Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Category Archives: Training & Racing

Running 101: Steps Towards Proficiency in Endurance Sports

wise running logo 7_25_12

 

 

 

I hurt my knees lifting weights with poor form.  Lesson learned.  Now I need to rest from running until my knees are happy again.  In order to maintain my fitness level, I need to switch to an endurance sport that does not put much pressure on the knees.  I started swimming again just a few weeks ago.  Now it must become my main sport for at least two weeks and maybe longer.

The truth of this really just set it: swimming must become my running for a while.  What would this mean?  How do I train?  Would I need to do speed work in the pool to replace the aerobic and lactate benefits of my running speed work?  Would I need to swim very long distances to maintain my endurance?

I quickly came to the conclusion that I simply need to apply the principles that I use to help people getting started into serious endurance running.  I just need to change the sport.  I set a few principles out for the Newbie Runner in a previous post that were about the way to think about yourself and running.  The present post is more about how to choose what kind of workouts to do in the natural progression of endurance running or other sports.

Step 1:  Start where you are, and build an endurance base.

People decide to “get serious” about endurance sports at various levels of participation.  Some people are starting from the couch.  Some people run 3 times a week before deciding to “get serious about training.”  At whatever level you are currently training, the first step is usually to gradually increase mileage.  If you are starting on the couch, walking a quarter mile several times a week may be the correct first steps in the process.  If you run 3 miles per run three times each week, then you simply start adding a mile to one of your runs each week and let it build.  Never add more than one mile to a run as compared to the week before.  Too much, too quickly can lead to injury.

As for me and my swimming, I just started swimming three times per week, going about a mile each time.  In my first two weeks, just finishing a mile was challenge enough.  This week I am stretching my swims to 1.25 miles.  Gradually, I will move that up to a 3 mile swim once per week and 1.5 mile swims twice.  I expect that to take several weeks, maybe even two months.

Step 2:  Gently begin strength training.

As your activity level increases, it is a good idea to gently begin a strength training regiment which is helpful for your sport.  Every endurance sport requires general strength and core exercises, you just need to add in a few sport-specific drills and/or lifts.  As a running coach, I have specific drills that I have my clients do at least three times per week.  If they have a specific weakness, such as pronation or an IT band issue, then I give them a few strength drills to correct the problem.

For my swimming, I am going back to the weightlifting plan that I used when I started back into running back in 2009.  Every part of the body got stronger.  I am renewing my commitment to being as strong as I can without gaining significant weight.  I am building muscle, so there will be some weight gain, muscle weight.  :) I am also adding a few swimming specific strength drills recommended by top coaches.

Step 3:  Begin to build speed as you continue to slowly add endurance.

After you are running regularly and feeling stronger, you will want to become faster.  This is good and natural.  Be careful, however, as running too fast can lead to injury. Pick one day per week at most to do speed training.  If you have never run a 5K, then do not attempt speed training.  After you have established a personal record (PR) in the 5K, then do your speed work by running short distances at a pace just a few seconds faster than your 5K race pace.  See my post on “Getting Faster” for specific details.

I was tempted to do a little speed work in the pool the other day, but I do not think I have a strong enough base yet.  In a week or two, I will pick my speed day and swim a few laps at a fast pace on that day each week.

Step 4:  Find your thresholds and begin to challenge them.

Also included in the “Getting Faster” post is the idea of interval training and tempo runs.  Each run is designed to challenge a specific set of biological functions that support endurance sports.  Simply put, interval training pushes your body to recover more quickly from running fast paces.  Tempo runs challenge your body to maintain the fastest pace possible without needing to slow down to recover.

Here again, the principles of interval training and tempo workouts will directly translate from running to any other endurance sport.  I can become very fast at swimming one lap at a time, but if I want to be a fast endurance swimmer I must complete these two types of workouts periodically.

At Every Step:  Make sure you are enjoying the ride.

When asked about how to help their kids become great basketball players, Michael Jordan told parents this: “Let them love the game.” He went on to explain that you have to love what you are doing in order to maintain the motivation to work harder than everyone else.  If you want to be great, you must first love the sport.

Whether it is running, swimming, or any other sport, you must maintain your love for the sport.  Some love running for the social interaction with their running buddies.  Some love the challenge.  Some love the quiet time out on the road.  Whatever it is that you love about the endurance sport of your choice, remind yourself of that love.  Feed that love.  If it is the social aspect, run with friends most of the time.  If it is the challenge of pushing yourself, then plan to push hard once a week.  Spend the rest of the week planning it and looking forward to it.  Whatever it is that fuels the fire of your desire to excel and helps you truly enjoy your sport, do it.  People that enjoy the ride will keep on running, keep on swimming, …

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Running in Cold and Icy Weather

What adjustments do you need to make for running when the cold weather appears?

Pace

According to a formula worked out by Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, our running paces are not only slowed by heat, but also by cold temperatures as well.  Schwartz found that 53 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for the runners in his study.  The farther the temperature moves away from 53 (hotter or colder), the slower the pace they would achieve with the same effort.

For example, you can expect a time increase of 1.66 percent when the temperature drops to 30 degrees, a 3 percent increase at 20 degrees, a 5.33 percent increase at 10 degrees and an 8.33 percent increase in time when the temperature hits 0 degrees.  The formula may vary slightly for runners of different body types, but the trend will still hold true for all.

My point is that you need to give yourself a break and not expect to run your best pace in freezing temperatures.  Thankfully, however, training through these cold weather months will pay off.  Persevere!

Attire

Personally, I am quite comfortable running in 40 degree weather if I have the proper attire.  Below 30 degrees begins to become uncomfortable.  Thankfully, there are ways to get more comfortable in cold weather.  You can adjust to cold weather by adding layers of clothing.  This gives it a big advantage over running in the summer.  After all, there is a limit of how much clothing you can remove to adjust for heat.   :)

For the cold temperatures, dress in light layers.  A huge coat or heavy pants will weigh you down.  Light layers can hold your body heat effectively but have the added advantage that you can take them off if you get a little hot.  Light layers also have the advantage of allowing you to maintain good running form.  Cover your head and neck.  Mittens are often better than gloves, but wear whatever you are comfortable wearing.

Barefoot & minimalist shoes might not be the best choice on the coldest days.  I believe it is possible to get frostbite on your feet even if the rest of you is toasty-warm.

Ice & Snow

Please be careful when it comes to slippery conditions.  One slip is all it takes to injure yourself.  It is better to take an extra rest day than it is to risk your health.  Moreover, that little slip can lead to a much longer rest if you have to wear a cast!  I’m aware that those that live in the north probably see snow and ice is just a way of life, but you at least have to be careful.  Take extra care and slow your pace down in these conditions so you can live to run another day.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Cross-training as Marathon Training: An Experiment

I have done cross-training as a way to maintain fitness through an injury.  Until now, I have tried my best to ignore the idea of cross-training as a serious tool for intense training for running; I just couldn’t take it seriously.  I have a dilemma, however, and cross-training looks like the only viable solution.

My Dilemma

I have now completed 6 marathons and managed to PR each time.  I feel like I am reaching a plateau, however.  Even though I have run Boston-Qualifying times for the past three marathon, I am still experiencing the same cramping issue over and over.  According to the work of the best running coaches in the world, my training should be netting results that are about 15 minutes faster than what I am getting each time.

Cramping is the limiting factor, yet cramping is a symptom.  The question remains, What is causing these cramps?  When I solve that issue, then I can reclaim those 15 minutes and finally run a marathon in less than 3 hours.  At first, I had an electrolyte problem. I found the right supplement and it does not seem to be a big deal any more.cycling

Until this last marathon, I have believed that my marathon cramping dilemma was a fueling problem.  I have had an ill gastrointestinal system due to a gluten intolerance.  That means unhealthy digestion.  That means that I have not been able to process calories as fast as other folks.  That means starving muscles.  That can lead to cramping.  Maybe that is the problem, but my gut is now as healthy as it is going to be.  I can’t count on it doing any better.  I use gentle, gluten-free energy gel always combined with water so it goes down as good as it could.

Cross-training to Simulate Running a Marathon

I believe that my body could adjust to the conditions if I could just run enough marathons during training.  Unfortunately, my body hates that idea.  Through 4 years of training, I have learned that my body thrives at around 35 to 40 miles of running each week.  Fewer miles means slow progress.  More than 40 miles of running in a week causes my body to break down a bit.

I have examined my training plan over and over and come to a firm conclusion: If I am going to get my body used to marathon conditions, I am going to have to find a way to create that experience without running more than 16 miles in one run.

Since my dilemma has to do with fueling and hydration rather than being specific to running, I can accomplish this simulation.  The condition I need to simulate is that of burning fuel for 3 hours.  If I do this enough times, my body will begin to adapt to that condition.  If I am correct about the root of my problem, this will solve my dilemma.

My Plan

I will create workouts with 3 hours of consistent, intense effort.  In order to simulate marathon conditions, most of the work has to be done by my legs.  Therefore, adding cycling to my long runs will help me solve my dilemma.  Cycling first will give me the added time without requiring me to run the entire three hours.

As I designed my plan, I did not build up to 20 or 22 mile runs as most plans require.  In my new training plan, the longest run will be 16 miles, but that will follow 60 minutes of intense cycling.  This will create the 3 hour workouts to which my body needs to adapt.

In my last training plan, 17 miles was my longest run.  That 17 miles, however, had no cycling on the front end.  Hence, I believe this new plan will push me harder than ever.  I believe that it will get me beyond my current plateau. I believe it will get me that first sub-three hour marathon… and it will do it at my first Boston.

Cross-training on Other Days

The marathon simulation cross-training will only happen once a week.  If I am to keep my mileage down to about 40 miles per week, I will need to take three days off from running each week.  Does this mean three rest days?  NO!  Three rest days would mean losing fitness.  To maintain or enhance my fitness level, I will have full rest on one day each week, but cross-train on the remaining two days.

For those two days, I plan to do a combination of swimming and cycling.  I will swim for an allotted number of minutes and quickly transition to cycling for a specific number of minutes.  This will keep my heart rate up, give me a full-body workout, and allow me to have effective training days where I do not run.

That leaves a total of four days per week when I run.  One day is the run/cross-train day that simulates the marathon.  Two days will be tough workouts with repeats, intervals, tempo runs, and such.  The remaining running day will be naked miles [no watch, just relax and run].

Conclusion

In this plan, cross-training brings specific benefits.  Cycling and swimming play specific roles as I train to race my first Boston Marathon.  The goal is a sub-three hour marathon.  I believe that this plan will get me there comfortably, without injury and with happy legs.

I have several half-marathons scheduled before the Boston Marathon.  I will report to you periodically along the way to let you know how things are going.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

Going to Your Happy Place – Finding the Joy in Running

I drank some Gatorade Pro, but I didn’t want to.  I put on my running gear, but I didn’t feel like it.  My allergies were acting up, I wanted to take a nap, but I am in training for a marathon… so I begrudgingly trudged out the door.

parkAs I was driving to the greenways for a run, I was imagining which course I would run my 4 miles.  Hal Higdon’s Advanced II training schedule said I should run 4 miles at my target marathon pace.  Should I start out by the Earth Fair market and run down the 3rd Creek Greenway.  No.  I almost always run that.  I don’t feel like it.  Should I start out at Tyson park and run towards the UT football stadium?  Nah.  Just don’t feel like it.  Should I run Cherokee Boulevard, where I had “Slayed the Specter of a Bad Run” before?  No.  I really don’t think I’m supposed to run hills today.

I turned towards that one anyway.  “After all,” I reasoned with myself, “I’ve got to run somewhere.”  Thankfully, as I approached the parking lot near the zero mile marker on Cherokee Boulevard I saw something inspiring:  the cross country course at Sequoyah Park!  I have watched my kids run several cross country races there.  Each time, I was reminded of my own high school cross country career.  I always told myself that I would run the course and see how I would do.  Today was the day!

Seeing the park this morning triggered good memories of my kids and the good memories of my high school experience.  I was immediately drawn.  My body was a few minutes behind my heart.  I was a little stiff.  I jogged a few hundred feet and stretched just a little.  Right there and then, I decided that my body would just have to kick in because my heart was saying, “Go!”

I ran the full 5k course and added 1 mile.  I started out stiff, but trying hard and squeaked out the first mile in about 7:30.  I started to get a rhythm going and gradually loosened up.  I was running in my happy place…caught up somewhere between old memories, new memories, & the flat grassy area I was running on next to the river/lake.  I was caught up in several moments at once and all of them were good.  :)

I ran the final 2.15 miles at around a 7:00 mile pace and walked another half mile back to the car.  My goal for the day was to run 4 miles at around a 7 minute pace.  I managed to go a little farther, on grass, and kept it at an average of 7:08.  Not bad for a day when I just really didn’t feel like running.

The main accomplishment of the day, however, was capturing the joy of running when I didn’t seem to have it.

How do you get to your happy place?

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Slaying the Specter of a Bad Run

I had a horrible run yesterday and it was killing me.  Not during the run, mind you, but after the run.  During the run I was merely overtired and dehydrated.  That was bad enough, but this bad run was hanging over my head… calling me names…taunting…telling me that I was not good enough.  The hills were huge.  As I remembered the contours of each hill, they seemed to come alive, grimacing and laughing at me.

cross country shoesHow can one run haunt me so much so quickly?  Probably because I have chosen some lofty goals and a short timeline.  With all of that pressure, I had no time for a bad run.  Bad runs, however, are inevitable.  We can’t control all of the things that life throws at us and we are certainly prone to making mistakes.   Logically, this was not the end of the world, but it felt like it.

How did I slay the specter of the bad run?  I rested up for a day, I was well-fueled and hydrated, I set a realistic goal for today’s run, AND… most importantly, I set the course for today’s run in the toughest part of yesterday’s run.

I looked those grimacing hills straight in the eyes and shouted, “NO!  You will not win. I may not be as fast as I want to be, but I am on my way.  You will not win. “

I did not set any new records today, but I did run a reasonably good time for course and conditions.  I faced the specter of doubt cast upon me by yesterday’s fiasco.

Tomorrow looks pretty darn good.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?

Cesar

Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run. The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.  There is joy in movement.  There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.  On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.  Cold and rain can throw us off pace as well.  Too  much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?  No, we do it to ourselves.  The watch is just a tool.  It is not the Garmin’s fault.  The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”  Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.  If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.  You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.  For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.  Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.  It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.  You will want this data months or years from now.  Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.  If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013

 

running form 7_25_2013

Putting the Stopwatch Away: Running Bliss

I’m putting my stopwatch away.  Not forever, mind you.  I will get it out for track workouts a couple of times each month.  Other than that, I don’t want to know.  I run for fun.  I run because I enjoy running.  Paying attention to the stopwatch is sometimes fun, but more often than not it has been the source of stress and disappointment.  This was not the case a few months ago.  I have trained for two marathon in the last two years and my times at all distances are gradually improving.  All of that was done ignoring the stopwatch and enjoying the run.

stopwatchSo how did I get into this negative cycle of setting my sights too high and having them torn apart by the reality of the stopwatch?  Success.  I have not won anything recently (not in the last 25 years), but my times have steadily gone down.  In large races, I am now “in the hunt” for age-group glory.  I may be 46, but I am kind of fast for a 46 year old.  I have gotten close a few times and started craving more success.  Worse than that, I started craving it faster.  I want it now!  This is NOT a healthy mindset.  It is not the kind of thinking that allows for enjoying a good long run.

I am going back to:  “Enjoy the run and the results will come.”  This is what brought the meager success that I have had recently.  I will still wear my stopwatch at the track and try to get faster, but not on the long runs.  Not on the pace runs and tempo runs.  Not on the hill training.  No.  I will listen to my body.  I will enjoy the freedom that running offers.  I will bask in runner’s high.  I will run with friends and family without pushing too hard.

I still expect to get faster, albeit very gradually.  If the results don’t get drastically better over time, then so be it.  At least I will have enjoyed the ride.

Happy Running!

Park

Wise Running: What to Think During a Race

Much has been said about training for a race.  Much has been said about how to plan the paces you should run during each part of a race.  Few people, however, have discussed what you should think during a race.  What little I have found on the topic has to do with either repeating positive mantras or the ways to remind yourself of your pacing plan.park

I want to focus on the thinking.  Thinking will happen whether we choose it or not.  If you do not purposefully think, your mind will choose what to think on its own.  If you naturally have good thinking habits during races with lots of positive, helpful thoughts occurring, then read no further.  Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.  If you find yourself in negative thought patterns while racing, however, it is time to rethink your thinking.

Pacing

I do plan my races in stages or pace zones.  In my last 5K, I planned the first mile, the second mile, and the third mile separately.  I had intended paces AND intended thoughts.  In the first mile, it was slightly downhill so I planned to run just a little faster than my PR pace.  My intended thought was to be, “Just a little bit is good, not too fast.”  It is easy to go out too fast at the beginning of the race.  This thought was to keep from overdoing it.   Then the middle mile is a little more hilly.  My intended pace was at PR pace or just a few seconds slower.  My intended thought was, “Steady as she goes.”  That is because the goal was just to maintain during this tough part of the course.  Overdoing it would send me in to a lactate tailspin from which I could not recover.  Finally, the last 1.1 miles were a little easier than the middle mile.  The mantra here was, “Pick people and pass.”  Instead of picking a specific pace, I planned to run fast enough as a side-effect of gradually passing more and more people.

Calming, Coaching

If things begin to happen during a race that are not as planned, my reaction sometimes is to panic.  As soon as you are stuck in panic mode, your race will get worse.  Hence, I have learned to identify when it is happening and coach myself through it.  Goal number one is to calm down.  Getting upset leads to worse racing.  Hence, you work against yourself if you stay there.  With this in mind, I (figuratively) take a deep breathe and begin to re-evaluate.  I calmly coast as I decide what changes to make.  If I do this for just a few seconds, I can usually recover from the spiraling of negative thoughts and center myself.  When this happens, I take a few seconds to revise my plan and then hit it hard.  To summarize: Let go of the negative and then “Let’s go!!”

Awareness & Appreciation of  Others

If the race I am running is not one of my “goal races” for the year, I may take a few seconds now and then to identify who is around me and yell out an encouraging word.  It is not all about me, after all.  It is about my teammates, my friends, and my soon-to-be-friends.  Not only does it help them, but it lifts your own spirits as well.  You enjoy the race more and, sometimes, you might even do better because of this.

If I have the awareness and energy, I also like to acknowledge and thank the volunteers and fans along the course.  They are out there too.  They are showing dedication.  Give something back.  If you don’t have energy or breathe to wave and say thank you, at least make eye contact and wave.  It will cheer them up and make it more likely that they will be there to support their club/city/friends at the next big event.

Pushing to the Edge Without Falling Off

Much more has been said about thinking during a marathon than any other racing distance.  You absolutely must remember to stick to your hydration and nutrition strategies in order to meet your goals and enjoy the run.  Nearly everyone reaches a point of negative thoughts during a marathon.  It may be because of the conditions or because of your conditioning.

I tend to think of the marathon in two parts: the first 16 miles and the last 10.2 miles.  This is relevant for me because of the GI issues I have.  My gluten-insensitivity issues have made it difficult for me to process enough carbohydrates during miles 1 through 16, making the last 10.2 miles a real struggle.  Yes, I use the calming, coaching approach, but it is different than any other race.  Instead of running on positive or negative emotions, I am in analysis mode.  How do I feel?  What is the fastest I can possibly run right now without pushing my body over the edge?  How will that change as I run up the hill in front of me.  I have learned to change my expectations based on the way my body is responding and the conditions of the race course.  This helps me maintain a positive spirit because I am certain that I am pushing as hard as I can at any point.  This strategy worked almost perfectly on my last marathon as I had my first cramp just 200 feet before the finish line.   Regardless of the pain from those cramps, I had an immense sense of satisfaction from knowing that I had literally given everything I had without going so hard that I couldn’t make it.  Positive. That is enjoying the run!

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

wise running logo 7_25_12

The Pieces of the Running Puzzle

The following is an excerpt from my new book, Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life, which is scheduled to be released in August 2013.

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Going out for a run is good enough if your goal is to run. If your goal is to run over one mile quickly, however, there is a lot more to it. In the old days, they just worried about two things: speed and endurance. This, too, is oversimplified. The goal of this chapter is to give you an overview of what you really need to know in order to make informed decisions about training for any distance from a mile to a marathon.

The following framework is offered as a way to think about your training. There are much more technical ways of looking at running. Later in this book I have included a list of suggested readings if you want to know more of the details. In my own thinking, however, this is as complex it needs to be for effective training. I think about it in these three categories:

  1. Raw Speed & Power
  2. Short-Term Endurance
  3. Long term Endurance

Here is a brief description of each:

Raw Speed & Power

Raw speed and power is just as it sounds. Go out to a track and run 50 or 100 meters as fast as you can. For this kind of running, you are in the anaerobic zone. Literally, you are not breathing enough oxygen to provide enough energy using the aerobic metabolism. Your body shifts into anaerobic metabolism. The pace at which this occurs is called the anaerobic threshold. While this requires less oxygen, it also requires a lot more fuel. You burn out quickly, so you can only do this for very short distances. Even so, raw speed and power workouts are an important part of the foundation for training for races at any distance from 400 meters to the marathon!

woman running on trackTraining for raw speed and power takes repeats. Doing these sprints at distances from 100 meters up to 400 meters can build muscle and change your anaerobic threshold for the better. In order to add even more muscle, I also add natural power-building exercises after my repeats workout. I include things like power-skipping, hopping, jumping, walking lunges, and crossover running drills.

I do not recommend doing this raw speed and power workout more than once a week. It takes a long time to heal from these extreme workouts. In most marathon training schedules, raw speed and power workouts are limited to the first 1/2 or less of the training schedule.

Short-Term Endurance

When I speak of short-term endurance, I am referring to distances of 800 meters up to a mile or even two. These are distances at which you are not likely to cross the anaerobic threshold, but you are likely to cross another important line: the lactate threshold. While the anaerobic threshold is about the consumption of oxygen, the lactate threshold is about the buildup of lactate in your muscles. Lactate is not only a natural byproduct of the aerobic metabolism happening in your muscles but it is also fuel. Your muscles can recycle this byproduct and consume it as a secondary source of fuel. As such, lactate is good. The bad part is that your body is limited as to how fast this recycling occurs. When the muscles produce more lactate than they can burn, this leads to cramping. This cramping can slow you down or even injure you. Hence, you need workouts specifically designed to challenge your body to become more efficient. More efficiency in these processes means that you can run a faster pace without cramping from lactate buildup.

Training for short-term endurance takes interval training. There are several types of interval training, but they all have the same goal: being able to run faster before hitting your lactate threshold. Interval training methods also have the same characteristics in terms of how they challenge your body to be more efficient with lactate. It is simply alternating between paces: running a little faster than your lactate threshold pace and then switching to a little slower than lactate threshold to allow your body to catch up. Then without stopping, you accelerate to the faster pace again. This fast/slow sequence is done throughout the intervals workout to cue the body that it needs to change to adapt to faster running. As with speed and power workouts, doing interval training once a week is enough for almost any runner.

Long-Term Endurance

When you run significantly slower than your lactate threshold pace, you should be able to maintain that pace for a long way. Many of us might have enough glycogen stored in our bodies to run as far as a half marathon with no additional fuel. That does not mean, however, that your body can manage any distance just by training for those other levels. It does make it easier, but you still have to train for what you want to race.

If you want to race farther than two miles, you must train for the distance. In order to hold your newly enhanced faster paces for longer distances, you must practice two types of runs: tempo runs and long runs. A tempo run is simply running a fairly fast pace (but slower than lactate threshold) for a longer distance. You can do a tempo run that takes anywhere from 20 minutes up to an hour. A long run, however, is just that. You run much slower than lactate threshold pace, but you do it for a much longer distance. A long run can be anywhere from an hour to three hours. Both of these types of long-term endurance runs cue the body to develop more in ways that support more efficient oxygen and fuel delivery, more efficient metabolism, and more efficient lactate clearance. In addition, the longer runs do more to build and develop mitochondria which allow you to burn body fat more efficiently.

** Note for Marathoners: Research shows that no significant gain comes from running a long run beyond three hours. No matter what distance that is for you, I do not recommend running longer than three hours during training.

If you are going to develop a training plan for whatever goal you have in distance running, you will need to consider these three areas.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

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