Teaching Yourself How To Race

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Jan. 30, 2014
  • Updated Jan. 30, 2014 at 7:19 AM UTC

Workouts That Teach You How To Race

Hammer Intervals

I first learned of hammer intervals from one of my former coaches, Scott Simmons. A “hammer” interval session is structured much like a traditional interval workout, except that on every second or third interval, or on the second-to-last interval, you break from your goal pace and try to run that repeat as hard as you can – hammering it.  You take the same amount of rest before and after the hammer interval, then continue with the workout.

An example hammer session might be: 6 x 800 meters at goal 5K pace with 2 minutes rest, “hammering” the fifth interval.

The interval you “hammer” dramatically increases your level of fatigue, just at the point in the workout where you’re feeling the most tired. Because the rest interval stays the same, you do not completely recover as you would in a typical interval session, and you start the next repeat (back at goal pace) still tired from preceding hammer interval. This type of workout teaches your body how to push when it counts the most.

Note in the accompanying chart that a hammer interval session more closely resembles the effort levels you’ll experience during a race. You’re training your body to dramatically increase the effort level as the workout goes on and will be more prepared to do so during the race.

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The “Michigan” Workout

The Michigan workout is one I learned from Coach Ron Warhurst at the University of Michigan. I’ve modified it a bit to fit the terrain and facilities typically available to runners who aren’t in college.

Here is what the workout looks like for different experience levels. Be warned, this is NOT an easy workouts. Even top college and professional athletes perceive it as one of the hardest workouts they do.

Beginner: 2-mile warmup, 2 miles at marathon pace, 1 mile at 5K pace, 1 mile at marathon pace, 800 meters as fast as you can, 2-mile cooldown. Note: This is a continuous session: NO REST INTERVALS

Intermediate: 2-mile warmup, 2 miles at marathon pace, 1 mile at 5K pace, 2 miles at marathon pace, 800m at 5K pace, 2 miles at marathon pace. Note: This is a continuous session: NO REST INTERVALS

Advanced: 2-mile warmup, 2 miles at marathon pace, 1 mile at 5K pace, 2 miles at marathon pace, 800m at 5K pace, 2 miles at marathon pace, 400 meters fast as you can, 2-mile cooldown. Note: This is a continuous session: NO REST INTERVALS

In the various versions of the Michigan workout, you’re alternating between running at marathon pace and 5K pace. The first 2 miles at marathon pace and 1 mile at 5K pace shouldn’t be terribly difficult hard. However, as the workout progresses, you’re going to have to convince yourself you can pick up the pace again.
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Not only is this workout a great lactate clearance session, it also trains your mind to let go of its preconceptions about what it can do. You’ll inevitably hit that second or third pick up and think, “I can’t go any faster” — just like you would during a race. Now is the time to teach yourself how to overcome this doubt.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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