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Speed workouts–what they really feel like

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A friend recently asked me what it “really” feels like to train for a marathon.  Most of the time, it’s fun and feels great.  However, an important part of marathon training involves speed workouts.  As its name suggests, speed workouts are a great way to improve your speed as a runner.  While I do like these, they…um…don’t always feel so pleasant at the time I’m doing them.

The other day, I did a speed workout on the treadmill at my gym.  I sort of made it up as I went along.   I first did a warm up at about an 8 ½ minute-mile pace.  I listened to my music and I felt great.

After running one mile, I came to a complete stop, took off my music, tightened the laces on my running shoes, and began slowly moving the numbers on the treadmill higher.  I hit 7, which I had used for the warm up.  Then, I kept going up.  7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5…9.6.  There, that should do it.  A 6.15 minute-mile.

This isn’t so bad, I can do this.   5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds…

Oh, wait, this is really, really hard.

20, 25, 30 seconds

I’m dripping with sweat.

35, 40 seconds

I feel like I can’t breathe.

45 seconds

OMG!  I can’t take this anymore!  My arm juts out to stop the treadmill.

I’m breathing very loudly.  Others around me turn to stare.

Yet, before I have fully recovered I press “start.”  And the numbers begin to creep up once again.

7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5…9.6…9.7.  A 6.11 minute mile.

I repeat the same routine all over again…and again…and again.

By the fifth time, I had moved the number up to 9.8, a 6:07-minute mile.  I feel like I’m torturing myself.  My legs can’t go one step further.  My lungs are screaming.  My heart is going to rip right out of my body.

In total, I do this 10 times before stopping to do a one-mile “cool down.”

So, in answer to my friend’s question, that’s what a speed workout feels like.  One point worth noting, a speed workout is even more beneficial outdoors since you’re running on uneven ground.  If you prefer the treadmill though, you may want to consider raising the “incline” a little bit.  This will give you more of a challenge.

Categories: General

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