Following specific running workouts to increase your running capacity is hardly rocket science.
You go running more often, build up your distances/time spent, and thus improve your strength and stamina. As a result you’ll be able to complete longer races, and finish shorter ones more quickly.
And there’s nothing at all wrong with such methods – indeed, these types of running workouts work for the huge majority of runners. However, it doesn’t need much more effort to take a slightly more scientific approach to your running workouts, one that will put you in far greater control of your progress.
The Long And Short Of Running Workouts
Once you have decided to formalize your running workouts, inasmuch as you want to achieve certain levels of ability or fitness or weight loss, the most immediately useful step you can take is to divide your runs up into “long” and “short” and implement a specific running training program.
The short runs will be your usual run, the long runs will be at least half as long again – two-thirds is the ideal addition, which can be in terms of time or distance covered. This formula for your running workouts should be applied to whatever the length of usual run, as it is about a relative rather than a linear increase in effort.
Create a specific running training program for your running workouts schedule where, at the very least, one in five of your runs will be long, but the highest frequency should be one in three.
This is because you will be pushing yourself, and will therefore need at least a week to recover between long runs – as a comparative exercise your regular runs will start to be viewed as rest periods! However, if you are doing any less than one long run every two weeks, progression will be lost and it’ll be as if you are starting your running workouts from scratch each time.
The idea with this approach to your running workouts is that as the long runs become easier the short runs begin to seem almost negligible, so both can be extended, keeping the same proportions and frequency.
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This will increase your strength and endurance, as the tougher running workouts build up muscles while your body will naturally start to increase its glycogen storage levels to cope with the additional demand.
The longer runs can have quite dramatic effects on your weight, too.
For example, single one-hour fat burning running workouts will burn more calories than two half-hour runs because you spend the same amount of time getting to the point at which you start burning calories (approximately fifteen minutes), thus you burn proportionately more on the hour-long run.
Mentally, long and short running workouts are enormously helpful. If your short run is your regular racing distance, once you are used to the long run you will feel like you are handling races with ease, eliminating so many pre-race jitters and giving you the option to go a bit faster. Then the long runs can psychologically prepare you for longer races without the pressure of actually being in a race, while a controlled build-up to greater distances makes them a far less daunting prospect.
Running Workouts For Speed Training
Most distance runners focus on strength and endurance running workouts as being the keys to improvement, but this will often be at the expense of a speed work running training program.
Running fast isn’t only for sprinters, and the improvements it can bring to your performance and running technique will be absolutely vital if you are preparing for a race and have loftier ambitions than merely finishing the course. And, just as importantly, bombing along as fast as you can after months of slow, steady distance running is a great deal of fun and will bring an enjoyable change of routine to your running training sessions.
Speed work running workouts is running at a pace of more or less twice your usual speed for a set time or distance, and it will strengthen your running technique and prepare you for the higher levels you may need to rise to in competition, in a way that is far more effective than regular-pace running workouts. It has important psychological considerations too, as it is easy for distance runners to slip into a running comfort zone which speed work jolts them out of.
It makes them push on at a higher clip than they might be used to – race pace – and teaches them to maintain it while coping with whatever initial discomfort it might bring.
On the physical side, speed work prepares your system for an intensity of working that might not have occurred in your regular running workouts.
Because your turnover will be quicker, your legs receive a workout that should activate your fast twitch muscles, and the mechanics of your stride and running technique will sharpen up. Your cardiovascular fitness will improve rapidly, as you will have to take on board much greater quantities of oxygen and your heart will need to beat faster to deliver it. When you begin a speed running training program, you will be panting and your pulse racing but, as you get into these kinds of running workouts, you soon notice this is no longer the case as your aerobic capacity increases to deal with these challenges. This is vital for 5k and 10k runners.
Most importantly, as your speed running workouts program takes effect, not only will your regular pace increase, but it will seem like a gentle jog in comparison with the sprints. While this running technique does wonders for your starting line confidence, it also leaves you secure in the knowledge that you have speed in reserve as your secret weapon.
Because your body is totally aware of how to run fast, at any point during the race you will be able to shift gears smoothly and accelerate. Or, when approaching the finish, you’ll still have the energy and the mindset to be able call on that little bit extra.
However, you shouldn’t follow speed biased running workouts all year round as it will have a detrimental effect on your endurance and, as regards you getting faster, it will be subject to a law of diminishing returns.
A distance runner should do no more than one speed session a week, raising that to two in the build-up to an event, and even then the fast running workouts should make up no more than five per cent of your total mileage.
Interval Running Workouts
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