many athletes misunderstand the purpose and intensity of speed work. Some athletes do too much, while others do too little or at incorrect efforts. This can lead to a lack of improvement or injuries.
Here's what you need to know about speed work:
- Understand your goal race effort: To build an effective training plan, it's crucial to understand the intensity effort required for your goal race. This will help you structure your annual training around supporting that effort. Athletes who compete in different distances will need to work on their entire spectrum of intensities, but at different times of the year and for different durations.
- Timing is key: For long course athletes, it's essential to do early season high-intensity work as it will ultimately support the "race effort" for the long course, which needs to be focused on as we move closer to the race for specificity reasons. Conversely, short course athletes may recognize the importance of building a base and training slowly early in the season, but it's crucial to also incorporate speed work to stay sharp with their athletic movements.
- Monitor output: When doing speed work, it's important to measure immediate output, such as velocity or a power meter, to get immediate feedback on your effort. Heart rate as a standalone metric can be a bad way to monitor a session, especially for intensities shorter than 6 minutes.
- Incorporate testing: To determine your exact current output for any given duration, it's helpful to incorporate tests into your training. This can give you valuable data to help you structure your workouts and monitor your progress.
Speed work is a crucial component of a well-rounded training plan, but it's essential to understand the correct intensity, timing, and monitoring methods for your specific goals. By working with a coach and incorporating testing, you can ensure that your speed work is targeted and effective, helping you reach your peak performance on race day.