Pick Up The Pace With This 1-Hour Workout

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If you want to run faster, you’ve got to—well, run faster. But faster mile splits don’t come overnight. Instead, it’s a gradual process, built on a steady foundation of endurance efforts interspersed with short bursts of speed. Pick-ups, as these bursts are known, should be a staple of every runner’s training plan, says Mark Spewak, coach of the St. Louis Track Club.

“I love pick-up workouts, because they are great for people training for 5Ks all the way up to the marathon,” says Spewak. “The goal of any training cycle is to build on each workout. If I have an athlete easing into training cycle, pickups can introduce them to speed again. If they’re in a big training block, they simulate running on tired legs, which will come in handy on race day.”

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Instead of dedicated speed sessions on the track, which are often tied to time-based goals, pick-ups are performed by feel. “I tell my athletes to worry more about effort, as opposed to the pace on their watch.” Spewak says “You want to focus on stretching the legs out, building speed and working on turnover.”

Pick-up pace should be brisk, but not a sprint—you should not only be able to perform multiple repetitions, but also finish out your run after completing the pick-up intervals. In the workout below, pick-ups are inserted smack-dab in the middle of the workout; however, not all pick-up workouts need to follow this format. Adjust time, effort and recovery as needed to fit the particular training block. Some athletes prefer to start pick-ups early in the run as a way to put some spring in their step, while others close out their run with pick-ups to simulate a finish-line kick.

One-Hour Workout: Pick-Ups

20 minutes: Warm-up
6 minutes: Marathon effort
8 minutes: 8 x (:30 at 5K effort, :30 recovery pace)
6 minutes: Marathon effort
20 minutes: Cool down

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