How you can run Faster by Combining a Tempo Run and Intervals in the Same Workout
Runners use various types of runs to build their running physiology. There are basic runs you should be doing like easy runs, intervals, tempos, long runs, fartleks, etc. They all work different systems in different ways at different times that contribute to your overall running health.
In June, my coach prescribed a modified version of The Michigan workout that would work several of these at once. He said,
I want you to run this hard… it’s going to be hard… most people don’t finish… you might want to puke at the end… try not too.
With trepidation and curiosity, I headed to the Edison High School track to try and “not puke” during this workout. I had a feeling this Michigan was going to be good for me, but not feel good.
What is a Michigan Workout
Designed by University of Michigan’s legendary coach Ron Warhurst, this workout combines both speed and endurance to create a sort of super workout. It is supposed to simulate what you might experience in an actual race. By alternating bursts of speed, with a controlled tempo run, The Michigan taxes your body and prepares you for race conditions.
Although originally designed for shorter races, it can be modified to benefit training for the half and even full marathon. Nick Willis who won the 2013 TC1 Mile, said that “It is one of my most enjoyable workouts…” Easy for a sub 4 minute miler to say.
Why it’s Good For You
The Michigan is a combination of aerobic capacity base miles at an easy pace, a tempo run that increases your lactate threshold, and longer and shorter intervals of speed that push your VO2 max. By doing this in the same workout, you are teaching your body to adapt and change when you get tired. You surge, then pull back to a comfortable pace that is still challenging so you can surge again. Simply put, it’s speed and stamina in one workout.
To make this even more difficult (and good for you), you want to make each interval progressively faster. In the table below, you’ll see that your intervals should be run at your 5k pace. Each one should get faster as the distances gets shorter. Ultimately, this helps you run a faster longer on race day.
When you Should do a Michigan
When you have a specific goal time in mind, and have been doing consistent speed work, this workout is a great way to push your limits. That being said, if you’re not used to doing speed work, this isn’t the one to start with. Begin by doing some form of intervals or tempo, but not both at the same time.
The Michigan is definitely something you only want to do once (maybe twice) during a training cycle. Run easy both the day before, and a couple of days after to help recover.
Sample Michigan Workout
Below is a sample of The Michigan you may want to try. A long format (what I did) if you’re training for a half or full marathon, and a short version for a 5k or 10k. Note:
- Interval pace should be your 5k pace or faster.
- Tempo pace should be somewhere between your 10k and marathon pace.
If you’ve not run those distance, make your best guess.
|Pace||Short Distance||Long Distance|
|Warm Up||1 mile||1 - 2 miles|
|Cool Down||1 mile||1 - 2 miles|
Although I wasn’t able to complete the final 800 and 400 (trying not to puke), this workout taught me a lot about alternating my speed. Race performances can never be attributed to just one thing, but I think The Michigan helped me set a PR at the 2013 Urban Wildland half marathon August 3.