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Early-season cruise intervals with Jess O’Connell

The 2016 Olympian gave us her favourite workout to get back into training, along with some tips to get the most out of your speedwork

With the lack of races and group runs in 2020, many runners used the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns as an opportunity to ease up on their training and simply enjoy running as a way to get outside and de-stress. With the spring approaching, you may now be considering getting back into things and perhaps training for a virtual race. Even for the most experienced runner, starting a new training block after some time off can be intimidating, but Jessica O’Connell has got you covered. The 2016 Olympic 5,000m runner gave us her favourite workout to do at the beginning of a training block, along with some tips for how you can get the most out of your workout.

Canadian track championships
Jessica O’Connell (6) and Lanni Marchant (5) start the women’s 5000m at the Athletics Canada 2016 Track and Field Trials at Foote Field in Edmonton

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O’Connell says that at the beginning of a new training cycle, she loves to do what she calls “cruise intervals.” These intervals are typically shorter (around five minutes) and are completed at tempo pace with a short rest in between to give yourself a break. Intervals like these, she says, are not as mentally taxing as a longer tempo run, but are a great grind that builds fitness by strengthening the aerobic system. An example of this type of workout would be a 10-15 minute jog warmup followed by 4-5 x 5 minutes with 90 seconds recovery between each interval, finished off with a 10-15 minute cooldown.

To get the most out of your speedwork, O’Connell recommends that you think about the intention of the session prior to starting. Are you trying to run really fast and work on your speed, for example, 5K pace? Or is it to run at a more controlled tempo pace and work on endurance? Having a clear idea of your intentions will allow you to pace yourself accordingly.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks in workouts and cut down the pace in later intervals if you think you went out a bit too easy and have lots more in the tank,” she adds. “Work within the effort ranges your coach has designed for the workout, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.”

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