The Running Series (Part 2): Know Your Running Workouts

Welcome back to “The Running Series”.

In the previous article, we learned about various training zones and their purpose when you are training for a run. This week, we’ll get specific and look at the key workouts in each training zone.

Some of you may already be familiar with a few of these workouts – perhaps, your local running group has its own names for them. Let’s discuss the parameters that define these workouts and the correct way of performing them:

A) Endurance Training Zone Workouts

  • Easy Runs:

Also known as True Endurance Workout, these will make up the bulk of your training plan for building endurance. Be warned, the name is deceptive – it is quite difficult, especially for beginners, to stick to the recommended pace while performing Easy Runs. Just as breaking the speed limit while driving is illegal, breaking the speed limit in Easy Runs is frowned upon in the running world. The purpose here is to fully develop your aerobic fitness and to maximize the effectiveness, hence adhering to the guidelines related to pace is non-negotiable.

How to perform The optimal pace is highly variable and would depend upon the fitness levels of the athlete. The recommendation is that it should be performed anywhere between 3:30:00 race pace to 6:45:00 race pace. The heart rate should be around 75% of Maximal Heart Rate (MHR) and can go up to 80% MHR towards the end of the run. Typically, an Easy Run lasts between 30 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on the training cycle.

  • Long Runs:

Long Runs need no introduction! Every beginner who starts running thinks that a good run simply means running as long as he can and as fast as possible. But there is much more to Long Runs. The most important purpose of Long Run is to spend time on your feet and challenge your ability to cover more miles.

How to performAn appropriate pace for Long Run lies between 3:45:00 to 8:00:00 race pace at an average heart rate of around 70% MHR. A Long Run can last anywhere from 1 hour to 3.5 hours. As with Easy Runs, the biggest challenge is to keep the pace steady during the entire run.

  • Recovery Runs:

As the name suggests, these are very slow recovery jogs which are used during the recovery interval of Speed/Sprint/Tempo workouts or on a rest day between two hard workouts. The only purpose of Recovery Runs is to get the muscles warmed up and keep the blood flowing. These runs also help relieve the soreness which occurs after a hard workout.

How to perform – Recovery Runs are performed between 7:00:00 to 10:00:00 race pace. The heart rate should be a comfortable 50-65% MHR. Initially, you may find it very difficult to run this slow; the key is practice. These workouts should last between 15-30 minutes. Recovery Runs can also be performed for a few minutes during the intervals of speed training.

B) Stamina Training Zone

  • Steady State Run

Steady State is a most beneficial type of workout, especially during the initial days of your Stamina Phase. Most runners simply follow two speeds – Slow and Fast. Steady State Runs challenge you to maintain a particular pace for a longer duration of time. This helps improve your concentration and pushes your Lactate Threshold upwards.

How to perform This is challenging because of the duration of run at a particular pace. These runs are performed between 1:15:00 race pace to 2:30:00 race pace. Heart rate should be in between 80-87% and run can last from 30 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. You should make efforts to be in particular pace zone for the entire duration of the run.

  • Tempo Runs: Tempo run is intense than steady state run and are helpful to improve your running tempo and rhythm. A tempo run requires running slower than your lactate threshold to train your body to reconvert lactate back into the energy. Lactate threshold is the point at which your body produces more lactic acid that its able to reconvert back into energy.

How to perform – Tempo runs are performed between 40 minutes to 1:15:00 race pace and lasts between 15 to 30 minutes. The heart rate should be between 85-90% of MHR. It is also known as “Comfortably hard” run so doesn’t need to Push too much. When you push too hard your body instead of turning lactate into energy it gets flooded with lactic acid and brings fatigue.

  • Tempo Intervals: These are fast tempo runs broken in intervals with short recovery jogs in between. Tempo intervals are a great workout to prepare for short distance races like 5K and 10K

How to perform The appropriate pace for tempo run is 30 minutes to one-hour race pace and last between 8 to 15 minutes (Excluding recovery jogs). In this case, you jog for two to fifteen minutes and recovery jog for half the time of the previous interval. All tempo workouts are best performed in tracks.

  • Fartlek: It is a form of interval training but with flexibility and it is unstructured. It is defined as periods of fast running mixed with periods of slow running. The variable intensity helps in developing both aerobic and anaerobic systems.

How to perform –There is no specific structure for Fartlek and it can be performed like sprinting from point A to point B, jogging from point B to point C and then medium pace effort or speed running from point C to Point D. It is best performed in group running where you can alternate the pacer and mix up the speed and time. It has high mental benefits of being pushed by your run buddies through an unpredictable workout.

C) Speed and Sprint Training Zone

  • Speed Workouts: Speed workout is performed at maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and the goal of these workouts is to increase your speed over the duration of a longer run. In addition, a speed workout improves leg muscle strength and power which, in turn, improves your running economy.

How to perform –Speed workouts can be done between 400m to 2000m at your max capacity with a recovery jog for about half the distance. For e.g., if one interval of speed workout lasts 800m, then the recovery jog would be 400m.

  • Sprint Workouts: Sprint workout is generally done to flood muscles with lactic acid and then allow them to recover. It helps develop mental strength and improves lactic threshold which allows you to sprint longer in the race.

How to perform –Sprint workout generally last for 100m to 400m at close to your maximum capacity with long recovery intervals in between. The recommended recovery jog should be two to five times the duration of fast running before starting the next hard effort. While doing sprint workouts, you must also focus on your strides as it helps to improve your sprinting technique by making your legs to turn over quickly.

D) Strength Training Zone

This is the most ignored aspect of most training plans. The most important goal of strength training is to prevent you from suffering injuries. Every athlete should focus on developing overall body strength. In addition, the runner should focus on key muscles which will keep them balanced and moving forward:

  • Lower Body: It comprises your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. While performing strength training for the lower body, special attention should be given to hamstring and glutes exercises because they provide your body with huge support during long distance runs. You can perform leg workouts 1-2 times a week with your easy run day or off day. Make sure you don’t do a leg workout a day before or after a hard run day.
  • Core: Running requires a strong foundation and your core is that foundation. Strengthening your core will help your legs grow stronger and move faster. It also stabilizes your body and increases your running economy. A good core workout should be performed 2-3 times a week for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Back: Runners, like the rest of us, need a strong back – both mid and lower back – as it will hold us upright and help maintain posture as we run. A weak lower back may lead to energy wastage while running as it puts extra pressure in your legs. Overall upper body exercise with a special focus on the mid and lower back should be performed 1-2 times a week.

While performing the above workouts you have to remember that “Breaking the speed is Illegal”. Each workout should be performed at the recommended speed for the most effective results. Avoid the temptation of running too fast; instead, focus on quality and form.

Bring Purpose to every Run.

Happy Running!

Glossary

VO2 Max –The maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity.

Running Economy – How much fuel it takes for you to run a certain distance. Here, fuel means “Oxygen”. The better your running economy, the more distance you can cover at a given rate of oxygen consumption.

Running Pace – The number of minutes taken to cover a single mile or kilometre.

AUTHOR CREDITS: YASH MENGHANI