The Running Series (Part 1): Training Zone

Back in 2013, I decided to take up running as a hobby. At the time, my daily routine was simple: put my running shoes on, go to the ground and cover as much distance as I can, as fast as possible before getting tired.

The result: an injury after just 2 weeks.

In 2016, I again decided to start running and do it sincerely this time. Once again, I started running every day and progressively increased the distance covered each day. The result: once again, an injury! Except that this time, the damage was so severe that my doctor advised me to take a break from exercise for 2 whole months.

I’d heard somewhere that third time’s a charm.

So, at the beginning of 2018, I decided to pick up running seriously. This time, my goal was to become an excellent long-distance runner. I gave it everything I had and soon started participating in timed events.

So far, I have completed three 10K timed events (1 sub 60) and 3 Half marathons (Best time 2.03.47) along with various other long-distance runs ranging from 15k to 25k. I am now gearing up for my first full marathon in January 2019.

What did I do differently?  

Ans: I started following a good training plan.

Now, the obvious question that’ll come to your mind is “What is a good training plan?”. That’s what this article is all about.

Train For Running: The Basics

Here is the key: a good training plan should not focus on covering maximum miles; instead, it needs to comprise different types of workouts from various training zones, depending upon the goal and current fitness level of the athlete. These workouts will help build the runner’s stamina, endurance and performance.

When you look into the complete running plan, you will see that it includes different workouts such as Easy Run, Long Runs, Tempo Runs, Fartlek, etc. Each of these has their own purpose and helps the athlete train different aspects of running. When you know the purpose of each workout, you are more focused on your plan instead of thinking what your running buddy is doing.

There are various types of Training Zones which should be included in every running plan. Two things must be taken into account while selecting the correct zone:

  • Duration of Training Cycle
  • Purpose of Training

Types of Training Zones

1. Endurance Training Zone

The most basic and important task for any runner or athlete is to build Endurance. Endurance Training is also known as “Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS)” Training. Endurance Zone improves the cardiorespiratory system and nervous system adaptations which, in turn, helps you develop your aerobic system.

Purpose: The purpose of endurance training is to build endurance and improve the cardiorespiratory system which helps an athlete to perform any kind of endurance activity.

Benefits:

  1. It helps to increase your heart rate which means you will require fewer heartbeats to deliver blood to your working muscles.
  2. It trains your slow twitch muscle fibres which improve running economy. Over time, you will progress from going out of breath quickly to being able to chatter throughout the entire run.

How to perform: Training in this zone is performed between 60-75% of your Maximal Heart Rate (MHR) and 55-75% of your VO2 Max. During this training, lactate levels are slightly above the resting state. In this zone, the efforts are elementary, and your breathing should be comfortable.

Types of workout in this Zone: Long Runs, Easy Runs, Recovery Runs

2. Stamina Training Zone

Stamina is your ability to sustain a prolonged physical or mental effort.  During a run, our body produces lactic acid which is passed on to other tissues to be used for fuel. But when production of lactate outpaces its removal, it starts to accumulate in the blood and muscles begin to fatigue.

The workouts in this training zone help to improve critical running thresholds such as lactate, ventilatory and anaerobic and help the runner cover the distance faster.

Purpose: The purpose of stamina training is to improve running efficiency.

Benefits:

  1. Less lactate accumulation which in turn pushes the lactate threshold higher
  2. Helps increase your ability to run longer and faster

How to perform: Stamina training is optimally performed between 80-90% of your MHR and 85-95% of your VO2 Max. During this training, lactate levels are very close to your threshold level. This zone is defined as “comfortably hard”, and breathing is fast but under control.

Types of workout in this Zone: Steady state-run, Tempo Runs, Tempo Intervals, Fartlek, Yasos

3. Speed and Sprint Training Zone

While Endurance and Stamina Training Zones are focused on improving efficiency through adaptation of several fundamental matrices, speed training is focused on enhancing your capacity to run faster.

Purpose: Speed training increases enzymes that extract energy from fuel sources, improve lactic acid threshold, trains your fast twitch muscle fibre and improves your ability to extract more oxygen from the blood.

Benefits:

  1. It helps you achieve higher power and speed with smoother strides and running form.
  2. Sprint training also helps introduce a powerful kick at the end of your running event.
  3. It also strengthens the other body parts as it not only involves your legs but also generates power from core, pelvis and hips.

How to perform it: Speed training is performed near your MHR capacity (90% to Maximum) and 95% to Maximum of your VO2 Max. During this training, lactate levels are that their highest levels. Naturally, the efforts needed, and breathing is very fast and laboured.

Types of workout in this Zone: Speed training is best performed in tracks or flat roads by covering the distance anywhere between 400m to 2000m. Strides workout is the best form of sprint workout.

4. Strength Training Zone

Strength training complements all other types of training and helps you perform each of the above exercises with more efficiency. After all, a strong Core, Hamstrings and Glutes are a blessing for any long-distance runner or sprinter.

Purpose: Supplementing strength training with running helps you prevent injuries and makes you stronger and more efficient.

How to perform it: The strength training needs of runners are different from those of bodybuilders. Key muscles of the lower body especially Hamstrings and Glutes as well as the Core need to be paid special attention. Performing Full Body Workouts once a week would be an added advantage.

Types of workout in this Zone: Resistance Training at Home or Gym, Bodyweight workouts.

Key Takeaway

Understanding the purpose and correct method of each training zone and then applying those principles properly will make you a better runner.

Bring Purpose to every Run.

Happy Running!!!

Author Credits: Yash Menghani