When I first started running long distances, my training was pretty simple; I would run at something close to my 10K race pace, regardless of the distance. This led to a considerable amount of frustration, as my shorter runs seemed unproductive and I was unable to maintain this pace during my longer runs. The only time it felt right was on days when my training schedule actually had me running around 6 miles.
On top of these frustrations, my training was showing no real benefit; I wasn’t improving my pace for the 10K, and I wasn’t building my aerobic base to help with the longer distances. So, I began to do some research into more effective training methods and ultimately landed on 8 different types of training runs that greatly enhanced my results.
In looking at these runs, they were broken down into those that helped increase my stamina; those that helped increase my speed; and those that both helped increase my stamina and speed. In this article, we provide a general overview of each and how they can help you improve your training results.
In addition to helping your training results, I think you’ll find using a variety of these runs and sprinkling them through your training schedule will help keep things fresh and fun, allowing you to stay motivated while you train.
When you run, depending upon the intensity level you are either in your “aerobic” (lower intensity) or “anaerobic” (higher intensity) zone; in your aerobic zone, you have plentiful amounts of oxygen and fats to burn, you produce low levels of lactate and can be removed easily by your body.
In the anerobic zone, your body cannot produce enough oxygen to burn the fuel efficiently so you begin to tap your limited glycogen reserves. Lactate begins to build up in your system, your breathing gets heavy and your muscles begin to fatigue.
The purpose of a base run is to build your aerobic capacity, called your aerobic base allowing you to go longer and harder before you hit your anaerobic threshold and begin to feel the burn and fatigue.
Base runs will help you improve your oxygen transportation, reduce the rate of lactate buildup and increase the rate of lactate removal effectively optimizing your energy utilization; this will help you push up your anaerobic level and run longer and harder.
Your base run should be the cornerstone of your training, and new runners should focus almost exclusively on these base runs until they have an effective aerobic base.
After you’ve established an aerobic base (or, if you’ve already built a good base), the next step is to add in a long run; the long run may be the most important run of the week and they will:
- Improve your running efficiency, burning fats more efficiently at low intensity
- Improves your running economy, allowing you to run faster at a lower heart rate
- Strengthens your lungs and heart, allowing you to keep your heart rate down at higher intensity
A few things about the long run that I had to learn the hard way; first, the pace of your long run should be a pace where you can maintain a conversation during the entire run. When I first started running long runs on the weekend, I found I just simply could not run slow enough as it felt so easy my mind would not accept the fact I was training. Finally, I decided no matter what my pace would never exceed my 10K pace plus 2 minutes and set my watch to alert me when I did. I also ran early in the mornings, because I didn’t want anyone to see me running this slow but over time I began to see the benefits as I was able to run longer and harder.
The second thing is to keep your long run between 20 – 30% of your weekly mileage, so if you run 40 miles a week your long run should be between 8 – 12 miles with the disclaimer you might up the percentage while training for either a half marathon or marathon.
Typically you want to do a recovery run after either a long run, or after a hard workout such as intervals. They should be short runs, typically at the same easy pace as your long runs or whatever pace allows you to feel comfortable in spite of any fatigue or soreness you may have from your prior run.
A good way to look at the recovery run is that it will be slow enough to help your body remove any lingering lactate from your body and short enough not to effect your next run.
The purpose of the interval run is to increase your speed, improve your running economy and teach your body to increase or “push back” your anaerobic threshold. During your interval workout, you should combine shorter periods of high intensity of extreme effort with recovery periods of jogging or walking.
If you haven’t done interval training before, you should consider shorter periods of high intensity and longer periods of recovery; a 1:2 ratio for beginners makes sense, as does shorter periods. For example, you may run at high intensity for 30 seconds and then recover for 60 seconds or high intensity for a minute and recover for 2 minutes. As you begin to add these interval workouts into your training and find you need less recovery, you can move to a 1:1 ratio.
The pace of your high intensity period should be based on perceived effort levels, and you should feel the need to gasp and grab your knees at the end of the high intensity period to get the full effect (but not so much that you can’t complete it).
How long and how many intervals is dependent upon your level of current training, but I would recommend start out with shorter lengths and build on that to avoid injury. And, while you should warm up and do some dynamic stretching before any run, you should focus on it even more before doing intervals in order to prevent injury.
A fartlek workout is similar to an interval workout but the intervals are done at varying duration or distance throughout a run. I like the fartlek best when running with a group of similarly trained runners, allowing each person to alternate choosing when and for how long the high intensity portion of the run will be. You’d be amazed at how the time flies, and how much easier these workouts can be when done with a group.
Hill repeats are repeated short segments of hard uphill running and should be done on hill that has a steady moderate grade of about 4 – 6 %. You should view these similar to the interval workouts, in that you should be gasping by the end of the uphill portion and give yourself time walking or jogging back down the hill before repeating
Hill repeats will help increase your running strength and speed while helping you increase your anaerobic threshold (or fatigue resistance) and pain tolerance.
Increase Speed & Stamina
The tempo run has the ability to increase the speed you can sustain for a long period of time as well as the time you can sustain a relatively fast pace; in other words, they will help you run longer, faster!
The tempo run should be run right at that point of lactate threshold.
What is lactate threshold? It’s the point at which the body begins to build up lactate during your workout; essentially, it’s the point at while you move from aerobic to anaerobic. For most people, it’s at about 85% of maximum heart rate but it’s easier for a runner to consider it this way. For highly fit runners, it’s the fastest pace you can sustain for a period of one hour and for less fit runners, it’s the fastest pace that can be sustained for 20 minutes.
These runs should only be run once every week or two, and should be no longer than around 10% of your weekly mileage; you should warm up beforehand (including this mileage in the 10% limit) and follow up a tempo run with a recovery run.
A progression run is a little different than the other speed runs, in that it should be done at a moderately challenging effort; in this run, you will begin at a conversational pace and end with a faster segment at anywhere from marathon to 10K pace.
I love this particular run, and generally break it into 4 quarters; for the first two quarters (half) of the run, I’ll pace it at a conversational pace, the for the 3rd quarter I’ll increase my pace to my marathon pace and for the final quarter increase my pace even more to either my half-marathon or 10K pace.
I’ll keep the distance fairly short in order to keep it in the moderately challenging level, generally no more than 6 – 8% of my weekly mileage.
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s the same with running; add some variety into your training with some of these different runs and have fun!!
Rich Flaherty is a middle of the pack runner and triathlete, whose only real claim to fame is his daughter Bekah Brooks qualified for the Boston Marathon in her first marathon.