Running workouts are a must if you want to improve your speed and achieve your running goals. Joe Muldowney, a competitive runner and coach, gives us the low-down on the most common running workouts and how they can help you.
How to Take Your Running to the Next Level
To most non-runners, a common perception about our sport is that we simply lace up our running shoes and go out for a run, or a “jog.”
As we progress in our running, we aim higher, enter races of varying distances, and of course, seek to improve our times. In order to do so, we must incorporate much more than “jogging” into our daily workout regimen.
There are several different types of running workouts that will help you improve your technique, while making you stronger and faster.
By adding these types of workouts to your training schedule, you will become a better runner, and your race times will plummet.
‘AT’- Aerobic Threshold Workout
For example, if you are comfortably running your workouts at a 6-minute per kilometer pace, try dropping, at least a portion of them, to a 5-minute 30 second per kilometer pace.
This type of running workout will instruct the muscles to work harder, use oxygen more efficiently, and produce less lactic acid. Put simply, AT training will allow you to run faster, with less pain.
Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning “speed play.” It involves running at a varied pace.
To complete a successful Fartlek session, you need to make sure you incorporate running at different paces. You will need a mixture of slow running, running at a moderate pace, and short, fast bursts.
The variations in recovery and intensity that a Fartlek session provides can burn more calories and increase your oxygen capacity. This will reduce the time you need to recover.
Fartlek workouts can be fun and less intense than other hard workout sessions.
Running workouts using hills require you to first find a hill, around 100 to 200 meters in length. You should then run up it hard, but not at full strength.
It is important to make sure that you concentrate on your form. You should lean a little more forward on your forefoot, look straight ahead (do not look down), and use your arms to power your legs.
Once you get to the top, slowly jog back down the hill.
Do this for four to eight repeats.
Anyone I have ever coached or written a personalized running program for, knows that I believe interval training is the cornerstone of training for any race distance.
Interval training consists of short, fast repeats, from 200 meters, to 3200 meters (depending on your race distance), run at race pace or faster. Intervals should be done using a strict, rigid format.
For example, if one is running a 4×800 meter interval workout, the 800 meters is run at a pace as fast, or faster than the pace for the race you are training for.
Upon completion of the first 800 meters, jog an interval of half the distance, in this case, 400 meters.
Physiologically, you do not want your heart rate to return to resting pace. It needs to remain slightly elevated, simulating racing conditions.
Interval workouts are never easy, but they are the best method of building speed and endurance.
This is a specific type of interval session, where you go up and down the “ladder”. The interval workout above describes fast repeats of the same distance followed by an interval jog of half the distance.
A ladder workout is different as the the distance of the fast repeats gets progressively longer and then reduces. For example, for a ladder workout, you could run something like 200, 400, 800, 400, and 200 meters. The interval jog will still be half the distance of each fast repeat.
A tempo run is a sustained effort training run, usually 5K to 8K in length, run at about 15-30 seconds slower than race pace. A tempo run is not as fast as an interval workout, but it is faster than a daily training pace. I suggest jogging slowly both before and after your tempo effort.
Quality Long Run
A lot of runners believe that simply completing a long run for a half or full marathon is sufficient. And, if you are running your initial half or full, that is true.
But, if your goal is to improve your marathon or half marathon time, then you should run your long runs at a faster pace. I suggest running around a minute slower than your marathon pace in the initial phase of your training, then getting within about 30 seconds of your target marathon pace as you approach your race.
By doing so, you are training yourself, both physically and mentally for the rigors of a long distance race.
About Joe Muldowney
Joe Muldowney is an accomplished runner who has been involved in competitive long distance running for 40 years. His vast experience has enabled him to coach several running teams and he now provides a one-on-one coaching service.
During his running career he has run 54 marathons, 51 of which have been under 3 hours. His best marathon time is 2:22:54, and, at age 57, he ran the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon in a time of 2:58:56. The Boston Marathon is a particular favourite – he has completed this an impressive 16 times. Marathons aside, he has run more than 1000 road races, and logged over 123,000 miles.
Joe is also the author of the book “Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes” and his latest book is, “Personal Best.”