Running: Working speed into your distance routine

How VO2 max workouts help in the long run

— By Kia Schollar

Speed is relative.

We can’t all be as quick as Usain Bolt or Andre De Grasse, but in our own way we each need to be quick. caught up with someone you might not expect to have a need for speed — elite marathon runner Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S.

Eric Gillis finished 10th in Olympic marathon at Rio 2016.

Eric Gillis finished 10th in Olympic marathon at Rio 2016.

The three-time Olympian is not naïve to the fact training for marathons can be daunting.

Long, pace-based workouts day in and and day out can become a bit uninspiring.

So, how do Gillis and coach Dave Scott-Thomas break up the distance training?

They use VO2 max capacity workouts (a.k.a. maximum effort).

VO2 max is the absolute highest amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise.

Gillis explains that VO2 max work is very important because it “helps with the body’s ability to upload oxygen travel within the body.”

This type of work is not done often, Gillis notes. It’s limited to approximately two times per month leading into a marathon.

Workout No. 1

5-10 kilometre race piece. This is an all-out effort over the whole distance.

Workout No. 2

5x1 mile at VO2 max speed with 1:1 rest (1:1 rest means that you get equal amount of rest to what you run).

Workout No. 3

“Strides” once a week. This workout is done a little more often to help fire the “neuromuscular system … but for short bursts – so it’s not too fatiguing and helps with (the body’s) movement pattern(s)” when running.

How is it done?

Run for 10 to 15 minutes at your long run or easy run pace then for the next 10 minutes (or so) run 20 seconds quick and 40 seconds easy. Repeating for the length of time chosen.

Gillis says he enjoys using this work “in the middle of the workout because it helps the second half of his run.”

It’s also helpful to “break (things) up.”



Get the adrenaline going

Gillis notes that he gets “more excited for a workout” when he knows it’s “about (a) consistent effort and getting the workout in” rather than stressing about the exact pace you’re running at. He also talked about how these types of workouts get the adrenaline going more so than long marathon training while still maintaining a very specific purpose.

If you are training for a long distance running event, enjoy the speed days and the different type of pain they bring to your muscles.  

Your legs will thank you on race day.