With the recent post on Christian Coleman and how he didn’t do much speedwork or top end speed training going into US Indoor Track & Field Championships yet still managed to run the 2nd fastest 60m in history, running only 0.03 seconds off his own WR ending up with 1st place in the Men’s 60m Final along with the National title, I think its time to discuss what exactly is speedwork.

So what is it?  What is speed training?  Perhaps I should ask instead… what do you think it is, or what is it that your coach says ‘it’ is?  I virtually guarantee that what you think or what you’ve been told speedwork is, isn’t.

So, what is speedwork?

Let’s start with the definition of speed…

SPEED is DISTANCE divided by TIME.  That’s it.

So… where exactly in this equation is there any reference to heart rate [HR] or power output [watts] or any metric that I bet you and/or your coach obsess over?

There is no reference to HR or power. In fact, if you take an athlete such as a Michael Phelps or Eliud Kipchoge, I guarantee you that they swim/run at speeds far greater than you can yet do so at heart rates significantly lower than any heart rate you swim or run. Don’t agree or don’t believe? No problem, but just don’t look at UCI WorldTour Team INEOS super domestique Michael Kwiatkowski’s data from stage 3 & 4 from the 2019 Tour de France.

Gee… look at that… Kwiatkowski held average speeds exceeding 40kph for 5hrs covering 220+/- km and at least 1,700m of vertical during both of these stages yet look at his average HR:  Kwiatkowski in stage 3 held 128bpm while averaging 44+kph over 217km and in stage 4 held 111bpm while averaging 40.5kph for 220km… and thats on back to back days of the Tour de France and only on stages 3 & 4 of a 21 stage race.

What HR zone would that be for a 28yr old pro cyclist? Zone 1? Maybe the bottom of Zone 2? Considering his Max HR is easily 200+ bpm it ain’t higher than Zone 2, meanwhile how many train daily in Zone 3, 4 or max it out in Zone 5?

Sorry… how exactly is high level HR zone training, lactate threshold training, and/or HiiT sets supposed to help you develop speed/power at LOW HEART RATES like Kwiatkowski?

Oh that’s right… they don’t.

The only thing these types of training yield is heart arrythmias, the need for surgery: ablation or a pacemaker or defibrillator being implanted into the chest of the athlete. From Lennard Zinn to Mario Cipollini to all the teenage and 20 something year old pro cyclists who have died in the past year due to heart failure or heart attacks… the insanity that passes theses days as coaching/training is not leading to anything epic except epic medical emergencies (and a growing death toll).

So let’s get back to what speed is according to physics, not what ignorant coaches preach speedwork to be.

SPEED is DISTANCE divided by TIME.

What does DISTANCE [in regards to this equation] refer to with respect to the sports of swimming, cycling and running ?  It refers to stroke or stride length.

What does TIME [in regards to this equation] refer to with respect to the sports of swimming, cycling and running ?  It refers to cadence or rpm.

In sport, SPEED is the ratio of your strike/stroke length to your cadence.  Again, where is the connection to HR zones, lactate zones, or power? There is none!

How do you train to develop speed like Christian Coleman?  You spend countless hours in the gym doing dryland training to develop the flexibility, the strength, the coordination, and the balance to increase your stride/stroke length. Then, you develop the sport specific technique by training drills to translate the dryland training into the sport. Then, you train to hold a longer stroke & stride length with proper sport specific technique, while in other training sessions you train agility with proper sport specific technique. Finally, you put it altogether in sets to train to do both at the same time: hold a long stroke or stride while maintaining a high cadence. This and only this is true speedwork.

I can assure you that the best of the best don’t do half the crap that you and/or your coach call ‘speedwork’… and that is why they get faster and all you get is frustrated, disappointed, and angry, and injured and ill and why they compete weekend after weekend and the last time you competed was… gee… when was the last time you competed?

When you are done pretending to be an athlete, you will stop working with those pretending to be coaches.

When you are ready to be a real athlete, then you will take the time to find a coach who truly understands human physiology and how to develop it in an healthy manner which doesn’t compromise the long term function of any of your organs or glands or joints. You will take the time to find a coach who truly understands basic physics and how sport specific technique and proper human biomechanics are the solution to minimizing drag so that athletes maximize their speed and endurance. And when you are ready to be a real athlete in pursuit of your fullest potential, you will find a coach who truly understands the psychology of peak performance of what it truly means to win, to succeed, to be a success.

Until then… enjoy the pain and suffering of doing ‘hard’ interval sets on short pace times while enjoying heart palpitations between reps.

Let me put this another way…

What business do you have doing “so called speedwork” if you cannot come close to holding any of the metrics Kwiatkowski can?

I see… you want to do “speedwork” that your coach has told you that the best of the best do, meanwhile you can’t ride 200km comfortably and easily, let alone on back to back days comfortably and easily.

You and your coach both need your head’s examined because it takes a seriously level of brain-dead-ness to think that you need to do “speedwork” meanwhile you can’t even put in a long flat EZ ride without numb hands, numb ass, numb feet, sore back, sore legs and ten gallons of electrolyte fluid plus a carload of gels.

All that it says when someone suggests ‘speedwork’ is needed yet the athlete doesn’t have any sort of foundational level of athleticism let alone body awareness is one thing: they have no respect whatsoever for the sport, for the level of training, for the countless years that the best of the best have invested into developing insane levels of core strength and endurance, for the years of refining the way the best of the best move so that their sport specific technique is insanely efficient while being equally effortless.

You don’t respect the work put in, so of course… all that you and your brain-dead coach think is required for peak performance is a handful of hard HiiT sessions or hard intervals… and that will lift you up to the level of the best.  Forest Gump said it best… “stupid is as stupid does”.