Best Running Workouts for a Miler
Four years ago, at age 56, I was running a 5:12 mile and 2:21 800m. I am now 60 and can't break a 6:00 mile. 800m time is up to 2:36. I still have similar speed in my workouts as I did a few years ago but it seems I have lost speed endurance.
What workouts(tempo, VO2 Max, or fast reps) will help my speed endurance the most?Answer by Dominique:
Thanks for your question about the best workouts for a miler.
Firstly, kudos! Your commitment to running and the prowess you show is incredible! Remember, every runner has their hurdles and speed bumps. Your query is a common one among competitive runners and boils down to deciphering the most effective workouts for speed endurance.
Let's get into the following:1. Aging and athletic performance
2. Best Workouts for a Mile - Intervals and Repeats
3. Speed and endurance - a partnership
4. Strength training when older
5. Putting the pieces together
Aging and Athletic Performance
Aging, while a natural process, brings with it certain alterations.
As we mature, there are inevitable changes in physiology and muscle strength. You're still running strong at 60, which is phenomenal!
However, a moderate drop in performance over the years can be a natural part of aging
. This doesn't mean it's all downhill once you hit a certain age, but adjusting expectations might have to become part of the game at some point!
Ever since my late thirties, and definitely into my forties I have noticed this reduction in performance come through in different ways.
Coming back from an injury, it takes longer to get fit and fast again.
Hitting previous normal tempo and interval speeds isn't that normal anymore.
Recovery after a big workout or long run takes a bit longer.
But enough complaining about getting older...! There is much we can do to slow the decline and preserve speed and strength.
So, let's start taking about and let's get to the heart of your question.
Best Workouts for a Mile - Intervals and Repeats
Let me start by saying that you need to have a healthy level of crazy in you to be doing the mile! It's such a tough, tough distance. An all-out sprint that goes for too long. That pretty much sums up the mile for me.
So, what do you need for that speed in your legs? Intervals and repeats.Intervals
I'd definitely recommend making intervals an important part of your running routine. By important part, I don't mean do them all the time. But they should be a staple of your running program and be scheduled almost every week, if not every week.
Check out the Interval Running
page for more information.
I'd recommend doing some longer intervals (e.g. 600m / 800m) at slower than mile speed. You'd want to run those at roughly 3k-5k speed. But also do some training at mile speed with shorter intervals (e.g. 200m / 400m).Repetitions and Strides
One thing that happens when we get older is that we lose some of that super fast speed. And that definitely becomes a problem when you don't practice running fast regularly. That's why repetitions and strides
are important. I would make strides
be another recurring item in your running program. Do them at least once every week at the end of an easy run.
Speed and Endurance - A Partnership
Digging a little deeper into your performances, there seems to be a considerable gap between your 800m and mile timings. Based on a 2:36 800m, my race conversion calculator
suggests you should be running a mile in about 5:27. You are currently doing it in or around 6 minutes.
So here's the twist in our plot: maybe the real protagonist isn't speeding up, but slowing down. That's right, your trump card could be increasing your slow workouts – encompassing more tempo runs
, easy runs
, and of course, the champions of endurance – long runs!
The tough thing about the mile, as I said before, is that it is almost an all-out sprint that goes for too long. That's why endurance is so important, even for a "short run" like the mile. So, still make sure that the bulk of your running is at the slower end of the spectrum. A strong tempo run and a good long run supported by lots of easy miles can do a lot of good for 98% of runners. And judging by those race performance, I think they'll help you as well.
Strength Training When Older
As I referenced before, when we get older, we lose some of our speed. We lose some of our explosivity. But there is a solution. Something that helps arrest some of the decline. The answer? Strength training. Lifting heavy weights can help you preserve, even build, speed and power.
You may know that as we get older we lose muscle mass. Strength training comes in as the saving grace, preserving some of our youthful strength. But you need to work for it!
Additionally, it helps you build and maintain a more injury-resilient body. One thing I wanted to stress is that while I am telling you do to intervals and
strides, you do need to do these with care. Especially if you are not used to doing faster workouts, they can be very hard on your body.
I have a bunch of running friends that are late 50s, early 60s and some of them have completely sworn off any faster work, simply as they find it too hard on their bodies.
Others have fared better and are still able to do a hard workout once or twice a week. The big difference is that they have maintained this as part of their workout routine for years and years. And they pretty much all do strength training to be able to deal with the hard workouts.
Read up on strength training for runners
via the link.
Putting the Pieces Together
Admittedly, it's a conundrum. On one hand, intervals and repeats are necessary for a competitive miler. But on the other hand, with your timings, I believe you need a stronger endurance base before you speed up the pace.
So, here’s a potential game plan: Start prioritizing slower runs. Build up your endurance base, using tempo and easy/long runs. Do strides once or twice a week, to keep your leg speed. And start incorporating strength training into your life, if you aren't already. Once that foundation is solid, then start doing some interval workouts to really sharpen your race speed.
While perseverance is definitely your strong suit, don't lose sight of the joy of running. Remember, you're blazing trails at an age where many hesitate to tread. Chin up, Jeff, you're already a champ!
Hoping this helps you navigate your running journey!