Pillar 1: What’s the purpose of the run?
Pillar 2: How long will it take me to recover?
Pillar 3: Is what I’m doing helping me achieve my long-term goal?
In 2019, it’s pretty common knowledge that the more miles we are able to invest in our running, the better we might be. But is that always the case?
The more running we do, week after week without getting injured and missing time, the faster and fitter we should be. If we were to run 25 miles in a week, we would be fitter than if we ran 10 miles per week. If I can easily sustain a run at 9-minute pace, I would be fitter than if I could only hold an 11 minute pace.
If we know all of this and we believe it to be true, then…
What’s the Purpose of a Training Run?
We can almost all agree that the bigger the base we build (the more miles we safely and smartly put into our legs) the fitter we can get. But after a while, without any stimulus (increased pace) our fitness will plateau. So how do we combat getting stuck at the same fitness level?
We add in workouts – tempo runs, intervals (both endurance and speed), and incorporate long runs into our routine.
There are 3 main goals of any workout that we attempt: they are Purpose, Effect, and Path. Below, I’ll explain what each means and give practical examples for them.
What is the purpose of each particular workout? What is the purpose of a 13 mile long run vs a 6-mile basic run? Why does coach have me run repeat 800s with short rest and then a few weeks later repeat 1000s with lots of rest?
There are four main reasons for prescribing a particular workout: to work on endurance, stamina, speed, or sprinting.
Based on your (running) history, race plans and goals, current fitness and time of year, will determine what workout you can and should be doing. Focusing on a marathon? Your best bet is a threshold workout which works both endurance and stamina. Trying to run a fast 10k? You’ll focus on the endurance and stamina while touching on the speed training. Working on being a great 2 miler? You’ll need a combination of all four components. Depending on where you are in the training cycle will depend on what you should do.
How long will it take for me to recover from the workout?
When you factor in the effect of the workout, that will determine when your next workout should be. If you know speed work trashes your body, you’ll know to give yourself another day before you jump back on the track for another hard workout. As you can tell (by trial or error, or any other way), the faster you run, the longer you’ll need before your next hard workout. Some workouts are designed to tax your lungs and not your legs – these workouts are typically for fine-tuning or tapering near the end of your racing cycle.
Other workouts are designed to build your aerobic capacity. These workouts should have plenty of volume with a relatively short recovery. An example of a workout for a marathoner with a proper build up would be 2 x 5k @ marathon pace with 5 minutes rest or 6-10 mile tempo run. These workouts are simple examples of ways to build aerobic capacity – the ability to carry oxygen and deal with the effects of lactic acid.
Is what I’m doing working towards my ultimate goal?
If you’re doing a workout or a run and you have no idea why, it’s important that you take a step back and figure out why you’re doing it. If you are coached by someone, you should communicate with him/her to find out why this workout will lead you to your peak race. Does repeat 200s in March sound silly for someone who is racing a 5k in June? Possibly. But if there’s a plan in place and the coach is planning for the entire season, you should be OK.
Generally speaking, one poor workout won’t be the make or break your season anyway. To really see benefits/disaster, you should look for patterns of consistency/inconsistencies. PR’s (personal records) usually come after periods of solid and consistent training. Failed races typically come when training is erratic or sporadic. You should know where you fall on that spectrum.
Take these 3 factors into consideration when you plan your training. If you have a coach, be sure to recognize what the workout is doing for you, how it relates to the overall plan, and how long it takes you before you feel ready for the next hard effort.
Below is a link discussing some of the ideas I discussed above.
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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