Understanding that they are best used as the exception and not the rule in a training program is imperative to your long-term success. I once consistently trained this way for two weeks (5 x 30 s sprints a day) and increased my VO2max by 8 ml/kg/min in just 6 weeks with only 25 minutes of actual exercise over the two weeks. I emphasize ONCE because I will never do it again. Here is an example of me performing a single sprint on an exercise bike:
Subjectively this is a comfortably hard run that equates to a pace approximately 15-20 seconds per km slower than your current 5K race pace.
HOW TO: Tempo runs usually last anywhere from 15 (beginner) to 25 min (more experienced). It is extremely important that you run as close as possible to the prescribed pace for this intensity of training. In other words it is a great tool to take advantage of on a cold winter or rainy day because you can set the speed and time on your treadmill and then tune out. Going too fast here is not as good as running at the right pace.
Much like vegetables are to a healthy diet, hills are to your performance. On some days a few vegetables taste good, depending on the dip that we use, and the rest we chow down because our mother always told us too. Think of hill runs as your mother’s guidance – you must practice hills to get better at running.
HOW TO: Here are the two most common types of hills used for training and there purpose:
Short and Steep – Comprised of hard efforts on the way up with ample rest on the way down and at the bottom. Utilize short hills for performance in runs that are 5 Km in distance or less.
Prairie Rollers – If you have ever toured Saskatchewan you will know what I mean, for those who have not then picture rolling hills. Prairie rollers are imperative for your half-marathon (or further distance) performance. To perform them choose a speedy pace up the hill using the top of the hill, descent and valley for recovery. Prairie runs can and should be incorporated into a training run where you cover significant mileage. It would not be uncommon for a marathoner to perform this type of run over a 16 km practice run.
Long Slow Distance (aka slow dances)
Although we might not have admitted it, in high school we all preferred the slow songs to the fast ones. When moving fast, few of us knew what we were doing, however with slow dances there was little pressure to look good but we got to get close. Just like a good slow dance, long slow distance runs require a little more motivation to get going but they are always more than worth the effort. During a long distance run don’t be discouraged if at first you have a hard time hitting the goal or keeping the proper pace. Work on getting out, enjoying the run and cranking up the tunes.
HOW TO: For beginners start with a run that pushes your distance limits but is less than the distance you are training for. For example running 3 Km when training for a 5 Km, or running 5-7 Km for a 10 Km.
It is not uncommon for me to hear that this run feels too slow or too easy. Don’t worry, all your other runs should be quite taxing so take this run as a much-needed break, and enjoy what the countryside has to offer.
As acclaimed running coach Jack Daniels states, the benefits of long slow distance runs are more a function of time spent running than intensity… in order to get the benefits that you want at the cellular and heart level.
A proper variety of these techniques will not only lead you to a personal best but also increase the enjoyment that you get from running. Join us at FitMetabolism and get into your best race shape through a custom program that is designed to both your ability and goal.