Should an aerobic run include a pickup?

A few months ago I asked athletes over at the McDougall forum to share their thoughts and strategies regarding training for a race.  I asked if heart rate monitors and heart rate zones were part of the training, whether speed or long slow distance was featured in their training.

One response I got was from an ultra-marathon runner, who indicated that she doesn’t obsess over the details.  Perhaps this issue is obsessing over a small detail.  But here goes.

QT2 systems coach Tim Snow would often advise his runners, when doing aerobic runs (they would usually call these z1 runs for Zone 1, designed to be run in a predefined aerobic heart rate zone) to do a pickup after every 30 minutes.  A pickup?  That’s 30 seconds of running at race pace.

I tried this during my last run on Thursday.  I ran 3 miles, which took me a little more than 30 minutes because I go slow when I am trying to keep my heart rate in my aerobic heart rate zone.  Then I ran with the intention of hitting an 8:40 minute per mile pace for 30 seconds.  I ended up running at about a 8:10 minute per mile pace for about 50 seconds.  As I did this, my heart rate climbed from 138 beats per minute to 154 beats per minute by the end of the pickup.

I wonder if the reason QT2 recommends these short pickups is simply to compromise with their runners who are worried that the lack of high intensity running (a.k.a. speed work) will cause them to be slow on race day.  Or maybe QT2 has decided that about 30 minutes of aerobic running balanced by 30 seconds of intense running is the proper balance between those two competing principles in training.

I think that, perhaps, training the muscles to run at race pace for these 30 seconds every so often is just enough practice to reap benefits on race day.  Perhaps with these short pickups, my legs won’t be completely unfamiliar as to how to run at a 8:40 minutes per mile pace (or perhaps 9 min/mile pace) on race day.

This all remains to be seen.  September 22nd can’t come soon enough.


One thought on “Should an aerobic run include a pickup?

  1. I think this is a sound approach, although I personally don’t do it. Strict Maffetone training says no. Since my runs typically come after a couple hours of mountain biking, a “pickup” means picking my carcass up from the side of the trail! My triathlon run pace is much slower that my pure running pace, even though the intensity is still high But I think a 30 sec burst won’t hurt aerobic metabolism. Instead, I think it will remind all your neuromuscular firing what it feels like to run faster, but still keep your aerobic engine developing. I say try it and see what happens. Good luck!

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