Run Training Guide

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Run Training Guide

Post by Vincent on Fri May 09, 2008 11:40 pm

Taken from

Drop minutes, not seconds

4 essential elements of a run training program

By Mikael Hanson, Cadence Cycling & Multisport

May 9, 2008 -- One can literally spend a lifetime sifting through the endless sea of training options just to steal a few precious seconds at their next race, but what if you want success at something slightly longer in distance? What if your goal was to perform well at the half marathon, full marathon or even Ironman distance? When it comes to such long distance events, success is measured in minutes (and often hours), not seconds. How would you go about dropping large chunks of time?

Part 1 – The Long Run
The long run is the corner stone to any runner’s (or triathlete’s) training program and is of even greater importance when we move up from the 5 or 10km distance to the half-or full-marathon, or an Ironman event. While no longer competing at the highest level of the sport, American running legend Alberto Salazar spends a great deal of time coaching young talent. Alberto’s own training philosophy has changed since his competitive days and he now preaches that one must train slower to run faster; admitting that he is now taking a page out of Lance Armstrong’s training (who was famous for putting in long hours in the saddle at low to moderate speeds).

Running longer, but at a slower pace will still certainly improve the cardiovascular system and build your core endurance, but the lower intensity will also lessen the onset of injury, as less stress is placed on the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments.

The duration of the long run will depend largely on what your target race is and it is very important that the increase in mileage does not happen all at once. For help here, follow the 10-percent rule, which states your weekly running mileage should not increase by more than 10 percent at a time (except when you are coming off of a recovery week, but even then your return to full mileage will not be more than 10% of the last full week of training). Also, your weekly long run should be increased by no more than 10 percent at a time.

As for pacing, your long run should be done be slow enough to allow for a normal conversation over the entire duration of the run, which equates to about 90 to 120 seconds slower than your 10k race pace (i.e., an athlete with a 36-minute 10k should target a 7:30-8 minute pace for their long run). The long run builds that all important aerobic base and will prove to be the key piece in your training foundation. In this regard, the long run is a year-round staple, but holds even greater importance for the pre-season phase of training.

Part 2 – Tempo (LT) training
Okay, once you’ve established your base fitness level with the long run, you should add some speed. The tempo run will ultimately be performed once or twice a week, with the tempo sections lasting anywhere from 8 to 40 minutes (with proper warm up and cool down done around the tempo section). The target pace is roughly 20-30 seconds slower than your race pace, which should put you right under your lactate threshold (LT). The LT is the heart rate at which the blood lactate levels begin to skyrocket. The tempo/LT run combines elements of pure speed with that of endurance and is an important part of any training regimen.

Part 3 – Strength or Speed?
To run faster, one will eventually have to train at faster speeds. If our primary focus was a 5 or 10km race (vs. a marathon or Ironman triathlon), adding speed-based intervals would be extremely important. Intervals from 200 to 1600 meters in length are ideal for building speed. Your target pace here should be closer to your 5 or 10km race pace, with a rest period of equal length between efforts. Try to keep the efforts as even as possible, since running them too fast will make it too difficult to finish all of the intervals. Using even-splitting will help you develop proper race-day pacing. Aim to run about three miles of effort during your speed workouts (six 800's, twelve 400's, etc).

While running shorter intervals might not be all that important for an Ironman athlete, building strength is still a goal. In that regard, the intervals can take the form of running hills, which builds strength and can reduce overuse injuries (common with track workouts). Like any workout, hill running should be approached gradually, increasing both the number of repetitions and length of the hill as your fitness level grows. When doing hills, your running form should include a more forceful arm swing to help drive you uphill, a shorter stride length and incorporating a slightly higher lift in the knee. Once you make it to the top of the hill, your recovery will be an easy jog back down as you prepare for the next repeat.

Part 4 – Recovery
While the three running elements discussed above are essential for achieving success in racing, there's still another factor that can't be overlooked – recovery. Recovery is more than just a planned day off. Recovery can also encompass a day of very light training, such as an easy run done at your long, slow distance pace (LSD). This easy run will aid in the recovery process by keeping the muscles loose, while not taxing them any further (think of it as the cool down run after a race, but now it is done mid-week after harder training session). Another way to squeeze in some mid-week rest is to schedule morning workouts followed by an evening workout the next day. This extends the time between sessions and helps the body recover.

Running every workout at the same pace is a sure fire way to reach a plateau in your running. By targeting each of your workouts to one of the four elements above, you will be able to train your body to operate at higher speeds.

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