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  Speed work can improve runner's performance


By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK, May 08 (Reuters Health) - Running at a higher level of speed and effort for a short period of time can help even weekend joggers to improve their level of fitness and boost the overall quality of their exercise, according to a Texas researcher.

"(Speed work) can help runners develop their fitness, help them perform better and introduce a way to vary the quality and spirit of their run," Dr. John Cianca, a sports medicine physician from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, told Reuters Health.

The concept involves running at a faster pace for a fixed distance or amount of time. For example, runners who average a 10-minute mile during a typical run might try to run a single mile in 9 minutes.

The goal, said Cianca, is to develop speed and train the body to handle the increased effort. Speed work trains the legs to move faster, works the heart and lungs, and helps a person develop better coordination, he said. Over time, the body will train itself to work more efficiently.

"All of these things contribute to increasing the power and speed you can develop," Cianca said.

While incorporating bouts of speed into regular workouts can improve overall performance, it can backfire without periods of recovery. Cianca recommends anything from a run at a light pace to a short walk to skipping a workout entirely.

"Do something less taxing the next day," Cianca said. "If you don't recover, then speed work will break you down."

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