Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Running Speed

Everyone wants to run faster, but how? Here are a few ideas to focus your end goal on running a faster 5km.

Intervals these involve a number of running bursts (usually between 4 and 20) at near race pace or sometimes faster for distance of between 10 meters and 2km divided by recovery periods (rest, walking or slow jogging). In comparison to threshold runs these can produce a greater physical training effect but are less mentally challenging.

Threshold/tempo runs these are runs of between 15 and 45 minutes that are run at near lactate threshold/turnover (the point at which lactate begins to rapidly accumulate in the blood due to the exercise intensity being fairly high). Apart from the obvious physical benefits of this training, mental strength/determination is improved through this training.

Hill repeats these build strength, which is important for improving running speed. They involve approximately 5-15 repetitions up hills of between 50 and 400 meters with a light to moderate incline. The recovery period is a walk or light jog back down the hill. These can also be run downhill to improve running speed, but this does not build strength and is less practical. The up-hills are run at race pace, whereas the down-hills need to be run at faster than race pace. Lifting your knees higher than normal on the uphill repeats will improve strength more rapidly.

Fartlek training this is a really useful training method especially if you don't have much time to train as it produces a range of training effects. It involves a combination of the above training methods, a typical fartlek session might involve a tempo run for 10 minutes, followed by slow jogging, 3-4 hill repeats, and 6-7 intervals.

Easy run (for enhanced recovery) 20-40 minutes of walking/jogging on a fairly flat course at a perceived exertion of 2-3.

Long run (to build strength endurance) 30-150 minutes of jogging at a perceived exertion of 4-5
DURATION: For a training session to produce enough stress for a training effect to occur it needs to be at least 20-30 minutes in duration. To improve your running speed measurably a training program/phase needs to be at least 6-12 weeks in duration.

FREQUENCY: This is how many training sessions are done in a given time. For adaptation to training to occur and to increase running speed at least 3 training sessions a week need to be performed, of which 1-3 are quality. Some elite runners do up to 15 sessions a week with 3-6 being quality sessions but they build up to this over a number of years.

SPECIFITY: For training to be of benefit on race day it needs to meet the demands that the race produces. Since quality sessions are the most important for improving running speed they need to be done on a similar surface, in similar weather and with similar intensity and duration as will be experienced in the desired event.

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD: The most important factor in improving running speed is to gradually increase the stress of training, the body adapts to increased stress slowly so be careful not to increase the stress of training too frequently or overtraining/injury is bound to occur. Every 1-2 weeks the stress produced by any one of training intensity, duration, frequency or specifity needs to be increased by 5-15%. If you are beginning running at a low fitness level it is important to start with a low training load that suits your fitness.
To ensure that the body is adapting to the training and that running speed is improving I recommend regular racing or time trials every 4-8 weeks. The test distance should be between 60m (sprinters) and 5km (long distance) but nothing much longer as this will interfere with training. If performance in the test improves it is fine to continue increasing your training load, on the other hand if test times don't improve reduce your training load till you feel the training sessions becoming easier.

You might be able to complete most of the session that I have mentioned but is that with good technique.  The longer you run for the more fatigued you become and therefore maintaining good form and technique is not achievable.
Here is the list of the main drills;
·       High Knees
·       Heel Flicks
·       Front bench kick
·       Rear bench kick
·       Fast Feet
·       Bounding
·       Hands on head
·       Straight legs
 While the drills can be done anywhere, I really like doing them on a soft surface (Grass).
Note that the explosive drills are stressful on the body. Start slowly with a small number of reps.
We would typically do a selection of drill 4-6x for 20-80m duration. In between the drills we would jog easily or walk. As these drills are either technique or strength oriented, we aren't concerned on average heart rates.

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