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Speed Demons

Written by: Eleanor Goldberg
Posted: Wednesday, 25 June 2008
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Don’t let these common mistakes sabotage your training or your goals.

Determined to heighten your glorious finish by shaving off some minutes? Well, whatever the motivator—workmates’ betting pool, dated New Year’s resolution, or plain ol’ competitiveness—your personal driving factor can’t withstand this blinding obstacle: YOU. Though you’ve been following a strict training regimen, you may be sabotaging your performance by committing any of the following speed impairing sins.

Time Crunch

Since you’re not a professional athlete (yet), finding a way to balance your working out with your chaotic city life is uh, difficult. However, by using your free time efficiently, your results will soar. “Some athletes think that if they have 10 hours a week to workout, then they have to maximize the time completely. This is the wrong mindset,” says Josh Levin-Soler a USA Triathlon Certified Level 1 Coach at both Reebok and Terrier Tri. You’ll actually benefit more from striking an appropriate balance between your speed and aerobic work.

Think Fast

Sprints shouldn’t be dominating your routine. In fact, your total speed work shouldn’t exceed 15 percent. “People tend to do too much high-end speed training and not enough aerobic exercise,” Levin says. “The body can’t sustain anaerobic exercise for 12 hours [during a race] so you should be devoting a lot of time to volume [while training].” The lower heart-rate activities will help you to pick up the pace because you will have built a base from which your muscles can work.

Big Shot

Your upcoming race might be the most daunting to date, considering you’re trying to outdo your prior performance. Still, make sure not to over train. “People think bigger is better and that they should train harder, faster and longer,” Levin observes. However, such intense training will not lead to improved results. City Coach trainer, Jonathan Cane agrees. “Nothing drives me crazier than seeing guys sprinting at the end of what should be an easy workout. Runners would be well served to alternate easy and hard days, and make sure there's a significant difference between those two workouts.” If you give your body a break, it will quickly return the favor.

No Doze

We live in the city that never sleeps and its endurance athletes are no different. While coffee may compensate for your lack of zzz’s at your desk, nothing can replace your depleted snoozing as you prep for your best race ever. “Human growth hormone is instrumental in recovery, and the most predictable and greatest secretion of HGH tends to be within 90 minutes of sleeping,” Levin says. “This is why it is crucial to get to bed earlier when you do a hard workout because you start your most effective recovery sooner.” While you may be tempted to delay your curfew in order to squeeze in a late-night workout, don’t. If you’ve been training consistently, the rest will serve you more.


Since we don’t live in the most bike-friendly city, you may have been favoring other disciplines. However, now that the race date is nearing, you’re beginning to feel those old all-nighter nerves returning. Unlike algebra equations though, you won’t be able to cram your speed skills. To give your body ample time to prep for your pace goal, increase your volume by no more than 10 percent each week. Such increments allow “for every workout to count, like putting money in the bank,” Levin says.

Jump the Gun

When you hear the sound of the gun—don’t run for your life—run for the race, at the rate you’ve been training. “Adrenaline can be your best friend, but it can work against you if you let it get the best of you,” Cane explains. You may want to lose everyone in your age group ASAP, but “if you're not used to running at that pace, then you have no idea what you should be doing.”

Carb Unload

Your body is just as obsessed with the number of calories it receives as you are with the numbers that appear on the screen at the finish. To make sure you get enough carb fuel, follow this simple formula: For your every kilogram of weight, ingest an additional gram of carbohydrate throughout the event. A 110-pound (50 kg) female will need to add 50 grams (200 calories) of carbs and a 165-pound male (75 kg), 75 grams (300 calories). Take those few moments to stop and eat, because if you don’t, your legs may just well, stop.

Last Call

Quench. Your. Thirst. “While speed training, the athlete is pushing harder and needs to get enough fluid before and during races, which can be challenging,” says Monique Ryan MS, RD. Stop for an eight ounce sport drink at least every 30 minutes to maintain adequate blood glucose levels. Otherwise the finish line that seems within reach, may begin to blur as you slow down and dehydrate.

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Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved.