Monday, July 21, 2008

Building Blocks

The Cool Running / Active.Com article about building up your base mileage and avoiding a training plateau (the point at which your body adapts to a normal routine and improvement ceases) is worthy of some examination. Understanding the basic principle - keep your body guessing - is a key element to getting into good shape. Like most things, if you repeat an action over and over again, you evolve. You become more efficient and it takes less "work" on your part to get the job done.

There are a couple different types of runs to throw into a schedule to keep your body guessing. This variety should be in addition to cross training because even if you are varying your runs, you are still running. Resistance training, biking, elliptical, swim and other sports have their own added benefits.

The article bullet points Six Types of Runs

* Fartlek (for speed and pace)
* Hills (for strength)
* Tempo Runs (for speed and pace)
* Intervals (for speed)
* The Long Run (for endurance)
* Easy run (for recovery)

Three of these runs are easy to distinguish.

The Long Run is the run that doubles, triples or quadruples the mileage of a weekday run. At this point in my training, a long run consists of 12-16 miles. I used to consider a long run 6-8 miles When I begin training for the AR50 in April, a long run will be more like 25-35 miles. Point is, it's all relative. What's important is how you execute it --- nice and easy. Slow. Conversational pace. 1-2 minutes slower than your race pace.

The Easy Run is also known as a lactic acid run because its meant for recovery. Get your blood circulating and get your heart pumping, but there is no goal for improving your speed or strength. This is a very mental run, in that, you not only have to keep yourself slow, but you should also avoid looking at your watch too much. Just enjoy the run for what it is.

Hills are a great way to improve all around performance, I think. They strengthen your quads, your fast-twitch muscles, and like all high-intensity, quick workouts, they stimulate the production of HGH (Human growth hormone) which evidence has shown is like a "fountain of youth" hormone. Hills also help you develop that "kick" at the end of the run. Short bursts of speed uphill make that final, short burst of speed at the end of the race achievable.

The other three running workouts are a little more nuanced.

Fartlek Runs are the training sessions I associate with childhood running. You run outside and use fixed points in the distance to mark different intervals. You speed up until you hit that point, then run slow until you get to another, then speed up again, then slow down ... etc. You vary the distance between points from .1 miles to .6 and the same goes for the rests. You are really keeping your body guessing by varying the pace too. You can fluctuate your sprints from 80% effort to 60% to 100% and the same with the rests, too. Mentally this is a refreshing run because you concentrate so much on what's ahead of you that you don't feel like you are plodding along in boredom.

Intervals are just like fartlek runs except that the distances at mark the intervals are consistent throughout the run. Yasso 800s are a good example of intervals. You sprint 800 meters (1/2 mile) then recover for .1 miles. This interval is repeated X amount of times, and X increase by one repetition each week. Another interpretation of intervals is the sort of intervals used in a long run, or in an ultra training program. You run for a a certain amount of minutes (9 or so) and then walk for a certain amount of minutes (1 or so). So for every ten minutes of running, you have a minute of walking built it. This is a great way to ward off fatigued muscles without compromising your performance/time too much.

Tempo are fairly simple in concept. Run the first half of your workout slower than your second half. If I have a 6 mile tempo run, I will run the first 3 miles at a steady pace, say 9:00/mile, and try to run the second half of the run at 8:59/mile or faster. It's almost mindless, but it can be quite a challenge and it teaches you not only to not go out too fast, but also to really dig in during the second half of the run.

Personally, I use 4-5 of these 6 runs (the spontaneity of fartlek runs does not jive with my personality), and I've seen improvement over the last two years, especially from incorporating tempo runs. But also, it's important that you don't forget that running is fun. And adding in all of this structure and technique will help you improve, but it isn't necessary if you are just looking for a good workout. The structure shouldn't add stress, it should add guidance.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

there is also talk of deiting taking on this form of intervals and such- so your body can't get used to one calorie count. It's eat one day (no restrictions), eat 1/2 of the calories the next. Maybe a good idea- but i like my consistent three-four meals a day.