Sometimes it takes years to make things simple. Anxious over the endurance aspect of sprint triathlons, my workouts became laser-focused on volume. My thinking was based in logic. My max distance has always been a 5K. My fastest ever was a 16:48 at Franklin Park, Boston in high school. The triathlons I was running, however, took about an hour and twenty minutes. I had to make sure I transformed my engine into one that could rev its way through an hour-plus workout. What’s more, though I did four years of cross country in high school, running about 42 miles per week, I had followed that up with four years of decathlon in college. That means I’m a lot closer to heavy squats, sprint workouts and miniscule mileage than to my past years as a long distance runner.
I needed to make sure I swam, biked and ran for enough time and distance. But it’s clear, looking back, I gave short shrift to speed workouts. The proof: Last year, a post-triathlon 5K where I finished slower than the year before. My triathlon race, time and finish was proof that I had put in enough work in 2015. It was my best triathlon yet. But the 5K run two weeks later showed me how I couldn’t hit the next, higher gear to run a fast (for me) 5K. Looking back, I hadn’t done enough speed workouts on the track, roads or hills. I hadn’t pushed the intensity during swim workouts or bike rides. It’s no wonder my body felt stagnant and unable to push a pace I needed to run a fast 5K.
So the goal this year is to be more of athlete. Put in more speed workouts. Hit the incredibly uncomfortable redline where quitting seems the only option. Throw in some light Olympic lifts, too. It’s working, so far. A hill workout and a Fartlek run reminded me that adding speed makes workouts more interesting and fun. Plus, it’s not like you’re leaving mileage or cardio on the table. You’re incorporating it into a better training program.