There Are More Ways To Train: A Story about CV Pace

Too many runners and training plans rely on the old standby ways of training; LSD (long slow distance runs), tempo runs and the occasional speed day.

Sound familiar?

The good news – this doesn’t have to the case!

I always tell my athletes that “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”, meaning there is more than one training method to achieve the desired results.

*disclaimer – The good stuff, i.e. the workouts can be found at the bottom of this post; if you don’t want to read my story, jump ahead to the “how this benefits you” section for tips to implement this into your training.

First, a story of how I learned this very valuable lesson:

I was a blessed collegiate athlete…

Ok maybe not blessed – but during my time at Fontbonne University we became a coaching carousel.

I experienced 3 different coaching styles in 4 years and this was at a time when I was really diving into training theory and trying to soak up as much as I could.

So luckily my coaches were willing to try new things; one day during the end of sophomore year my coach was talking about some experimental training I was going to try over the summer and into the fall – this revolved around CV pace or Critical Velocity.

What is Critical Velocity?

Ok, bare with me because this will be a bit sciencey…

CV pace has come to be defined as 89%-91% of your Vo2 max or in a less complicated way of putting it – the pace you could comfortably run for around 45 minutes. This is important because it is slightly slower than the pace you would run for a tempo run but it still allows you to put in a good amount of work without tiring yourself out.

The genius of CV pace is that it trains both your lactate threshold – what you train through tempo runs – and your Vo2 max. I’m not going to go into Vo2 max too much because it is very technical and would end up taking over this blog, I’ll hyperlink some articles here if you want to dive further, but Vo2 training is roughly training your body at 5k pace which is which is considered close to the anaerobic threshold/peak oxygen absorption.

So this is great because I don’t respond very well to 5k pace training, but this would allow us to still train that system! Not only that but we could start training that system earlier in the year without the risk of my annual burnout – but there was one problem, we never were able to implement it because he left for another school.

Well what now?

I’ve put all of this time into an idea but a new coach was coming in and may not put up with that system…

Luckily that was not the case and the next few years are when I really started to grow as an athlete and a coach. Our new coach came into the program from a very successful school down the road, and with how the coaching web seems to work out, her head coach had worked alot with CV pace and was a pretty open book about it.

I am very confident that this training is what led to some pretty massive personal bests, a combination of taking Sundays off and being able to put in more work than before are really what led to my success junior and senior year.

It certainly wasn’t without hiccups – I’ve chronicled those pretty well on the blog beforebut the understanding between my coach and I and her ability to be experimental and progressive in her training theory led to successes that I was not expecting.

CV pace training in progress

Progressions and sample workouts

Just to give you an idea of where I came from and how training tweaks led to my ultimate prs:

Freshman Year

I came into college as an ok prospect, my 5k was barely under 18 minutes but I had run 4:40 for a mile and 2:00 for 800 meters my senior year of high school. This was off of “old school” training, which to me includes a lower mileage plan with the majority of the week being run on the track. My transition to college wasn’t the best and I was injured for the majority of the year – this was a combination of trying to keep up with the pack and doing workouts that I had never done before.

Sophomore Year

Summer before Sophomore year I decided to up my mileage considerably – with a new coach coming on board – I was looking to make an impact and start over. I ran 70 miles per week all summer and fall but didn’t see much improvement until track season came around.

It takes time for training to take effect, there are no quick fixes.

Anyway, I made considerable leaps that spring – running: 4:11 for 1500 meters, 9:19 for 3000 meters, and 16:16 for 5000 meters. Personal records by 11 seconds, 60 seconds, and 90 seconds respectively.

Junior & Senior year

I’m lumping these together because they kind of blend and I actually had coaching consistency for once in my life, and this is when CV pace became a dedicated part of my training plan.

With a better understanding of how my body responds to workouts and how to utilize different training paces year round, these are by far my proudest years. I wasn’t sure how much more improvement I would be able to have but I’m happy there was still a lot of room to improve.

Over the following two years I would run 26:15 for 8000 meters, 16:05 for 5000 meters, 9:11 for 3000 meters, and 4:05 for 1500 meters. Personal records of 75 seconds, 11 seconds, 8 seconds and 6 seconds respectively.

That last one is by far my proudest moment, senior year I pr’d in every 1500 meter race and ran 4:07 a few weeks prior and felt like I had given it my all but in my last race ever – I saw everything line up perfectly.

You can really see its training effect in that 8000 meter time, this is where I needed the most improvement and training at that velocity forced my body to make the necessary adjustments.

Sample CV Pace Workouts

Here are a few CV pace workouts that you can implement in the build up to your next race, distances are varied depending on the race but overall it’s a good intensity to try!

Warm-up 10-20 minutes;
dynamic warm-up drills;
light strides
3-4 x 2000 meters @ CV pace w/ 2:00 rest 3. 5-10 minute light jog
4-6 x 200 meters @ mile pace w/ 200 jog recovery (this helps teach your body to run efficient while tired)
Cool down 10-20 minutes

Warm-up 10-20 minutes;
dynamic warm-up drills;
light strides
20 – 40 minute run alternating
5 minutes @ CV pace
2 minutes easy
Cool down 10-20 minutes

Just a couple of ideas but of course you can get creative with any workout, if you have any further questions at all you can always reach out to me on Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

Happy Running,

Justin

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