“Hills to pay the bills!” Benefits of adding hill training into your training schedule:
- Improves overall form...the worse your form, the harder it is to get up the hill! Running hill reps will help you naturally use better form to establish better efficiency.
- Improves power since you have to work against gravity and the grade of the hill.
- Has similar benefits to speedwork, but adds less strain on your body: Hills force you to shorten your stride and increase your cadence reminding your body to maintain good frequency. Running uphill prevents you from reaching top speeds which makes it easier on your body vs running top speed on flat surfaces.
- Run with confidence on any course knowing you possess the strength and power to run on flat, rolling or hilly terrain. This is a big confidence booster on race day.
“Strong without strain” is the effort you are aiming for with a tempo effort.. Tempo runs are the glue that holds a training plan together. It’s also a pace that can be challenging to master in the beginning. Tempo runs are often described as a “comfortably hard run” for a prolonged period of time or running strong without straining. Tempo runs can also be called lactate threshold runs. These runs are completed at a pace and effort level that allows your body to remove waste (lactate) at the same rate that it produces waste. At the right effort, you could maintain this pace for 20-45 min. Many runners can be guilty of running too fast on their tempo runs which in turn can either reduce the length of your tempo run, delay recovery time for your next workout/harder effort and/or put you at a higher risk of injury due to higher strain on your body. Tempo is all about balance. You should finish your tempo runs feeling like you could do more if your coach asked you to. Your breathing should be elevated, but never out of control. You should not feel like you are hanging on to a pace and just trying to get to the end. Once you find this effort (that may vary in pace slightly from workout to workout) you will unleash the power of the tempo run!
There are several variations of progression runs, but the main takeaway is that the second half of this effort should be faster than the first half. Practice building momentum and speed, and exhibiting some level of patience in earlier miles is great practice for race day. During progression runs, it’s important to listen to your body and evaluate the cues you’re given. Basic rules: start comfortable and slowly build in speed and effort as your body allows, around every 1-2 miles. Depending on what race you are training for, the length and pace of this run will vary, but trying to perfect a beautifully progressive training run that starts easy and finishes strong is a great training tool to have in your back pocket.
Fartlek is the swedish work for “Speed Play”. This interval type workout can be done on any route which makes it a mentally engaging off-track speed workout that is primarily based off of effort in a time based format. A lot of workouts will target only one or two paces, but fartlek workouts are a multi-paced effort often targeting three or more different efforts. Depending on the interval length, these paces could vary anywhere from mile to half marathon pace with easy recovery between intervals. Since this workout is often based on effort or feel, I’ve found this to be a nice transition workout when easing back from injury into more intense training or at the beginning of a competitive season when you’re beginning to add a little more intensity into your schedule but prefer to stay off the track.
Adding strides or “pick-ups” into your training schedule will provide you an opportunity to work on your top end speed and add variety into your plan. When logging miles and building mileage, it can be easy to fall into a rut of simply putting one foot in front of the other with minimal pace variations. Most runners often fail to practice their top end speed which means that our bodies never learn or practice how to run our fastest. It’s important to train our body, mind, muscles and fast twitch fibers to engage and react quickly if we want to run our best. Adding in strides allows you to practice waking up your body, practice good form and recruiting all the necessary muscles to switch gears on command and take flight! Strides are often added in at the end of an easy run or after a warm-up jog (to get warmed up for a workout) and include short 10-20 second bursts of hard running with full standing or easy shuffle recovery. These are not meant to exhaust you or add another hard workout to your week. It’s simply an opportunity to practice training your body to respond and react the way you hope it will on race day. Cues: Up tall, shoulders back, quick arms, and frequency with your feet.
Every mile that you train has a purpose and easy miles are no different. Runners are often guilty of pushing the pace too hard, too often. Easy running is important for many different reasons. Easy running facilitates blood flow which helps repair muscles after workouts or harder running. By adding in easy running to your training program, you speed up your recovery.. If your easy pace is too fast, your heart and body will be working too hard and you will continue to add stress on your body vs heal and repair. In turn this can lead to added fatigue or even injury. Easy running also helps you become a more efficient runner by helping your body burn fat efficiently. By using fat stores as fuel you will in turn become a more efficient runner. Easy running also increases your capillary capacity so that oxygen can be exchanged between cells more efficiently. This means more oxygen can be transferred to your muscles in order to keep running faster for longer. How do you run easy? Try to listen to your body as much as possible on these runs and keep it comfortable and controlled. Run with someone that you know will maintain an easier pace and maintain a conversation, listen to slower music or a podcast, or go off of HR (67-77% of max HR is a general range to aim for).
There’s often a lot of focus placed on the weekly long run and it’s aerobic benefits. While it is extremely beneficial, I think it's important to always remember that the accumulation and consistency of work each WEEK is the most important. At the end of the week, you will have accumulated some miles and added a workout or two into your schedule. Running the long run on tired legs is part of the plan and is a great time to practice positive self talk, good focus, great running form and listening to your body. Be flexible and run as you feel. If you’re especially tired one Sunday and you have a progression run planned...opt to run easy instead! Running long has many benefits including: improved VO2 max, adaptation to utilize fat, increased muscle strength, increased energy stores and increased confidence in running longer distances. Keep your long run effort in check. For the most part this should be a controlled, conversational pace, but every once in a while it can be good to throw a “spicy” long run effort into the mix! If you have a progressive long run or cruise tempo intervals within a long run planned...get through a few easy miles and assess how you feel...if your energy levels are good and you feel strong go for the plan as set. If you’re pretty tired, keep the pace easy and controlled throughout and bump the harder long run effort to the following week. It will benefit you much more in the long run to make smart decisions early and always listen to your body first.
There are several ways you can combat the fatigue of training and promote good recovery between harder sessions or high mileage training days: rest days, sleep, foam/ball rolling, legs up the wall, yoga, stretching, compression socks/calf sleeves, massage, epsom salt baths, physical therapy, mindful fueling/hydration, etc. I can’t stress the importance of rest enough...this means a day without running or cross-training but could include active recovery activities like yoga, stretching, a massage, rolling out, leisurely walking, etc. Rest days allow your body and mind to repair and rest after the stress of running.
There are several benefits to adding cross training into your training schedule, especially if you’ve struggled with injury in the past and/or tend to follow a lower mileage training schedule. Cross training includes any exercise that mimics the aerobic effort of running. Any activity that elevates your heart rate for an extended period of time without the stress and pounding of running can be considered. Because cross training can lessen the stress and impact on your body while allowing you to improve your aerobic capacity, this can be a very helpful tool in elevating your fitness and helping you reach your race goals while providing some variety to your training schedule. Cross training could include biking, elliptical, cross country skiing, lap swimming, aqua jogging, stairmaster, rowing machine, etc.
There are many benefits to adding strength training or lifting into your training routine 1-2 days per week. Among the benefits include increased injury prevention, improved running economy, and better hip/glute/core strength, balance and posture. Ideally these routines are completed 2 times a week and don’t take up more than 30-45min of your time. Non complicated exercises that will not leave you excessively sore for your future workouts are ideal. If you are new to strength work, give The Dozen a try!