Building Blocks of Distance Running (Part 1)

 

Distance running is an aerobic (endurance) activity. Everyone knows that.

 

What everyone does not know however, is that training to improve running performance includes more than just stepping out your door and going for a run. Unfortunately, may recreational runners do just that. There is nothing inherently wrong with that - you are exercising and that is of the most importance.

 

If you like to run just for the fun of it and don't care how fast your run, then good for you. I commend you for doing what most people will not do. However, if you want to improve your running performance, are tired of doing the same thing everyday and want to break the monotony, or want to learn about the building blocks of distance running, then I urge you to continue reading.  

 

In Part 1 of this series, I will break down three of the seven building blocks that create the whole distance running foundation.

 

Easy Run

 

Easy runs would seem to most people the least important part of the building blocks, however I would tag the easy run as the most important of them all. Easy runs, or recovery runs should make up the bulk of your training (if you are running more than 3 days per week).

 

Easy runs are often overlooked in favor of more harder efforts. I would advise against this approach as this will lead to injuries, burnout, etc. Your body needs a chance to rest in between your hard efforts, so give it the rest it needs. You don't have to take a day off after every workout, but make sure you are recovering by running easy.

 

The easy (recovery) run is the most important piece of a training plan if you want to reap the benefits of your hard efforts, continue to progress, and stay injury-free.

 

Fartlek

 

If you have never heard the word "fartlek" thrown around when someone is talking about running, well, then you should open your ears.

 

Seriously though, this will probably be your favorite new word and possibly your new favorite workout.

 

A fartlek is basically a speed workout, but with a lot less structure. Typically when running a fartlek workout, you begin by running at an easy pace for 10-15 minutes, then start to insert bursts of speed throughout the remainder of the run. These "bursts" can be of any length you wish and of any speed you wish. After completing the faster running, continue running at an easy pace before starting your next burst.

 

One way you can go about completing a fartlek is to pick various landmarks and use them throughout your run as points where you will start your faster running and where you will end your faster running.

 

The idea is to run based on feel, not overdoing it, but to get in some work at speeds faster than your easy run pace, and to learn how to run at varied speeds.  

 

These training runs are meant to be fun, uncomplicated, and easy to do anywhere.

 

 

Tempo


Tempo runs are probably the most mis-understood type of running training.

 

Most of the time, the purpose of a tempo run is to improve a runner's lactate threshold. What is lactate threshold?

 

Lactate threshold refers to the running intensity in which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the bloodstream.

 

Runners want to push back the point in which this happens to be able to work as close as possible to their VO2 max without suffering from lactic acid buildup.

 

So how do you do that?

 

You practice running at your lactate threshold. That is exactly what a tempo run is - practice running at the point where lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood so that your body becomes more efficient at clearing it.

 

So to perform a rempo run, begin running easily, then as you warm up, gradually begin to accelerate until you reach a peak pace that is about 15-20 seconds slower than what would be your pace in a 10-K race. Hold this pace for a total of 10-20 minutes.

 

That's it! Simple enough right?

 

Now, there are such things as tempo intervals in which you run at the same pace for a shorter duration of time, but for more reps - which increases the amount of time you spend at your lactate threshold. (For example: 5x1 mile at lactate threshold pace would allow you to spend more time at that pace then a 20 min run at that same pace).

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this two part series. Stay tuned for the second part of the Building Blocks of Distance Running, in which we will talk about long runs, hills, intervals, and strength training.

 

Till next time,

 

Michael

 

 

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