Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Running 101: What Is a Key Workout?

wise running logo 7_25_12A key workout is one where you are pressing close to the limits of what your body can do without too much strain.  The goal of a key workout is to cue your body to make changes in its processes, to get better at some particular task.  Adaptations that are often a goal of key workouts include:

  • improved running economy [efficient use of oxygen]
  • improved lactate clearance and/or tolerance
  • improved endurance at faster paces
  • improved oxygen delivery [stronger heart]
  • muscle growth & training
  • improved anaerobic threshold [pace at which your body switches from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism]
  • capillary development
  • glycogen storage
  • fat utilization
  • mitochondrial growth
  • bone development
  • tendon development

When developing a training plan for a runner, I try to aim for two or three key workouts each week.  I place my key running workouts into 4 categories as outlined in the Getting Faster post:

  • speedwork [raw speed]
  • interval training [holding a faster pace for longer]
  • tempo runs [holding a specific pace longer]
  • long runs [endurance]

It is important to note that the adaptations that you get from a key workout do not happen during the key workout.  They happen in the days that follow.   A key workout requires at least one easy or rest day before another key workout should be attempted.  This is because you have pressed the limits of your body.  If you are in GREAT shape and you are below the age of 28, you might be able to handle 3 key workouts each week.  If you are in great shape and below the age of 55, you might be able to handle 5 key workouts in 2 weeks by alternating 2 and 3 key workouts each week.  [these ages vary by individual]

Remember This!

A key workout will not net the results you want if you do not plan for rest
and/or easy miles in the day(s) that follow the workout.

Remember that easy runs net benefits as well.  There are no junk miles.  The key workouts simply offer quicker adaptations.  A combination of key workouts, rest, and easy miles will provide the greatest benefit and quickest progress.

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