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  • Writer's picturecoachmk


Pickups - short bursts of speed that are no faster than 5k pace and no longer than 20 seconds in duration

Today, we are going to talk about pickups.  I am specifically addressing those of you who have been training with me consistently for at least 6 weeks.  If you are still relatively new to the program, please disregard the instructions in this email.

Short Version

run slowly for ten minutes, let heart rate slowly rise to 135 then fight to keep it there for another 3 minutes without going over 140.  Consider this speed your baseline pace for the duration of the workout. pickups from this point forward should be fast, whatever speed you think you could sustain in a 5k without needing to stop to walk.  Your baseline pace should not change over the course of the run.  Return to the same pace EVERY TIME post-pickup.  No more walking or shuffling.

When your heart rate drops back to 140 at baseline pace, start your next pickup whenever you are ready.DON"T GET COMPETITIVE, YOU WILL MISS THE POINT. DO NOT NOT NOT COUNT PICKUPS. Get into the habit of hitting the lap button before and after each pickup.

Be realistic on your paces, 'faster' isn't necessarily better.  You should NEVER sprint during a pickup.  We will set official 5k paces on Pace Test Day (RSVP here: but between now and then play around with speed.  You should not need to walk after a pickup at this point; if you need to walk to catch your breath then the pickup was too fast.  We are going to focus on recovering at baseline pace.

What you are doing is a precursor to fartleks, a very popular and effective speed development workout.  This is still technically not speed developement, this is CV (cardiovascular) efficiency. 


So all along I've been telling you that we aren't doing speedwork now, and technically that is true.  Pickups, the way I have prescribed them, serve the same purpose as HIIT training to make your cardiovascular system more efficient by shaking your heart out of its comfort zone.  Last week I told you what I look for in your charts by showing you mine: I knew that I was ready for 'real' speedwork because my heart was able to respond quickly and efficiently to the increase in effort.  The phase I have entered now is what I call "baselining", and the focus flips- instead of paying attention to my heart rate spikes, I'm going to pay attention to my baseline, the speed I return to after a pickup ends.  I'm watching the time between pickups, my heart's ability to recover while the workout continues.  

For the next 4 weeks my pickups will be at 5k pace (6:53) and my baseline will be established in the first 10 minutes of my run.  Today, my baseline was 4.6mph on the treadmill.  At that speed, my heart rate was at 130.  Each time my heart rate dropped below 135 I would start the next pickup.  Each time, my heart rate would stall at 140 a little longer before dropping back down.  That time spent stalling is what I'm watching and calculating now.  As you can see from my run today, my first few pickups were very close together, then they slowly drifted apart.  Notice after 52 minutes, 135 wasn't going to happen anymore so I used 140 as my trigger- each time my heart rate would dip below 140 I would start the next pickup.  My baseline pace was 13:03 so the pickups stopped around minute 63 (my prescribed workout was 1:15).

How this applies to you: focus on recovering from pickups without needing to walk.  Pick paces that are fast but realistic, not sprints.  I will prescribe paces for you in a few more weeks, so take this time to learn your body and how to make good choices without relying on prescriptions from me. Let your heart set the pace.


Coach Fleming

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