Types of Training Runs We Do and Why We Do Them
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Welcome to the types of training page
BASE RUN: A base run is a relatively short to moderate-length run undertaken at a runner’s natural or conversational pace. While individual base runs are not meant to be challenging, they are meant to be done frequently, and in the aggregate they stimulate big improvements in aerobic capacity, endurance, and running economy. Base runs will make up a bulk of your weekly training mileage.
LONG RUNS: Once a week, we go for a long run at an easy pace. (Notice use of the word “easy!”) Run 60 to 90 minutes at a comfortable pace, not worrying about speed or distance. Think minutes rather than miles, which allows you to explore different courses that you have not measured, or run in the woods where distance is unimportant. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you run; if not, you’re going to fast. Don’t be afraid to stop to walk, or stop to drink. This should be an enjoyable run, not one during which you punish yourself.
TEMPO RUNS (also known as lactate-threshold, LT, or threshold run.): This is a continuous run with an easy beginning, a build-up in the middle to slightly slower than your pace in a 5-K, then ease back and slow down toward the end. A typical Tempo Run would begin with 5-10 minutes easy running, build to 10-15 minutes at 5-K pace, then 5-10 minutes cooling down. You can’t figure out your pace on a watch doing this workout; you need to listen to your body. Tempo Runs are very useful for developing anaerobic threshold, essential for fast 5-K racing.
FARTLEK: Swedish for “speed play,” these workouts are for building your ability to vary pace when you need to. Putting on surges to break the competition as well as being able to respond to their attacks is an important part of racing. These workouts consist of timed bursts of near race pace with about equal amounts of easy recovery running in between. It’s a good way to begin the process of developing efficiency and fatigue resistance at faster speeds in the early phases of the training cycle, or to get a moderate dose of fast running later in the training cycle. They can also serve as a less-structured alternative to a traditional interval session such as a track workout.
One of the best cross-training exercises for runners is pool running. It’s zero impact and has an extremely low risk of injury – making it a perfect supplemental form of training for a healthy runner and one of the best alternative exercises for injured runners. Pool running is my favorite form of cross-training for runners because it’s highly specific to running; it closely mimics your running form while using most of the same muscles. You will be able to maintain your fitness even if you’re not doing any running on land. Keep in mind that you pool run in the deep end. You are not supposed to touch the pool floor.
Once we’re in the pool, the most important part of our workout is maintaining proper form. Just like running on land, you need to keep your back straight (no slouching!) and maintain a quick turnover of at least 180 strides per minute. Pump your arms the same way as well, maintaining about a 90 degree angle at your elbow.
Where most people fail at pool running is with a low cadence. Trying to take slower strides is a mistake and will make your legs overextend in the water. The biggest risk for injury lies in overextending your legs and risking a slight hamstring strain.
Instead, drive your knee up and then drive your foot down. Your stride will slightly mimic that of a cyclist and may be more up and down than usual. That’s fine and completely normal.
HILL REPEATS: Hill repeats are repeated short segments of hard uphill running. They increase aerobic power, high-intensity fatigue resistance, pain tolerance, and run-specific strength. Usually, hill work is done at close to race pace and is a fairly short, concentrated effort. Hill repetitions are typically done at the end of the base-building period as a relatively safe way to introduce harder high-intensity training into the program. McCook is our most hilly course but other courses have some hills as well.
Interval workouts consist of repeated shorter segments of fast running separated by slow jogging or standing recoveries. This format enables a runner to pack a higher volume of fast running into one workout than he or she could with a single prolonged fast effort to exhaustion.
Interval workouts are typically subcategorized as short intervals and long intervals, and are often performed on the track. Long intervals are 600 to 1,200-meter segments run in the range of 5K race pace with easy jogging recoveries between them. They’re an excellent means of progressively developing efficiency and fatigue resistance at fast running speeds. We won’t be running intervals until regular season and we will attempt to keep them off of the track.
STRIDES (critical and often overlooked)
The first thing we need to establish when we talk about “running strides,” is that it’s different than using the term stride to describe a runner’s unique biomechanics. So, “She has a beautiful stride” or “He has the perfect stride for the marathon” is not the way we’re using the term. In this discussion strides are extremely short distances run at race pace or faster.
It’s worth noting that one of my coaching influences, a sprint coach, never uses the term strides with his sprinters because he thinks that sprinters hear “strides” and they interpret it as “loaf.” So the term may best be used for distance runners, for whom the term stride means running a short distance at race pace or faster.
Strides should be an elemental part of all high school training programs. Most cross country runners start training for cross-country two weeks after the state track meet. I firmly believe that in that first week of practice the coach and the athletes should agree that two to three times a week the athlete will run strides. Often times the strides are going to come at the end of an easy run. But as the summer goes on and workouts like fartleks are introduced, there is no reason an athlete can’t run the fartlek workout, jog easy for five minutes, then do some strides. An important point to make here is that strides need to be done even when the athlete is on vacation. No excuse for not running and no excuse for not doing strides.
So how fast, how far and how many? Let’s start with how many. Just four strides is enough in the early part of the summer. And running for just 20 seconds is enough (taking a 45-60 second easy recovery jog…which I prefer to standing around between strides). Starting at just 3,200m pace is enough at the beginning of the summer, though the strides should soon progress to 1,600m pace. This is a nice neuromuscular stimulus for high school athletes who will be running 5,000m and junior high athletes that will be running two miles. Then, once the athletes have worked up to 1,600m pace in their strides they can now bump up the distance and run 30 second strides.
The way we will run strides most of the time is to “run diagonals” or “straights” on a football field. You simply run from corner to corner of the field, jogging the back line between the strides. In the beginning of the season these will be 50 yards or so.
Once the cross country season starts the runner now has the ability to run 1,600m pace for 30 seconds five times at the end of all of the workouts.
Bottom line is that high school coaches and athletes need to agree that strides should be done the first week of summer practice. That’s not only the foundation to running with strong, sound biomechanics in the final 1,600m, 800m and 400m of a cross country race, but come track season these strides, started in the summer, are the foundation for the speed that will be needed to finish fast in the 3,200m, 1,600m, 800m in track.
As with everything in training I think that common sense and a balanced approach should be first. I am not advocating a person run a 5k or even a mile barefoot. We will do short distances on the field in the grass, our strides and pickups, tag, and relays. Here are some of the potential benefits:
May strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot and allow one to develop a more natural gait.
By removing the heel lift in most shoes, it will help stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon and calf muscle which may reduce injuries, such as calf strains or Achilles tendinitis.
Runners will learn to land on the forefoot rather then the heel. The heel strike during running was developed due to the excessive padding of running shoes, but research shows this isn’t the most effective natural running stride. Landing on the heel causes unnecessary braking on every stride. The most efficient runners land on the mid-foot and keep their strides smooth and fluid. Landing on the forefoot also allows your arches to act as natural shock absorbers.
It may improve balance and proprioception. Going barefoot activates the smaller muscles in the feet, ankles, legs, and hips that are responsible for better balance and coordination.
Running barefoot helps one improve balance, but it also helps them stay grounded and connected with your environment. A person can learn to spread their toes and expand the foot while it becomes a more solid and connected base that supports all movements.
WARM UP / WARM DOWN
You will warm up for at least one half mile, although it is better to go with time. Your standard warm up for every run, including races, will be 5 to 10 minutes of easy pace. Follow the run with a quick dynamic stretch of major muscles and anything that needs it. For harder workouts the warm up and cool down might be longer (20 minutes) and is not included in work out time. For easy runs, your warm up and
cool down may be included in your total 45 minute run time. For these runs we will use the last mile or so as a warm down (same easy pace as warm up).
Strides and stretching after runs helps prevent injury, so approach it as seriously as any other part of a hard workout. Stretch well after every training session regardless of whether or not you are with the team. Most athletes DON’T stretch like they should. You will find that elite and professional athletes spend as much time in this area as in others because they understand the value of it. Don’t skimp on stretching after your workouts. Flexibility is key to injury prevention as well as strength.