The coaches would love to answer any questions our members have.  If you have a question about training in general or the team’s plans/philosophy in general, please fill out this form.

Here are some questions from members:

Selecting a Pace

Question:  How do I calculate my training paces?

Answer:  We are a big believer in training at your current VDOT pace, especially for workouts.  One of the simplest ways to calculate your VDOT and training paces is to use a run calculator.  Here is a useful one.  See the speed work question below for more information on training at lactate threshold pace.

We also believe in taking easy days easy.  These runs should be at conversational pace.  Long runs in our marathon plans begin at an easier pace (goal marathon pace (MP) plus 45 to 60 seconds).  These transition later in the plan to either a progression run (last 30 minutes gradually increasing the pace every ten minutes from goal MP plus 10 seconds, goal MP, and then goal MP minus 10 seconds) or a steady state run goal MP plus 5% (i.e. 7:00 pace would be 7×60*1.05=441 seconds or 7:21 pace).

Training Cycles

Question:  My question is about speed work. I joined the Whippets because I’m a triathlete that excels in the bike and needs to get faster on the run. I recognize that the pacing for the speed work sessions are based on what I can do now. Given that, how does this translate to improved speed?

Answer:  Training at your current pace can help you reach your goal pace by building up your lactate threshold – the top end of being able to process oxygen at your present race pace.  Throughout training program, you will notice many continuous runs (either at steady paces or alternating pace like Canova Ks) or workouts with long intervals followed by a short recovery period (i.e. 5-7 800m @ 5K pace with 2:00 recovery, 4-6 1200m @ 10K pace with 1:30 recovery, etc).  If you jog during the recovery period, the total mileage of these workouts meets or exceeds the given race distance.  This pushes your body to keep moving while you are fatigued – another key component of these workouts.

You can read more about lactate threshold training here.

Also, training is done in cycles, so you might start off with a slower lactate threshold and through the training cycle can improve upon that.  Over time, your “current pace” should gradually speed up in response to fitness gains achieved through various training efforts.  So, as an example, an athlete might estimate her 10K pace at 7:30/mile when starting out, but she might reassess that pace to 7:15 or even faster after four weeks of training.  Reassessing pace is based on actual race results, if you happen to have run a race during that time, plus a sense of how “easy” a pace feels as your fitness improves.

Running in the Cold

Question:  In light of the frosty temperatures we’ve had recently, I’m curious to know how cold affects running. Does it slow you down? If so, how much? Should training be modified?

Answer:  I’m sure there is some scientific research on temperature conditions but, from a bio-mechanical standpoint, during the Winter, your body uses calories to not only exercise but also maintain your core temperature.  Thus your body is working harder to maintain the same pace.  (The same rule applies to training in the Summer where your body uses calories to cool itself off.)  This is why more temperate seasons of Spring and Fall are more advantageous for peak performance.

During the Winter and Summer, do not be disheartened if your paces slip a bit – especially in workouts.  Take these seasons as opportunities to build up/ maintain your base mileage and fitness so, when the Spring and Fall arrive, you can take full advantage of moderate temperatures to increase mileage and train at a higher level.

Prioritizing Races

Question:  How do you approach training for different races of different distances in relatively quick succession? For instance, I’m running the Washington Heights 5-K (March 1), the NYC Half (March 15), the Brooklyn Half (May 16), and then, I think, the New Jersey Marathon (April 26).

Answer:  It will be tough to PR in all of these events/ disciplines in one fell swoop so you will have to pick what is more important to you.  You will need specific training for the 5K which will make it tough to run a fast NYC Half and your NJ Marathon training will make it tough to run a fast Brooklyn Half.  You would have to choose either the NYC Half or Washington Heights as a “PR chaser” and, if you do NJ, you can definitely run the Brooklyn Half – in fact, it is encouraged! – but it will be tough to PR since you will be at/ near your highest mileage when it comes around.

Cross Training

Question:  In addition to your weekly run plans, do you ever recommend “off” or cross training days, and what about weight training?

Answer:  Off” days are definitely recommended but the frequency is up to the individual.  Most people plan one day per week as their respite from exercise.  Considering most of us are closer to Type A personality when it comes to exercise, I suggest planning your off day as part of your schedule as it will make you feel better about taking it.  Obviously, life gets in the way and it is not always easy to plan for an off day, but try to plan your workouts a week in advance and look to see where your off day will fall.  For example, I typically take off Fridays however if I have a work or social event that falls on Wednesday this week, I will switch my off day to Wednesday and work out on Friday.  Planning your days off will make you feel better about taking them.

As for weight training, I am a big fan of body weight exercises or, when using dumbbells or machines, setting them to light weight with many repetitions per set.  This will prevent you from “bulking up” and lifting will be similar to a cardio routine.  Body weight exercises include situp/ crunches/ leg lifts/ planks for your abdominal muscles and push ups for your chest. To provide examples of actual weights exercises, I will use myself as a base. I am 5’10”, 150 lbs so here is what I do:
  • bicep curls: 15 lb weight; three sets of 20 repetitions
  • tricep machine using the rope extension: set to 35 lbs; three sets of 20 repetitions
  • bench press: 45 lb (the bar); three sets of 20 repetitions
  • shoulder press: 10 lb weight; three sets of 20 repetitions
  • “plate runs”: 5 lb plate; three sets of 60 repetitions.  This is my favorite exercise to do but most people have never heard of this so I will explain.  Sitting upright in a shoulder press chair or adjustable bench with good posture, hold a plate in each hand and swing them as if you were running; counting to 60 with one arm.  What I love about this exercise is that it simulates running (building up fatigue in your shoulders) and teaches you to run with your hands lower in your body (closer to your waist).
What’s great about light weight and many repetitions is that you can do each exercise itself before moving onto the next OR you can do this as a circuit where you do each activity one time around then take a break.

Implementing Speedwork

Question:  I have been trying to follow the training plans, but to tell you the truth I think they are written for faster and younger people.  After years of not doing a lot of speedwork, I’m worried about stepping back into it without getting injured.  How should I phase this in?

Answer:  First, you should start your training plan with a steady increase of mileage until you reach a solid base of easier runs (i.e. 4-5 hours per week) before sprinkling in speedwork.  This would be the same no matter what age you are.  One way to sprinkle in some sort of speedwork during this initial phase is to do 6-10 100 meter strides at the end of your run.  These are gradual pickups and not all out sprints.

Once you do start doing “real” speedwork, start with only one per week and phase in the second one.  While you’re doing this, always be conscious of what your body is telling you.  If you’re feeling fatigued or injured, don’t be afraid to back off the speedwork and keep your easy mileage at the same level.”
While the type of speedwork you do should vary based on your goal race, the most important type you should probably do for races 10k and above are tempo runs at Lactate Threshold pace (for 3-4 mile runs) or marathon paced runs (for 7-10 mile runs).  These will be less stressful on your body than more intense 5k and 10k paced repeats.  You can use this calculator to find the correct paces: