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Training & advice

Music to complement speed work

Once you have built up enough endurance to be able to run your chosen distance without stopping the next improvement you can make is to run the distance quicker. To do this you need to increase your running cadence or pace and so you have to condition yourself to be able to do this. You should start to include several aspects of training in order to achieve this conditioning including work on co-ordination, balance, technique and strength; however the area that will give you the quickest return is by doing speed work.

Speed work involves working on running at a maximum speed for no more than around seven seconds with a recovery of around ten minutes before doing it again. The repetitions would be very low. You may do three or perhaps six but no more than this or you would notice that your times would be increasing for the distance you are sprinting. This would be working primarily with the anaerobic alactic energy system. There is a small place in the endurance runner’s programme for this sort of work but it would only be a very small percentage of the training programme, as it is unusual for this energy system to be the dominant one for more than just a few seconds at the start of a race.

Far more relevant for us is speed-endurance. This means running at a quick tempo over a longer distance or being able to pick the pace up again and again. This is where we need to spend a lot of time training. The best way to train for speed is to do repetition or interval work. This means running fast for a given length of time and repeating it several times over. The length of the repetitions and the number that you do will depend on where you are up to on the training programme, your level of fitness and conditioning, as will the recovery time (or the intervals) between the repetitions - typically this will be between 50% - 100% of the time of the repetition. If you are doing 1 minute repetitions it is likely you will need 1 minute to recover between each but if you are doing 4 minute repetitions you may only need 2 minutes to recover.

Have you considered using music to help you with your speed-endurance training? Music can help you to run faster if you have the right music at the right tempo (Beats Per Minute) and if it’s music you enjoy.

The music needs to have the right mood and have a fast tempo for your speed work. The lyrics are important – there’s nothing better than some inspiring lyrics toempower you to power on ahead when the going gets tough. The tempo is also important, as running with music with a slow a tempo may cause you to unconsciously slow down.  Songs such as ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ have great motivational lyrics, but at a slow 109bpm it will be too slow for most runners.

So how might you structure your session to improve your speed-endurance? Well it could look something like this: 

  1. Warm up for 7 minutes to ‘Blinded By The Light’ by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Start running at a 10 minute mile pace while listening to this track, which is 141bpm
  2. Dynamic stretching to ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ by The Police (143bpm). This should take you to about 6 minutes

Main session – repetitions to tracks with 165 – 180bpm such as:

  1. Joni Mitchell – ‘Big Yellow Taxi
  2. Billy Idol – ‘You Spin Me Right Round
  3. Billy Idol – ‘Dancing With Myself
  4. Thin Lizzy – ‘The Boys Are Back In Town
  5. Van Morrison – ‘Bright Side Of The Road
  6. The Police – ‘Every Little Thing She Does
  7. The Police – ‘Message In A Bottle
  8. Kenny Loggins – ‘Footloose
  9. Billy Joel – ‘For The Longest Time
  10. Diana Ross – ‘The Happening
  11. Queen – ‘Don’t Stop Me Now
  12. The Pointer Sisters – ‘I’m So Excited

 Cool down for 4 minutes to ‘Bohemian Like You’ by the Dandy Warhols (131bpm)