As I sat down to re-write this blog (we lost this old yet popular post with the website makeover) it is safe to say that “I don’t ever suggest performing the sprints” – see video below. If you watched the video then you might guess why sprints are not usually undertaken in training programs but as if that wasn’t enough I spent a lunch hour getting worked over by both Jason and Craig as we repeatedly sprinted up a nearby hill. The following day I broke two cardinal sins: (i) I ran two days in a row and, (ii) I asked to get punished again by suggesting we take on a tempo run.
In all actuality I only suggest performing exercise that you really enjoy (see – we exercise for the wrong reasons), personally I love all types of exercise – especially if it is social. That being said this is a post directed at people who enjoy, or potentially want to enjoy, running.
You might have found us serendipitously or been directed here because you purchased a running program with us regardless, congratulations. The program that you are about to embark on is going to be a lot of fun.
I want to take you through the description of the only four, scratch that, three runs you will ever need in order to become a successful runner. Remember that a polished runner looks after all aspects of their body not just better times (see – discover how to run further than your husband). Tempo runs, hill runs, and long slow distances runs. Below you will find the description of each type of run and how to perform it to your advantage.
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 that is 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 with a pace that is slightly faster than your current 5km race pace. Utilize short hills for performance in runs that are 5 Km in distance or less. The hill segments should total slightly less than 2-3 km.
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. Your pace on the ascent should be near or at your current 5km race pace. The hill segments should total between 5-7 km’s.
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 less pressure to look good and we got to get close to someone special. Just like asking a girl to a 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 5-6 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 real all out effort (sprint) will wipe you out in well under 30 s and, the idea of it should send a tingle down your spine.
HOW TO: Sprints are designed to pack a whole lot of training into a very small time period. 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.
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.