If you've read my blog, you know the value I place on a runner's weekly speed workout. In my latest book, "Personal Best," www.muldowneyrunning.com, in my college cross country coaching, and my eCoaching I preach the gospel of speed work and I suggest ways to keep it fresh.
Let's face it, speed work, especially if done alone, is not fun. It is intense, thankless, and painful. One often asks, "Why am I doing this? It's not a race, yet it hurts like a race. And...if I quit, who will know?"
Well, the answer is simple: speed work pays dividends. Turning in workouts that are sometimes FASTER than race pace, increases lung capacity and leg turnover, and conditions the body both physiologically as well as psychologically.
So, we know that 400, 800, and 1600 meter repeats are terrific workouts, but if you want to work on both stamina and speed, you really need to get on the ladder.
Ladder workouts break up the monotony of the speed workout regimen. They can be completed quickly and efficiently.
After a warmup session, set a goal for your ladder workout. The key to ladder workouts is to come down the ladder as fast, or faster, than you go up. For example, is your first 400 meters is run in 2 minutes, your second 400 should be run in 1:59 or better.
Today, we ran what I consider a very basic, yet beneficial ladder workout: 400, 800, 1600, 800, 400.
I have always "halved" the rest interval, so after the fast 400, I jogged 200 meters. After the 800, I jogged 400 meters. 800 meters after the 1600, and 400 after the 800 meters.
Sometimes I add a 200 meters at the beginning and end to increase leg speed. If you are training for a marathon, try an 800, 1600, 3200, 1600, 800 meter ladder. I promise you'll sleep well after that workout.
Don't be afraid to jump on the ladder. When you're feet hit the ground again, your race times will plummet.