Training to improve your running can be a complicated thing when there are so many different philosophies and people telling you how to improve. Should you run 100 miles a week at a slow pace? or 30 miles a week at a fast pace? Well, I’ve boiled down the training process into just 5 essential components. Add all of these components into your training and progress will become simple.
With each component i will explain why it plays an important role in your training. I will also include examples of each component along with a suggestion on how often it should be repeated. This article is relevant for everyone running from the 800m up to the marathon, as each component can be tailored to your ability and goals.
1: Easy Running
Obviously, easy running is an essential training component to anyone who wants to improve. However, people usually attack their easy running in the wrong way. For example, some runners may only use easy running to try and improve. On the other hand, other runners may not do enough easy running – relying on hard workouts to boost their fitness. In most cases, a lot of runners even take their easy running too hard.
Easy runs should be exactly that – easy. You should feel incredibly comfortable and relaxed, with your heart rate staying below 75% of your maximum. For example, 75% of my maximum heart rate is 148bpm, and I tend to complete my easy runs between 125-145bpm. Going this easy allows you to recover whilst boosting your fitness. It’s perfect for avoiding injury and gives you a good opportunity to work on your running technique.
According to the 80/20 principle, easy running should take up 80% of your weekly training. For example, if you are running 50 miles a week, 40 of these miles should be completed running easily. This is a scientifically proven principle which allows you to increase fitness whilst remaining consistent.
2: Tempo Running
Here at running faster, we are huge advocates of tempo training. Sometimes this is referred to as threshold training. If you want to run faster and improve your fitness, then this certainly will count as an essential training component. Tempo running improves your bodies ability to dissipate lactic acid. Put simply, if you’re running faster you’re going to accrue lactic acid, which will slow you down. The better you can deal with lactic acid, the longer you can run faster without having to slow down.
Training to become faster without training to increase lactic resistance doesn’t make much sense. You may be able to improve your repetition times during workouts, but without tempo training it will be hard to convert into a race – where the real lactic starts to bite.
Tempo running should be completed at 80-90% of maximum heart rate. The best tempo workouts are usually continuous runs which usually last around 30 minutes, topping off at 45 minutes when you are nearing peak shape. However, if you are new to tempo running it will be best to start with a tempo workout. For example, 3 x 1mile with 90seconds rest completed at a tempo effort is a great place to start. Following on from this, you can add more repetitions and decrease your recovery needed until you are able to complete a continuous run at your tempo pace.
3: Pace-Specific Workouts
What do I mean by this? Essentially, I’m referring to the multi-paced running system, which we are great advocates of here at Running Faster. If you want to get faster at your particular distance then you need to adapt your training to make it specific to that distance.
For example, if I am training for the 5000m, my workouts will be geared towards improving my race pace for the 5000m. In this scenario, my workout paces will vary from my 1500m pace up to my 10000m pace. My 5000m pace will fall in the middle of these varying workout paces, which will yield the greatest results for this specific distance. There isn’t much point to me running 400m or Marathon workouts, as they are too far off the spectrum to provide much of a 5000m benefit.
This is how you should be structuring your hard workouts, which you should be completing 2-3 times per week (depending on how much you’re running). If we use 2 weekly workouts as an example for 5000m training, the first week I may run a 3000m and 10000m workouts and the second week I may run 1500m and 5000m workouts. Your pace-specific workouts should be included in the 20% of your weekly mileage that is open to hard efforts, in concurrence with the 80/20 principle.
Not sure how to adapt your training?
This article is written by Coach Callum S.A.C who is providing an online coaching service as well as personalised training plans to help you smash your personal bests. He uses these 5 essential components to optimise a runners training for maximum results.
Email Coach Callum at firstname.lastname@example.org for coaching enquiries. Alternatively, visit our online coaching page for more details, or our personalised training program page for a 12-week plan to get you on the right track!
4: Long Runs
Whether you’re training for an 800m or a Marathon, the long run is a crucial training element that cannot be ignored. The easy runs you complete throughout the week will definitely provide you with an aerobic benefit. However, it is the long runs that give you the ability to run for longer.
A long run is exactly what it says on the tin – a run that is longer than you usually complete. To be more specific, a long run should take up 15-20% of your weekly mileage. For example, if you are running 60 miles per week, your long run should be between 9-12 miles. Personally, I am a big advocate of long runs being towards the top end of that 20% threshold. With this great aerobic boost you will increase your ability to run further for longer, as well as running harder for longer. As an athlete myself, I managed to knock huge chunks off my 800m time as a teenager. I mention this because the main thing i did was introduce a long run each week.
You should be completing a long run once a week, or at the very minimum once every fortnight (depending on how much you run). This should be completed just a little faster than your easy pace, yet should be completed pretty comfortably. An old once told me that after a long run you should ‘feel pretty fine, but still want to sit with your feet up for an hour or two afterwards.
5: Strength Training
We have covered this topic a few times on this site, particularly in our when should runners strength train article. Strength training is incredibly beneficial for runners of all distances. This earns its spot as one of the 5 essential training components. Firstly, strength training helps avoid injury, helping you become a more consistent runner. With your legs constantly pounding the floor, you need strong enough legs to cope with this. Otherwise, you will likely start struggling with injury issues.
Secondly, and often overlooked, strength training can help you become a more efficient runner. What do you think differentiates two elite level athletes, who weigh the same and train the same? Usually, it comes down who’s more efficient. The more efficient you are at running, the less energy you waste and the easier it becomes to maintain a harder pace for longer. Strength training allows you do develop your leg muscles so that they can hold a more efficient gait for longer. You should look to be completing a strength session 1-3 times per week, usually lasting around 45 minutes. Have a look around on YouTube to find a strength workout that works for you.
There we have it. The complicated theory of running broken down into 5 easy to manage components. Of course, you need to balance these 5 components with sufficient rest and recovery periods. However, if you make sure you incorporate these essential training components, you are very likely to see some rapid results when it comes to bringing down your personal bests.
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Coach Callum is a Level 3 Sports Coach with a CPD in Nutrition for Sport and Exercise and a decade of experience training as a competitive runner. Fill out the form below highlighting your running experience and your running and fitness goals and we will get back to you stating how we can help!