The need for speed!

  • Creator
  • #48862

    I have a question about how to get faster.

    I basically have one speed, it doesn’t seem to matter if I have 0lbs or 35lbs in my pack, I just have one speed. How do I change this? As long as I can remember I’ve always been like this.

    A bit about me, I’m 32, I’ve done two training cycles from TFNA and I’m starting in on a 3rd cycle this time for ski mountaineering. My max HR is 207, my aerobic threshold is 166 and anaerobic threshold is 195, both were done using the treadmill test in the before times when we could go into a gym. One of the things that I think might be causing this is that my default is to do fasted workouts and often in the mountains it is a fight to get me to eat, my body shuts down any desire to eat and I can go a loooong time without food feeling totally fine. So I’ve been trying to force gus and whatnot at about 100 cal/hr and it helps, but I think I need to incorporate speed work.

    I’ve been reading through TFTUA’s section on pick-ups and tempo and aerobic intervals and I’m not sure where the best place to start would be. So I guess I’m looking for a rough outline of what a single speed workout looks like and how frequently to do them.

  • Participant
    Dada on #48865

    Hi Lindsay,

    Z3 Intervals helped me a lot (3 × 8min to start with; 2min rest).

    Pick-ups are more a preparation for the speed work.

    Best regards

    Rachel on #48873

    I haven’t done much high intensity myself because I still have an aerobic deficiency.

    However I have played with fueling. I was doing all fasted workouts but I felt tired, I wasn’t recovering well and I was slower than usual (cutting back on carbs in general didn’t help). So I chose some workouts where I eat breakfast beforehand, or I eat 60-90 minutes into it so that I get some of the benefits of fasted exercise. That seems to be helping a lot and I’m feeling way better overall. I also am trying hard to get enough protein which is always a challenge for me.

    When I’m out all day I do have to make myself eat regularly. I am trying to bring foods that appeal to me, especially savory food. My new go-to snack are microwaved baby potatoes and a hunk of cheese. I find real food is way more appetizing than the standard gels and bars.

    But sometimes I do down a glass of superstarch before a workout (that would be if I was doing an AnT test or something). It’s not my favorite but it works incredibly well.

    LindsayTroy on #48907


    Dada, how often do you do speed work and do you only do it on foot or should I also do it on skis (uphill).

    Rachel, I’ve started using pre-workout from Gnarly and its pretty tasty and makes me feel like the hulk for like 45 min, haha. But the thing is, I don’t feel tired or like I recover slowly when I’m working out fasted, this is more my natural state. I’ve never been a “breakfast” person and have always preferred to workout fasted. (As an aside- for getting enough protein, I’m sure you do all the standard tricks but I’ve been really enjoying Kodiak Cakes protein muffins, you can make them with greek yogurt and fortified milk such as fairlife and they’re delicious. I also add more berries + lemon zest to the blueberry ones)

    Anonymous on #48909

    Eating more food will certainly help! Fasted training can be great for easy aerobic efforts, but especially for when you’re out in the mountains, having more food on board is good. You’ll recover faster, and have more resilience toward injury and illness. Your all day pace without eating is a fine starting point, but adding more calories is the first step. Overall I think women in particular fare much better without fasting for any kind of workouts, but if you’re used to them now and you’re getting enough fuel in after, it’s fine for easy stuff. Looking at your zones I think you’d still get more benefit from spending more time at aerobic threshold, and work your aerobic threshold a bit closer to your AnT before adding zone 3 stuff. Then when you do add zone 3 work (and strength days), make sure you’re not doing them fasted.

    Dada on #48920

    Yes, totally what Alison said. First eliminate potential ADS before adding Z3.

    I just started Z3 for my ski mountaineering season but came in with just Z1/2 and Gym ME. I do these on skis once a week. I actually don’t know but Z3 is a real booster for me personally. My speed at AeT increased dramatically the last two weeks.


    Anonymous on #48949


    All the responses above have been correct. Speed is a much more complex subject than aerobic capacity. To boost AeT there is literally only one way: A high volume of low intensity training. Boom, that’s it. Open and shut case. Speed is a complex combination of many factors. For sprinting speed one needs to develop maximum power and tempo. It is a simple concept but there are many ways to do these things and improvement is hard to achieve. But, we’re not interested too much in sprinting speed, other watching Usain Bolt that is.

    We are interested in sustained speed. What you need for sustaining speed depends heavily on the duration it needs to be sustained. Leaving aside short durations under 1-2 minutes we move into the most complex realm both from the physiology and training methodology standpoint. It is the most challenging and interesting for coaches because it takes an appropriate mix of multipole qualities.

    Let me try to build a conceptual pyramid to illustrate how to develop speed for endurance events. In an idea world you would want to develop each of these levels to its maximum extent before laying on the next level. In reality that never works but using a periodized approach will help this process.

    At the bottom and supporting ALL the comes after it is strength: the ability to effectively generate propulsive force. This is primarily a neurological effect. The ability of your motor cortex to be able to recruit the maximum number of appropriate motor units in the right sequence to apply this propulsive force. Sport specific exercises will accomplish this best. In our world that means mostly single leg stuff that you are familiar with. There are many variations of single exercises and we just show a few in the books. Keep in mind that specificity is key. We use the max strength protocols that you are familiar with to teach the brain to do this.

    Next level up is power: a mix is strength and speed. Power is even more complex to train because it involves speed. So, specificity is even more important here. We find Hill Sprints to be the most effect method for developing propulsive power for all mountain athletes. Most endurance, especially ultra endurance (all our sports) athletes can stand to improve sport specific power.

    Then comes Speed Endurance. This is a concept used in many traditional sports to indicate extending the event specific speed as long as necessary. As you can see this depends on the event you are training for. For most of the events we deal with that last hours and hours, event specific speed IS the aerobic threshold speed. Hence our over the top efforts to help people improve AeT. However, it does not hurt one to have what is called a speed reserve and that’s why a small portion of the training for even very long events should be conducted at speeds greater than event specific speed. This is the Z3/4 you’ve read about. The ME work is intended to improve your ability to sustain whatever speed you develop.

    Well, that’s a beginning anyway on speed and speed development. Have you done your base strength work? Have you added on Hill Sprints? If not I’d suggest doing those first then add in ME then Z3-4 training.


    LindsayTroy on #48987

    Thanks Scott, that was very helpful!

    I’ve been doing a lot of strength work, so I think it’s probably power. I’ve never done hill sprints so I’ll start there. Would you recommend 1x per week during base MS period?

    Anonymous on #49102


    Yes, one time/week seems to be a good amount for most endurance athletes.


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