at the beginning, once in the middle, and once about two weeks prior to the main competition.
The workout: Perform three sets of four 200-meter runs, with 30 seconds rest between the 200s within each set, and three minutes rest between each set. The idea is to run each 200-meter segment at current goal race pace for an 800-meter race. So if the goal is a 2:00 result, each 200-meter segment should be 30 seconds.
“Runners doing this workout will feel like the first set is too easy, will begin to feel significant fatigue on about the third 200 of the second set, and will feel like their head is going to explode during most of the third set,” Beene explained.
He said that it’s effective for two reasons: because it trains your body to run efficiently in an anaerobic state, and also because it “trains your mind to not care that you feel like your head is going to explode.”
“All kidding aside, our minds are powerful—they will often stop us from pushing ourselves too hard in the middle of a race for fear that we won't be able to complete it,” Beene added. “This workout's impact on the mental part of racing—learning that you can continue running well when you feel this bad—is significant.”
Workout #2: 20 x 400m Repeats
“For runners shooting for a top 10k performance, we need to ensure we are using correct pacing in the early stages of a race, so practicing that pacing in a workout is a great solution,” Beene explained.
The workout: 20 x 400-meter repeats at goal race pace with only 30 seconds of rest between each one.
“Runners can build to this quantity by simply adding one or two in each workout until reaching 20,” Beene said. “The challenge in doing this workout is that running only 400m at a 10k race pace for any runner will feel unusually slow. Certainly, by the time the runner is completing 18, 19, then 20 of these, there will be some fatigue, but not all that much.”
He explained that this workout is different than the “Carpenter 200s” because instead of an acute level of intensity, it “demands discipline and patience, which are also key ingredients to successful competitive running.”
He added, “I used the buildup to and the actual 20x400 workout training for the 10000m event at the Pacific Association of USA Track & Field Masters Championships last June. My performance that day was good enough for 10th in the US in my age group in 2014.”