What are some running workouts that truly work? It is a question that many people will answer in different ways.
One of the best ways to improve your running is to continue to implement different running workouts into your weekly training routine.
The old saying, if you keep doing what your doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting. If you have been doing the same running routine and not getting the results possibly this post is for you.
The key is to continue to be creative with your training. It is a great way to stay motivated in 2013 and during the colder winter months.
I’ll admit it takes some initiative to take risks and do something different. The long held idea that long slow running was the answer to running a great marathon. This isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
Does long slow running have it’s place?
Absolutely, but as we move toward aiming for specific running goals the more these key running workouts come into play, the more you should consider them.
I wanted to share a few of my favorite running workouts that I have used in the past and continue to implement into my current training that you can use in yours.
1. 60-minute fartlek run
My favorite running workout involving fartleks is a 60-minute run involving running 1 minute at hard effort followed with 1 minute of easy running.
This is a very demanding anaerobic workout but have found to be one of the best workouts you can add into your training routine that will pay you back ten fold come race day.
Come on Nate, I am a 5K runner. How is a 60-minute fartlek workout going to help me?
One, it is going to dramatically increase your lactate tolerance and you will be running over double the distance you will be racing at.
How is 3.1 miles going to be an issue with you now?
I talked with a group of Soldiers yesterday about this. The Army has a component of our Physical Fitness test where Soldiers have to do a 2-mile run all-out. One of the Soldiers asked me, ‘will running farther help me improve my 2-mile time’?
My answer was obvious, yes, as you gradually increase your long run out to, say, 10 to 15 miles, what is a 2-mile run going to be for you?
You want to get accustomed to running your race distance at or below the pace you want to hold in your running workouts.
2. Five, repeat 2-miles on the track
There was a question brought up by one of the Soldiers I spoke to yesterday. What workouts would you recommend to help improve VO2Max?
VO2max is basically an individuals maximum oxygen delivery capacity during intense running workouts and races.
The problem with these types of workouts, as I told the Soldiers yesterday is, they hurt.
These anaerobic workouts not only create a lactic acid adaptation but they teach the body to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more FTM recruitment created the more economical (efficient) you are going to run at race speeds.
The problem is dealing with lactic acid and the discomfort that comes from running at higher sustained efforts. To add insult to injury, you are with less oxygen at these speeds. Know this, you will adapt, if you are patient enough.
What pace should I run these workouts at?
It depends on what race distance you are preparing for.
If you are training for a marathon and your goal is to hold 6.00 pace (2.37.00) for the distance, doing 5, 2-mile repetitions at 12.00 each really isn’t going to produce a dramatic result.
You are only spending 10 miles at race pace effort and this includes breaks in between.
Keep in mind you want to hold 6.00 pace for 26.2 miles, ten miles isn’t going to cut it.
Let’s change this up now.
Say, this same athlete wants to hold 5.30 pace for the half-marathon distance and decides to do the same workout at 5.20 pace or around 40 seconds per mile faster then goal marathon pace.
Five, two-mile repetitions at 10.40 each means the athlete is spending a total of 10 miles at 40 seconds per mile faster then goal race pace. This is key. You want to get to a point where race pace feels like just your average every day easy run. Exceeding race pace in workouts will create this effect, if you are patient.
You will be teaching your body to burn fat and speeds relative to the speeds you are wanting to hold at goal marathon race pace. In addition, you will be teaching yourself to conserve carbohydrates and recruiting more fast twitch muscle fibers doing these hard, anaerobic workouts.
3. Three, 5-mile repetitions at goal marathon race pace
This is one of my favorite running workouts in that it breaks up trying to hold an entire 15 mile run at goal marathon race pace.
If the idea of doing your long runs at goal marathon race pace (90-95% max effort) intimidates you, then consider breaking your long run up into segments such as this.
I practiced this method while training in colorado springs and it works.
You can break a 20-mile run into a 2-mile warmup, implement this workout in the middle of it, with a mile cool-down. What do you get, a 21-mile run with 15 miles at goal race pace.
You will, I guarantee, get results by implementing this workout into your long runs.
I would not recommend doing this every weekend. Try doing one long easier run one week followed by a more specific marathon workout the following week.
Remember, recovery must be taken seriously to get the most give-back to your body. There is no way around it, you will be doing yourself a disservice by not being as disciplined on your easy days and backing off, as you are on your hard days.
Everything in moderation.
Hurt, rest, adapt!
4. 25x400m repetitions
This is probably my least favorite of all the running workouts I do.
I don’t like it but I like getting into a race and being able to react to my competition.
I do like that.
If you are training for a half-marathon I would advise doing each quarter on the track around 30 seconds per mile faster then goal half-marathon race pace.
For example, if I am aiming to hold 8.00 mile pace for the half-marathon, I would do each quarter on the track around 1.52 per rep with a 2-minute rest recovery early in your training session, then gradually dropping your rest recoveries but maintaining effort.
If you a runner wants to train properly for the 10K doing these reps at goal race pace works well. It is painful but you have to get accustomed to the pace you are wanting to race at.
There are no short cuts.
5. 20-mile run at a heart rate of 160 beats per minute
This is the one workout that has done more for me then any other workout I do. Running at a heart rate of 160 beats per minute means you are spending anywhere from an hour and 50 minutes to over 2 hours at or around 75-90% of your max heart rate.
I do this workout religiously. That being said, I don’t normally do this every weekend. I will alternate one weekend with a harder long run followed with the next long run at a much easier pace.
Lisa Rainsberger, the last American female to win the Boston Marathon and my professional coach of three years, taught me the importance of doing your long runs at speeds more relative to paces you are aiming to run for the marathon.
This is why the long runs are so important and cannot be overlooked. I went from doing long runs at 7.30 pace to spending 15-22 miles close to 2-minutes faster per mile during these workouts. It felt weird but what didn’t feel weird was racing 2.12 marathoners when I was still a 2.40 marathoner.
This workout worked and created an enormous lactate tolerance to the point that I was able to handle paces that these elite marathoners were throwing at me in races. I promise, if you are patient and have the fortitude to endure these arduous runs, you are going to drop considerable time off your 5k to marathon race efforts.
I had the rich opportunity to work for three years with one of the most accomplished female marathoners in the world.
Lisa had personal bests of 52.30 for 10-miles, 2.28 for the marathon and 1.11 for the half-marathon and not only is she the last American female to win Boston, but also won Chicago twice and many others around the world.
6. 10-mile tempo run
Tempo runs are run at or about 20-25 seconds slower then your current 5K race pace. For example, if your best 5K is 18.00 (5.48 per mile) you would want to do your 10-mile tempo at or around 6.08-13 per mile.
Tempo runs are running workouts consisting of efforts at or near your lactate threshold or is the point just below where your body is able to clear lactic acid.
Jack Daniels, one of the world’s top distance running coaches, says 20-minutes or more of tempo running is optimal.
He goes on to say that, for fit runners, tempo runs are run at or around 90% of maximum heart rate.
This is why workouts like this are so demanding and why recovery is so important . What you do the hours after workouts like this will determine how much you get back from the training session.
I have found this workout to work best for training for a half-marathon to the marathon distance. I often use it preparing for 10K’s as well.
7. 20x1K on the road
Simply put, you are running 1 kilometer repetitions on the road, twenty times with a 1 kilometer recovery jog in between each repetition. If you do not have a Garmin GPS Watch you can substitute this workout with doing 20, 2-minute reps followed with 1-minute recovery jog in between.
It is a great fartlek workout that you can implement into your weekly training regiment and will produce results from the 5K all the way up to the marathon distance. I usually do the hard 1K repetitions at or around 175 beats per minute (about 90-95% maximum effort) and the recovery jogs at 130 beats per minute keeping myself in the fat burning zone.
Keep in mind, running at a heart rate at or below 120, means all you are doing is burning sugars (glycogen). You always want to keep an eye on sparing carbohydrates and using fat as your primary race fuel.
In closing, you have to use these running workouts with a grain of salt. What works for some, won’t work for others. You can, in turn, shorten them and still get more bang for your buck then running easy every day.
Try them out, see if they work for you. There will be times where you will have to create abbreviated versions of the same workouts but the key is to get something out of the work you are putting in.
If 10-mile tempo’s are too far for you at first. Try 3 miles and over time, lengthen the amount of time you are spending at your lactate threshold. You will get in what you put into it.
Don’t draw up conclusions on your head that you are not capable of running fast times.
Ask yourself, have I really prepared well enough to handle racing the speeds I want to compete at. If you can honestly answer that question with a resounding, Yes, then you are well on your way to a new personal best.
If not, then keep pursuing and attacking that pace in training until it becomes a reality in the race.