Sunday, January 13, 2013

The problem with speedwork...

The title of this post is "The Problem with Speedwork", however, to be fair I should have probably named it "MY Problem with speedwork". Speedwork in itself is not a bad thing, and a quick google search will result in thousands of hits touting its benefit. However, I have a problem with it.

My problem is not that it makes me feel like I'm going to puke (although I have to admit that's certainly not an alluring trait of the sport) but rather my problem is related to the nature of speedwork itself. For me, the success of a speedwork session is highly dependent on "factors". These factors range in type from the weather, to what I ate in the last 5 hours to the amount of sleep I've accomplished and/or how tired my legs feel based on previous workouts earlier in the week. These are just a few factors and it feels like there are hundreds more. If any of these factors are adverse on a particular speedwork run, I can't succeed (hit my pace or length of run). My legs won't physically turn over that fast, or I can't breathe, or I cramp up so bad I'm bent over. Yes I can "push through" those things and finish a run, but when you're aiming for speedwork, "Just finishing" doesn't equate to success in my brain.

Compare this to "long-slow-distance" ("LSD") runs. While I'm sure it's not the case for everyone, for me the success of an LSD run is based on very few factors. Those factors are a.) whether or not I'm injured, b.) whether or not I become injured during the run and c.) whether I have severe gastro-intestinal distress on the run (although this factor is becoming less important as I've learned to just get over having to use the restroom in the middle of a run). But, the point is, as long as I'm not flat-out injured, I can finish an LSD up to 24 miles any given day. Finishing an LSD is not dependent on the weather (if the weather is adverse I just slow down), or how tired I am (again, just slow down), or what I've eaten (find a bathroom if necessary) or how tired my legs feel (I just push through it). Therefore, finishing and LSD (success) is dependent on very few factors.

I guess the conclusion here is that I am success-driven. I love the feeling of being able to succeed at anything I do, and when the success of something I am aiming to do is dependent on what seems like a million and one factors, many of which are out of my control, it frustrates me. And THAT'S my problem with speedwork.

However, on the flipside, when all those factors DO align and I have a fast race, PR, or even just hit a pace I haven't hit in a long time during a training run, the joy I feel from that is far beyond the joy I feel when I "just finish". So, because of that I will keep chasing the perfect alignment of factors, and in the meantime try to limit my grumbling about the training that gets me there :-)


  1. I struggle with speed work too. I don't like feeling nauseous while I'm running!

  2. I need to do more speed work during my upcoming cycle, and I am not looking forward to it. To be honest, I just hate all the attention I have to pay to it, where a normal run is just one I can go out and do with no thought. Speed work requires some level of planning and you need to keep track of things - lame.