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Speedwork Drills, Adaptation, and Perspective (Marathon Training)


Speedwork drills can do wonders for your marathon training! Improve performance and recovery with this Caterpillar run interval workout, and then learn why speed work also teaches us perspective during training. Join the Running Coaches Corner Link up!

Caterpillar Run Marathon Training Speed Workout

Speedwork drills can do wonders for your marathon training! Improve performance and recovery with this Caterpillar run interval workout from @suzlyfe

On Tuesday, we (at Chicago Endurance Sports) took our marathon training participants out for a speedwork workout that we refer to as the “Caterpillar Run.” What this means is that we split them up into groups, put the groups in a line, and have the caboose of the line surge up to the lead, creating a new caboose who then does the same thing when the former caboose reaches the front. Many of you many know this as an “Indian Run,” but we try to be a littttttle bit more sensitive. 

The is a great interval or drill workout for several reasons (just naming a few here):

  • rapid increase of energy expenditure and heart rate
  • teaching muscular and motor recruitment
  • increase of the efficiency of your body as it learns to push even when tired as well as regulation of heart rate and breath rate
  • each recovery interval (when you are not surging forward) provides you a chance to let your heart rate decrease in a moment of active recovery
  • breaks up the run and goes really fast!

Furthermore, it is just fun to think about, and a great team building exercise as everyone cheers the next runner on! Though a bit difficult to do without dying on the Lake Front Path during runner/cyclist rush hour. Particularly for coaches running backwards while watching their recruits. 

This Caterpillar Speedwork Drill will help you increase your running efficiency while having having fun with friends! Great for marathon training or general fitness! @Suzlyfe

Try this fun running drill to improve your recovery and speed! #runchat #coachescorner #run Click To Tweet

A few considerations to keep in mind during this workout:

  • the push forward should be more of a surge forward than an all out sprint–think of trying to pass someone in a race, particularly as you are only running forward for 30 or so feet. This is not a 50 yard dash or 400m repeats. Don’t give it everything–you are still going to keep running, and for far longer than you are surging!
  • RECOVER during your recovery interval. Relish in it. Savor it. LOVE IT. Really pull back–like how you pull back during your long slow runs vs a tempo. You want to be able to do this workout for about 25-30 minutes, so make it sustainable. 

Thoughts on Speed Work Difficulty throughout Marathon (or other) Training

I realized as I was coaching this workout on Tuesday that many of the trainees didn’t exactly understand the concept of how speedwork works throughout the entirety of training. What I mean by this is that some were under the impression that they would be working harder during their intervals later on in the training process. In short, they perceived that running faster or longer at a later date correlated to working harder. 

Miss that kid (Jenni at Fizala)

Miss that kid (Jenni at Fizala)

This is a misnomer.

The whole point of what we are working to accomplish with training is to (safely) force your body to adapt to greater stressors so that it can handle greater and greater load. As a result, what previously felt like an 8 out of 10 on the intensity and energy expenditure scale will later feel easier, while you should still be operating at an 8 out of 10 on the intensity or energy expenditure scale. Your body adapts, you are able to do more. In the same way, as we gradually increase the length of the runs, your body continues to adapt, and (theoretically), you should finish that 18 miler feeling as you did during the first 8 miler. Now, as I have mentioned before, even 8 milers can feel impossible at times to marathoners–every day, every body, is unique; progress isn’t always linear.

Don't discount your own will power. Instead, strengthen it like a muscle. Your brain will adapt like your muscles to stress.

But if you are ever feeling discouraged or a bit anxious while looking at the grand scale of your training plan (cough OR YOUR LIFE), remember that you can adapt to stressors. And one day, that insurmountable task that scared the ever-loving crap our of you in the beginning? It’ll just be a “easy” run (though sometimes you will rue the day with every step, lol). 

Life is a marathon. Train with intelligence, determination, and perspective. #qotd #sweatpink Click To Tweet

What seemingly obvious epiphany have you had recently?

What type of speedwork do you do, if any? I like tempos and progressions the most, but I definitely liked this caterpillar run!

Join the link up and Running Coaches Corner for more great running advice and content!

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I am linking up with myself, RachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.

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