Whether you’re an elite runner or just enjoy the occasional trot around the block, the principles of training are the same. Your training should be specific to the distance that you ‘re planning to race, progressive so that you continue to see gains in fitness, and should also include adequate recovery so that your body can actually absorb the hard work you’ve put in. Here are five workouts that I think every runner should be doing.
The long run
The long run should be the bed rock of any endurance runner’s programme and is definitely bread and butter for marathoners. Running long causes a number of physiological adaptations to your aerobic metabolism that enable you to run at a higher intensity without building up lactate. In essence, you will be able to run faster without tiring. Happy days! The length of your long run will be dictated by your experience and the event that you’re training for, but generally runs over 90 minutes are best for improving your body’s ability to store glycogen (carbohydrate) and to burn fat for fuel. Running long also has psychological benefits. Spending time on your feet can be a great confidence booster so you know that on race day you can go the distance.
Tempo runs are where you run at a comfortably hard pace, but not flat out. Effort wise you should be able to say about three or four words, but be unable to hold a full conversation. The scientific aim of a tempo run is to run just below the point at which lactate starts to accumulate more rapidly in your blood, so you are effectively training your body to run at faster speeds before you are forced to slow down. The distance and intensity of your tempo run should again depend on the event that you are training for. If you are training for 10k then a 20-30 minute tempo run at just slightly quicker than your half marathon race pace should do the business. If a marathon is on the agenda then you should aim to do some longer tempo runs at marathon pace or just below. Start with 5 miles and build up from there.
3 minute intervals
To become a faster runner you need to work on your speed endurance and interval training is a great way to do this. Three minute intervals are my favourite as they are long enough to gain the physiological adaptions from running at a higher intensity, but not so long that you cannot maintain the pace. Start with 4-5 x 3 minutes with a 90 second jog recovery at your 10k race pace. You can gradually build up the number of intervals as you get fitter.
Fartlek with fast recoveries
The idea of this workout is to run a faster segment followed by an active recovery, where you still maintain a good pace. This teaches your body to ‘recover’ and buffer any lactate in your blood at faster speeds. It’s also a great workout for simulating the surges that often happen in a race. You can run to time or distance and can adjust the length of the segments. You could try 10 x 1 minute on/1 minute fast recovery or if you’re preparing for a marathon you might want to use kilometre or mile segments. You could start with 4 x 1k on/1k fast recovery for example, and build from there. Trust me, this workout can be quite evil if you misjudge your pacing!
Hill reps are great for building leg strength and they can also improve your running economy. The beauty of hill workouts is that you can choose the gradient, the distance covered in each rep and the total number of reps, depending on your goals. If you’re looking for speed and power, then you should go for reps over a shorter distance or time up a steeper hill. If you’re looking at more speed endurance then reps over a longer distance or time are best. I prefer 60-90 second reps with a jog back recovery. You could start with 8-10 x 60 seconds and build from there. Happy training!
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