I know going fast seems uncomplicated. A simple form of speed work (also called an interval) is going hard for a short duration at an intensity that is hard to breathe. It’s not about the understanding, athletes get that. They get It’s about showing the body new speed and the required time it takes to make these adaptations. The hardest part is actually getting them to go at higher speeds! They move at a pace that is hard but not fast enough to make new adaptations. I see this a lot after an athlete finishes testing; they have negated their top end. They can go forever at one pace but ask them to speed it up a notch and the wheels come off!
Unfortunately If you don’t challenge yourself, your body will not increase its speed. The mechanisms within the body are designed to hold status quo until a new stimulus, for example a very hard interval practice, is completed. Spending too much time in the ‘dead zone’, what I call Zone 3, will keep you from that new personal best.
So what speed does an interval start? This is a great question and before I started doing testing I had a hard time explaining this without actually showing athletes what I meant. Intervals are supposed to challenge the body metabolically, neuromuscularly, and biomechanically. Measuring neuromuscular and biomechanical changes are (currently) impossible as they require extensive research.
Metabolically is a much easier way to understand when and how an interval should begin. As intensity increases, your body has different energy systems it uses to keep your muscles moving. These can be measured either by doing a lactate test or by C02 gas exchange. The results from using these pieces of equipment give an accurate picture of what interval pace is right for you. This is why I use testing, your body’s metabolic functions are revealed without any guess work or mathematical formulas. Simply, you do the work, I measure your capabilities and the feedback can be used to help get you over any plateau.
Intervals are supposed to be hard. If you find them easy or you’re not seeing results, maybe it’s time to figure out a new pace that will help you improve.