20August/2013

Zen and the Art of Running

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Credit Michael Hennessey

Worldwide there are numerous training styles, countless coaches and millions of individuals with varying training and health demands. The variety of training regimes means that it is important to understand your body’s needs to develop a balanced routine – improving performance and preventing injury along the way.

Many cultures favour a hard and fast training regime. We can’t keep pushing our bodies to the extreme, though, and not expect consequences; it takes careful preparation and planning to produce a balanced routine that generates peak performance and minimal injuries.

Studies have revealed that the further someone runs, the higher their risk of injury, with a significant increase for those who run over 65 km/week. Research has also found that the more consecutive days an individual runs the more susceptible they are to an injury. Consequently it is important not to overdo it and to ensure that every training session has a purpose; as you will soon see balancing and incorporating everything in your plan can prove difficult.

The following training fundamentals are important to consider when creating a balanced regime:

•             Plan and prepare

•             Speed and hill sessions

•             Threshold and tempos

•             Fartlek and intervals

•             Long distance

•             Recovery

•             Strength training (including core strength)

•             Racecraft

 

PLANNING AND PREPARATION

Planning and preparing a balanced training regime is essential to not only generate improvement but also reduce the chance of injury and unplanned recovery time. Consider these key guidelines:

1.       Personalise your plan – Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; discover yours and work on the areas that need improving.

2.       Increase training volume and intensity at different times – Rotate your regime to allow adaptations at various stages. For example, if you are increasing your weekly distance reduce your speed or intensity. On the other hand, if you are working at increasing your speed and strength reduce total kilometres to manage the training loads.

3.       Increase gradually – Training is all about progressive adaptation not miraculous overnight developments. Too often these will come back as injuries 4-6 weeks later. Many coaches suggest increasing your weekly volume by no more than 10%.

4.       Discard the junk – Cut out runs or extra kilometres that don’t have a training purpose. Ask yourself: “What is this run achieving?” If you can’t answer they may be unnecessary kilometres. So again ask yourself: “Can I do it better/ smarter?” Could the recovery session be on the bike which has the added benefit of being non-weight bearing, thus giving hips, knees and ankles a break yet maintaining fast leg speed with fast, light resistance riding.

5.       Cycle your training – Incorporate stages of speed, strength or endurance development and schedule weeks of reduced volume and intensity. Step up to a new level for 3-4 weeks and then have a reduced load week before again increasing to a new level.

With these thoughts in mind use the tools below to create your perfectly balanced running week. The structure of the weeks is adaptable for distance running events from 30 min to five hrs. That might include the five km but generally target events of 10 km, half marathon and marathon distances.

As the event changes your own training requirements need to alter slightly; achieving the correct balance is vital to improve your fitness and performance without illness or injury.

Those looking at undertaking Ultra distance events will need to add extra runs to increase the volume required to compete in 60, 100 and even 160 km events. Balance and recovery becomes even more imperative for Ultra runners.

The two tables below show balanced weekly and fortnightly plans for intermediate and more experienced runners.

They incorporate a variety of regimes:

•             Three-run per week is perfect for newer runners increasing their previous training

•             Four-run per week allows you to balance longer distances and improve race speed.

•             Five-run per week is preferred for balanced training.

•             Six-run per week involving threshold or tempo runs, speed work, strength and higher volume long distance for marathon training.

•             No one needs to be running seven days per week. Being active every day is brilliant but every exercise session should not be running. Incorporate other training areas such as strength and core exercises or rowing, cycling and swimming to allow for a more balanced regime.

 

Program 1: For Intermediate Runners (3-4runs/week)

 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

 

 

Week 1

 

Tempo or threshold pace run

 

 

Rest

 

 

Hill repeats

Medium distance slow run with strength

Rest or Cross-train (Row, cycle, swim etc.)

 

Long slow run

 

Recovery and/

or strength

 

 

Example

4 run

week

 

6x 1600m @ threshold pace (or 10km race pace)

 

 

Rest

 

 

6-8x 45s hills with 2-3mins walk recovery

 

75min run with

15min strength

(calf, gluts and

core)

20min row and core strength routine (planks, and bridges)

 

Long run

of 60-

150mins

 

 

Pilates class, walk and stretch

 

 

Week 2

 

 

Fartlek run

 

 

Rest

 

Speed session (1600-200m reps)

Cross-train (Row, cycle, swim etc) and Strength

 

 

Rest

 

Long slow run

 

 

Example

3 run

week

 

6 surges of 60-

180s with jog

recovery

 

 

Rest

 

2x 800m

3x 400m

2x 200m

 

20min cycle and strength (calf, gluts and core)

 

 

Rest

Long run

of 60-

150mins

Aqua recovery session and

10min core workout

You can use the above plan as a 7 run/fortnight or use Week 1 as the 4 run or Week 2 as the balanced 3 run week.

 

Program 2: For Experienced Runners (5-6 runs/week)

 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

 

 

Week 1

 

Speed session

Easy run with strides form drills and strength

 

Medium-long slow run

 

Threshold

runs or Fartlek

session

Rest Yoga, Pilates or strength

 

Long slow run

 

Recovery (Water session) and/or Pilates

 

 

Example

6 run

week

 

2x

1600m

2x 800m

3x 400m

3x 200m

 

30min run, 3x bounds, skips, and high knees.

1 leg Sq. lunges and planks

 

 

75-105mins

2min, 1min

3min, 1min

2min, 1min,

3min fast efforts

with equal

recovery

 

 

Rest day

 

Long run

of 90-

180mins

 

 

Pilates session

 

 

Week 2

 

Hill repeats

 

Strength or plyometrics

 

Medium- long slow or threshold run

 

 

Speed session

Rest Yoga, Pilates or strength

 

Long slow run

 

Recovery (Water session) and/or Pilates

 

Example

5 run

week

 

 

8x 60s

 

Leg strength circuit and form drills

8x 1600m

@ threshold

pace (1min

standing

recovery)

 

2x 800m

4x 400m

4x 200m

 

 

Yoga class

 

Long run

of 90-

180mins

 

Aqua recovery session and

10min core workout

You can use the above plan as an 11-run/fortnight or use Week 1 as the 6 run week, or Week 2 as the balanced 5 run week.

Some runners (especially many older master runners) require more recovery time between hard sessions so a 10 - or 4-day cycle provides more time between sessions for adequate recovery and allows them to balance training.

Optional Program: Masters Run (10 or 14 day cycle)

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

 

Tempo or threshold pace run

 

 

Rest

 

 

Hill repeats

Medium distance slow run with strength

 

Rest or Cross- train (Row, cycle, swim etc)

 

Long slow run

Aqua recovery and/or strength

 

Pilates or

core strength

session

 

 

Speed session

 

Rest or cross- train (Row, cycle, swim etc)

 

SPEED AND HILL SESSIONS

Speed sessions generally involve distances of 30 m up to 400 m. For the purpose of distance runners, however, we will look at the training benefits and adjust accordingly.

Speed sessions provide us with strong training stimulus that can’t be delivered through long runs, Fartlek or threshold runs. Speed sessions where we are working at 90-95% of maximum speed require powerful acceleration, fast turnover or leg speed and challenge the cardiovascular but more importantly the neuromuscular system. This requires us to recruit muscles faster and in greater amounts to complete the repetitions.

Focusing on speed also allows us to look more closely at running technique and incorporate drills such as skips, bounds and high knees which develop strength and speed throughout our range of running motion. The track is a perfect location to do your speed sessions but if you can’t access a track fast reps on a road or in a park can also be effective if the body is challenged appropriately.

With the aim of quick leg turnover we can adapt some hill, reps and interval sessions to provide the double benefit. The correct stimulus can be provided in a scale down interval workout (e.g. 1600 m, 800 m, 400 m, 200 m and 100 m) by increasing recovery time and the speed of the 200 m and 100 m efforts. Hill training can be utilised to double as a speed session and the inclines can provide a chance to build strength and stamina. Hill reps require us to increase our stride rate or turnover, stay on our toes and retain strong form. Short, fast hill repeats (10-90 seconds) with longer recoveries will build explosive pace and technique whereas longer hills with jogging recoveries will build stamina and leg strength.

THRESHOLD AND TEMPO RUNNING

Anaerobic threshold training involves running at a certain speed for moderate prolonged runs, usually about 80-85% of maximum pace. Physiologically it has benefits for the distance runners; the ‘comfortably hard’ pace is that place just below where you start to accumulate lactic acid (and increased fatigue). Running at your threshold allows your body to produce small doses of lactic acid without increasing fatigue and reducing running performance.

Threshold runs are mentally challenging but provide great physiological improvements to enable continuous race pace without producing premature fatigue. For the majority of runners this is the maximum pace you can sustain for 50-60 mins; quicker than the pace you can maintain for two hours, however, slightly slower than your 10 km race pace (except for beginners completing 10 km in 60 mins). A threshold run can be adapted by adding an easy run or a ‘float’ between runs; these are often known as ‘tempos’ or ‘cruise intervals’.

Tempo runs can be used to simulate longer runs with faster finishing segments. A tempo run with a quicker final 15-20 min will require you to keep your speed at goal pace despite fatigue. It is important to concentrate on key running techniques such as leg turnover, arm drive, looking ahead and relaxed shoulders, neck and head. Depending on the terrain and the purpose of the run other tempo runs can have a pace that fluctuates between easy, fast and intermediate in 10-20 min blocks.

FARTLEK RUNS AND INTERVALS

The Swedish word Fartlek translates as ‘speed play’ and involves altering your running speeds throughout a session by applying different interval lengths and speeds within a single training session. Fartlek differs to threshold and tempo runs due to the wide variance in speeds and durations.

Interval training is often referred to as tempos, reps and even occasionally Fartlek. The varied nature of Fartlek, however, separates it from regular intervals. Generally intervals are fast efforts of 800 m to 3000 m or last no more than five minutes. Intervals are run at speeds faster than your five km race pace with recovery periods equal to or less than the running intervals.

LONG DISTANCE

Long distance running forms the backbone of many distance running programs. It is important to run slower than your marathon race pace (30-90s/km) otherwise the load on the body and required recovery time will limit other training in the week. Long runs provide physiological adaptations such as increased oxygen carrying capacity and muscle capillary density for utilising fat as a fuel. Distance running is also a strong component in mental preparation as it teaches you how to push through perceived barriers and states of excitement, fatigue and doubt.

Preparation and recovery are the keys to long distance running; plan a route that suits your training goal. It is also important to plan your nutrition strategy, especially for runs greater than 90 mins; running two or three hours without drinks, gels or other food can lead to reduced performance and injury. Not only are the risks of dehydration very real but the reduced running speed, slower leg turnover, increased ground contact time and failing technique can lead to increased risk of injury.

Distance runs of more than 90 mins require both fluids and energy. Preparation runs are a great opportunity to perfect some of your racecraft by trialling gels, lollies, other food options and mastering your fluid intake. Drinking enough throughout a long run at regular intervals without overdoing it requires practise and personalisation. Whether you use a water bottle belt, stop at bubblers or leave drinks on route beforehand you can use your long runs to master your strategy. Recovery is also vital to reap the full benefits of long runs. Long duration runs can cause dehydration, deplete energy reserves and the repeated impact can lead to sore joints and muscles. Sleep and passive recovery strategies are very important.

RECOVERY STRATEGIES

All physiological adaptations occur during the recovery period between sessions; recovery truly is the key to successful running. Recovery can be undertaken in a variety of ways but ideally include:

·         Sleep, rest and relaxation

·         Post training nutrition

·         Light intensity recovery sessions

·         Yoga or light stretching sessions

·         Aqua sessions

·         Non-weight bearing exercise

·         Self Myofascial Release (SMR)

·         Massage

·         Ice baths or ice massage

Endurance runners are at increased risk of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI) and other illnesses during times of hard training, particularly during winter when training in cold, dry air. Following a hard training our immune system is inhibited for a short period making us vulnerable to illnesses, often resulting in a niggling cold or sore throat.

Other signs of overtraining include fatigue, irritability, inability to concentrate and persistent niggling injuries. If you are experiencing these it might be best to alter your next training or skipped it entirely. Replacing the training session with one or more of the above recovery sessions will allow the body to catch up to the heavy training load.

STRENGTH TRAINING

Strength training plays an important role in a complete program for runners, especially amateur runners who have more to gain. Research has shown that strength training can provide benefits such as improved coordination between groups of muscles, improved balance at specific joints and more efficient central nervous system control. These can all improve running efficiency and help prevent injuries.

These top six exercises can be used in a stand-alone training session or following a run to boost your running:

·         One legged squats

·         Lunges

·         Calf raises

·         One legged planks

·         Hamstring curls (with a Swiss ball)

·         Hip extensions (or bridges)

·         One leg hip extensions

Similar to all other exercise strength training should progress gradually. The greatest benefit for runners can be seen in plyometric strength training; plyometrics, however, are very challenging and should be done progressively. You could consider initially removing one of your quality sessions until you see how you recover from the strength sessions.

 

RACECRAFT

Incorporating race strategies, routines and sports nutrition into your racecraft really deserves its own article. It is important, however, to highlight its importance in a balanced plan; we need to take the opportunity to practise and master these elements in training runs before competition. Tempo or race pace runs provide valuable practice at your goal pace while long runs are ideal for perfecting your race nutrition. If you are familiar with the course of your next event incorporate elements into your Fartlek or interval sessions and use some of your race strategies (surges, hills, cruising pace) into your training; stick to the mantra of making sure every training run serves a purpose.

Finally, make the most of the habitual patterns many runners seem to value and practice. Breakfast on race day and night-before meals are important to get right to ensure you are comfortable while competing. Practice really does make perfect!

 

 


Source Url: http://www.fitnesspromag.com/Features/tabid/4741/entryid/1110/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Running.aspx

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