As many of you read the title of this you are probably thinking "but coach that's a race and not a workout ???" And you are correct a time trial is a race but there is an added benefit to racing this particular distance as a workout as well. So let's cover the basics first. First of all racing too often can lead to burnout and poor performances in the end of the season or post season when it really matters so we have to keep this in mind to not race too often and too early. That being said there is a benefit we get from every race we run. Each time you race you you learn to pace better and learn to adjust many aspects of your racing. How fast can you start and not die out? How early can you start to sprint to get the best possible time? And more! Learning to race is key to those big races in the future.
So all that being said why should we do a 2 mile time trial as a workout? The key factor here is that at this distance most runners will run at the exact pace to work one of our systems we are always taking about. In previous articles we spoke about VO2Max and how doing 1K or 800 meter reps are a great way to work that system and improve your running overall. What occurs at the 2 mile distance is that racing all out will produce the same effect. When you race 2 miles you are running at Vo2Max and getting an additional training benefit added on to the other benefits we discussed. Now word of caution is don't over use this as a workout but know that its an alternative to through in to break up the routine. The benefit I should mention is that doing this early in the season will give you a gauge for how preseason work is going and allow you to make any adjustments. This gives you a baseline as well to measure your season improvement. So how do you put this all together? Here is how:
2 Mile Easy pace warm-up
2 Mile Time Trial
3-4 mile Easy Run afterwards
Finals notes is that I like to add some mileage afterwards as this is still a workout day and one item you can add as well is some short 200 meter strides after the to work on speed on tired legs. More on that in a future article.
So that's not a typo. HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is a relatively new method to train distance runners but it's actually been around for quite some time. We have adapted this training from the weightlifting community. Weightlifters would put on more weight lift with much more intensity but less reps total and longer recovery in between. They found this produced bigger gains that the less weight and more reps. The concept is tried and true and as we mentioned around for a long time but what we have seen the last few years is this same concept adapted towards not only sprint runners and jumpers which makes sense but also for longer distance runners. Early on there was some resistance to this move and hesitation that it was the wrong way to go. I will include myself in this category as it challenged our traditional way of thinking in the distance world. As we learned more about the benefits of HIIT I became more convinced that not only is it a good training method but should be incorporated as a common and core component of any distance training program.
So what are these benefits we keep talking about? Before I answer this let me clarify that HIITs are not for everyone. You need to have a a solid base of endurance running and even have done some more traditional speed workouts before adding HIITs. What I mean by traditional is AT work, 400 repeats, 800 intervals, etc. All of this will make sure your body is prepared not only to not get injured but also gain the full benefits of these workouts. The benefits are as follows. First of all HIITs like it's weightlifting counterpart makes the muscles stronger but the muscles I'm speaking of is the heart and in general the cardiovascular system. HIITs will ensure it is much stronger and therefore able to pump more blood to the through the body and in particular to the "running" muscles meaning your legs etc. Remember more blood means more oxygen, more oxygen means faster running. The next benefit is that those "running" muscles themselves get better at using the oxygen being delivered by the blood. What's the point of receiving more oxygen if your muscle can't use it. Finally HIITS also provides a benefit of improving your stride. Your stride will become more efficient as the coordination between your central nervous system and those "running" muscles improves and provides a quicker cadence and more fluid running form.
So let's put this into practice. First of all as always make sure you do a proper warm-up of 1-2 miles of Easy pace running. You should have a leg swing drill or other similar drills to do before any speed workout but especially these type of higher intensity bouts. The most straight forward workouts is to do 6 100 meter reps all out but with 2-3 minutes of recovery in between. Recovery can be walking or jogging but no standing for that time only. That can lead to tightness and possible injury. As you get more comfortable with these increase the number of reps and the distance of the reps but no longer than 300 meters. You can also reduce the recovery time but no lower than 1 minute. After of course do a cool-down of 2 miles of Easy pace running. Now that being said my favorite variation of HIITs is to do it blind. Ok just to clarify I do NOT mean to put on a blindfold or close your eyes what I mean is that you are not aware of the distance of the rep. You need a coach or a partner that will help you with this and a good loud whistle. Runners jog around the track and and at 1 whistle blow they run all out without knowing when the rep will end. Could be 8 sec could be 30 seconds it will vary. When the coach decides they will blow the whistle 2 times and go into a slow jog or even walk. Recovery should be at least double of the hard effort. Then the whistles blows once again for go! Do this for only 5-15 min total but offers a great workout on its own or an add-on to other interval work. The reason I like these is that it adds on more benefit to the list. Developing your runners brain muscles is just as important as the other muscles. This makes a runner more mental strong and prepared to handle anything on the track or road.
Here is what a typical HIIT workout would look like:
2 miles warm-up at Easy pace
with 3 min recovery of walking or jogging in between
2 Miles cool-down at Easy pace
Hope you found this helpful and as always best of luck chasing your running dreams!
Aerobic Threshold (AT) workouts or Tempo as they are commonly referred to are in my opinion one of the biggest weapon a coach has to train any level of distance runners from Marathoners to even 800 meter runs this workout is critical. Now don't let the debate on whether Tempo and Aerobic Threshold runs are the same or slightly different we can get into that later in future articles for now lets focus on how to run a true Aerobic Threshold (AT) workout why its so helpful to fully develop a distance runner.
Aerobic Threshold workouts can be done in many variations from ones broken into pieces to the more traditional ones but for the sake of today's article we will focus on the traditional AT runs. Keep in mind these are not to be used with runners that have just started to run regardless of age. You need at least a solid 2-3 months of consistent training before these should be introduced an even then should be done gradually. As an introduction to this workout or any other form of speed workouts its a good idea to through in workouts such as fartleks a few weeks before. These will get the runners comfortable with more aggressive pacing but in short burst that are achievable and encouraging. We will cover fartleks in the future as well for those that are not familiar with them.
So why should we do AT runs as part of our training cycle? We are already doing Vo2Max and hill repeats and interval speed training so why do we need this workout as part of our arsenal? These workouts focus on a particular system that is critical to any distance runner. There is a point in your pace where once you speed up to that pace you start to significantly buildup lactate which will cause a runner to slow down. The key of this workout is to push that threshold or imaginary line more and more so that as a runner you can run farther at a faster pace before that buildup causes the slowing. Lactate is a simple a by-product of metabolism that is natural and part of a healthy individual body's reaction but too much of it will slow a runner so we do these AT workouts to increase that point where lactate starts to overwhelm the muscles.
Now to put this knowledge to use in training. As any speed workouts this should be done with a 1-2 mile warm-up at Easy pace to start. The AT run should be done in an area where you can safely run without crossing streets or other area where you would need to stop and disrupt the workout. A trail or a large street loop where you don't have to cross a street by turning right each time at each corner to make a square loop. You may need to do the loop multiple times to reach the planned distance or time. You can even do this on a track but I will warn you its mentally tougher to do that but that in itself is anther topic for a future discussion. The AT run typical should be 20 to 30 min so depending you your ability it will be anywhere from 3 to 6 miles. For those training for 8K and below there is no need to go much longer but those training 10K or especially Half and Full Marathon should build up to doing 8-12 miles of AT workouts. Here is the critical part. Make sure you are doing this at the right pace. Too fast and you will not improve you threshold as you will be going anaerobic and too slow you will not get the benefit to push that threshold up. Use our WAR Training pace calculator to find your correct pace based on your most recent 5K or other similar race distance. Once you calculate based on that time look at the "tempo pace: and use this. If you don't have a good race to use to calculate this pace use this rule of thumb. The run should feel "control hard" meaning you can hold that pace for a while but its difficult. Or do the talk test. If you are asked a question you could answer yes or no but not hold any long conversation at that pace
Now to put this all together and place it correctly in your training cycle. Do an AT workout about every 2 to 3 weeks. Now this varies depending on many factors but its a good rule of thumb. I've used them weekly training for a marathon and every 3 weeks training runners for a 3200 meter race. If at all possible don't but this workout back to back with other hard days and definitely not too close to an upcoming race. It takes a good 3-5 days to recovery from this workout and longer than most other speed workouts. As always do these with a warm-up and with a proper cool-down 1-2 miles for each. Make sure pace is even on these runs and no kicking at the end to make up time it takes you anaerobic and our of the systems zone we are trying to improve. Here is what this workout might look like:
2 mile warm-up at Easy pace
4 miles at AT Pace
2 mile cool-down at Easy pace
As always best of luck and enjoy!
This week on our Wednesday workouts we will tackle the question of speed. To be more clear and specific we are not talking about overall speed which of course is the goal of any speed workout. Here we will be talking about the specific "pure speed" While other forms of workouts like Threshold workouts focus on building your tolerance to run faster longer before building up lactate or VO2Max workouts that build your bodies ability to utilize a higher percentage of oxygen, these target you bodies ability to turn the legs over faster for a short period of time. This translates to your ability to run a 100 meter for example faster than before.
Some of you may be asking why we care how fast we can run a 100 meter race if we are training for a 5K or half marathon? The answer lies in not having limiting factors. For example, if you can only run a 100 meters in what equates to a 5:00 min mile no mater how much you train all the other systems you will never run faster than a 5:00 min mile. You are in fact limiting your potential by having one running system remain weak. Pure Speed workouts focus on your fast-twitch fibers in your leg muscles and the central nervous system. First, as you do these workouts you are directly targeting and exercising the fast-twitch muscle fibers which don't see of lot of work on long and easy runs. Normally after 90 min or so the body may recruit them to help and they do get worked but outside of that they are not being developed. As these get stronger they will be available to even a distance runner during surges and especially in final sprints that could decide a race.
The biggest benefit of these pure speed workouts is the impact they have to the central nervous system. Specifically how the nervous system responds to you foot hitting the ground with each step and being able to quickly lift the foot back up for the next step. The longer you take to respond in this manner the longer the foot stays on the ground and the more braking or slowing action occurs with ever single step a runner takes. If you can picture a foot striking the ground as it does so we are technical slowing down until we push off again and lift the foot so the more we roll our foot and spend on the ground the slower we will run. Its easier said than done to say we will run with quick steps. It takes practice not just for the muscles but for the nervous system. This will increase your cadence (steps per minute) and increase your overall speed for any race.
So knowing this how do we go about incorporating these into our training regiment. I will tell you that on the surface these may seem like relatively easy workouts. For example when I say 6x150 many of you are thinking "I've done 6x1 mile or 8x800 before this should be easy!" We'll before you consider this an easy day and go away smiling consider the intensity levels. In order for your fast-twitch fibers to be engaged you need to run these pretty much all out 98-100% effort level. This will put your body firming above the anaerobic stage and tax your entire system in a manner that as distance runners we are not used to. Another factor that is very foreign to distance runners is the recovery time between reps. These are not strides where you do one and turn around and do the next one. These are full efforts then a 3-5 min recovery before you do the next one and so on. So 6x150 may take over 30 min to complete.The reason for the longer recoveries is to allow your fast-twitch fiber to recover receive oxygen and be ready to be used again.If they are not your distance minded body will natural rely on your slow-twitch fibers and you will not be working the right set of fibers and or systems. The last instruction is that the 150 only 100 of it is run at top speed. The first 30 is used to accelerate while the last 20 is used to decelerate. We are not sprinters and there is no need explode out of blocks in a race so we gradually build up speed and get into full stride with out risking pulling anything like a hamstring in that first 30. The last 20 we don't just stop as that can lead to shin splints or other issue we slowly decelerate to a stop in 20 meters.
Here is what a typical workout will look like:
1 mile warm-up
6x150 (30 accelerate/ 100 full speed/ 20 decelerate)
3-5 minute recoveries (no running but no standing around)
1-2 mile cool down
Optional if you are short of overall mileage for that day you can throw in a full run after but must be at easy pace so 3-6 miles Easy if you need to is an option.
Time once again to look at another workout that will help you take your running to the next level. One of the key systems that any distance runner needs to improve is Vo2Max. This is the ability for you body to utilize oxygen as it enters your lungs. While we use some of it a large amount of oxygen goes unused and exhaled with the next breathe. The measurement of Vo2Max is the amount of oxygen that a runner can utilize during intense running such as a race. The more you can use the more ATP a runner can produce and the faster you can run. Now don't confuse this with Lactate threshold which is the point at which the runners body during intense running begins to build up lactate levels which eventually will slow you. The issue for today is how do we improve Vo2Max. There is no magic spell or pill. It will take some hard work and for some of you a change in your routines. If you haven't done any form of speed work and have been doing easy/long runs for awhile you more than likely have improved but might have seen that the improvement is much more gradual now if at all. You need to add speed work which come in many forms to improve more than just your endurance. Vo2Max is just one of the other systems and here is how to improve your running through bouts of Vo2Max workouts. Ideally you will have run a 5K or other race recently so that you can use that time to calculate the correct pace to run these workouts. Its best to find a track or a well measure loop to do these but even a trail or area where you can run 1000 meters without traffic lights will work. We will assume for now that you are on a track. 1K or 1000 meters is 2.5 laps on a standard track. You may be asking why such a strange distance 2.5 laps instead of 2 or 3? This has to do with finding a distance that has you run at that intensity for the correct amount of time. If the distance is too short and you are too fast you will not get the correct workout and if the distance is too far you will not run at the right pace to improve this system. Ideally for a Vo2Max workout you will run between 2.5 min to 5 min at the Vo2Max intensity level. So doing 800's for some runners will have them running in under 2:30 so that too short. for others running 1200 or 1600 repeats will have them taking 6 or 7 min so that's too far. 1K's tend to be the happy medium where most runners can stay within the 2.5 o 5 min range. Now what pace producing the correct intensity. This is where your recent 5K comes in or any race you ran recently. Plug that into our training pace calculator and look at the pace you get for Vo2Max. Now look below at the pace chart and see what that time you should be hitting for each of your 1K repeats. So 2 items lets to figure out. How many reps to do and how much recovery between each rep. For this type of workout you should be around 2 to 5 miles of intensity meaning 4 to 8 reps of the 1K effort. Typical workout is 5 x 1K but as you get stronger build up to 8 in time. Recovery between each should be equal time of the hard effort it varies per runner. if it took you 3:45 to run the 1K then recovery for 3:45 as well. Now notice I said recover not rest. So don't stand still for that time. If you do you will get cold and stiff and not perform well on the next one. Run a 400 meter(1 lap) very slowly during that time. then go again! Don't forget to warm up with 1-2 miles of running and cool down with at least 1 mile of easy running. These workout tend to leave you more sore and tight compared to regular easy days so make sure you have a cool down routine such as the Myrtl routine as part of what you do post workout. So here is an example:
Runner that can run a 17:30 5K would look at training pace calculator and see that for Vo2Max he/she should be running at 5:27 pace for the 1K repeats. If you look below the chart you will see that 5:27 pace translate to hitting about a 3:24 per 1K rep. So here it is:
2 mile warmup
5x1K @Vo2Max (3:24 per 1K) with 3:30 recovery of slow jogging for a 400 meter lap in between each one
2 mile cool down
Best of luck and go chase your running dreams!
Every Wednesday we will highlight some training technique or a particular workout including visiting some local teams or clubs to talk to them about what they do. Today I want to focus on what I consider one of the most under appreciated and overlooked workouts in a distance runners arsenal, Hill Repeats. If done correctly they can make you stronger, faster, more explosive, and even improve your overall running form! Hill repeats can be done many different ways but all fall into 2 variations. Short Hills and Long Hills. Short hill repeats consist of finding a hill 4% to 7% grade about 100 to 150 meters in length. I know its very hard to know what 4% to 7% looks like so it should be steeper than the long hills we will discuss in a bit but not so steep you have a hard time walking up it not to mention running fast up them. These are relatively short and the effort last about 15 to 30 seconds so they are run almost all out. Lets say around 90% to 95% of an all out sprint. You are going anaerobic (lack of oxygen) meaning you should reach the top very much out of breathe. Run these but building up the first 10-20 meters then working to full speed. Focus on good uphill running form. Short, quick, powerful strides with arms a bit higher then normal and head in neutral position meaning facing straight forward. Eyes are key on these keep your eyes focused on the top of this hill not looking at the ground. This will keep your form intact and keep your mind focused on the correct effort. Near the top of the hill make sure you do not slow down but if anything pick up the pace at what we call the "crest" of the hill as it flattens out run through the top as it flattens out. This will prepare you for great racing strategy to blast past your opponents not on the hill itself but on the crest and right after. More on this in some racing strategy blog entries. Long hill repeats are similar to short hills but of course longer =-) I like to make these 400 meters but you can go with anything 300 to 500 meters. Much longer and you will lose the ability to run them correctly. Much shorter you will not gain the additional benefits of the long vs short hill repeats. Run these very similar to the short hills except your effort needs to be slightly lower about 85% to 90% with the first half a little slower and a pickup at the mid way point. Very much drive the last section and run over the crest with aggressiveness. While the short hills will give you true power and explosiveness overall not just for a finishing kick the long hills will give you power and speed endurance again not just in longer hilly courses but even on flat races. There is a mental factor to long hills that is often over looked. Push up a 1/4 of a mile hill faster than you will during a race will make kicking on a flat 400 meters seem easy or running any hill seem like just another day at the office! As far as number of reps that will vary but for short hills 12 to 20 while on the long hills 6 to 10 will do it for a great workout! Recovery for both is a slow jog back down the hill regroup for 10 sec once down and go again! Don't forget at least a 2 mile warm-up run at easy pace and 2 miles cool-down easy as well. Give this workout a try and provide feedback or ask question anytime! As always go chase those running dreams and enjoy!
Coach Rojas has 11 combined years of coaching experience at various levels including coaching a high school D1 State finalist team and 3 years in a row of a top 10 state ranking. He is passionate of the sport of running and loves to see new runners take up the sport! He wants to share a lifetime of running experience to all