If You Want to improve There are Three Sessions You Must do Says Running Expert Sam Murphy

Running has never been more popular,and the new year always brings a massof new recruits to what has to be oneof the best fat-burning, muscle-toning, stress-busting sports around!Most will begin with easy jogs, or a mix ofwalking and running, and rightly so. The first stepfor any new runner is to stay within your comfortzone as you build up ‘time on feet’. But if youkeep at it, you’ll soon find yourself able to runcomfortably for 30-40 minutes at a timewithout stopping. So what then? Well, carrying on in the same vein will continue to improve your stamina up toa point but, if you want to takeyour running to the next level,there comes a time when youneed to train not just further, butsmarter. You could try hill work,threshold runs, recovery runs, fartlek,track reps, progression runs – but fordistances from 5K to the marathon, thereare three important types of session toschedule in, each delivering distinct benefits.

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UP THE TEMPO

Tempo running is on the edge of yourcomfort zone and helps improve yourlactate threshold (LT). The LT is thepoint at which lactic acid in themuscles increases sharply because itcan no longer be cleared as quickly asit’s being produced. Once you passthis point, it becomes very difficultto sustain your pace – your breathinggoes ragged, your muscles contractless efficiently and you may feel as ifyour legs have turned to rubber. Buttraining at an intensity that hovers aroundthis point nudges your threshold up, enablingyou to run faster without these ill effects.Try tempo training to improve your pace inevents lasting 30 minutes or longer. Your LT isusually around 85 per cent of your maximumheart rate – so aim to train at seven or eight ona scale of one to 10. If you’ve already done a10K race, your tempo pace is likely to bebetween your 10K pace and five to 15 secondsper mile slower (use your 10K pace if your finishtime was an hour or more).Run at a sustained pace for 20–45 minutes(warm up first), or break it down into chunks,separated by short recovery jogs. Don’t make theefforts less than five or six minutes, or you mayrun too fast – and have around one minute ofjogging for every five minutes of tempo running.Do a tempo run every week. Mix it up withcontinuous tempo runs and long intervals or,continuous hills (see below). Re-assess yourtempo pace every six to eight weeks.

If You Want to improve There are Three Sessions You Must do Says Running Expert Sam Murphy

USEINTERVALS

‘Interval training’ means breaking a run intosections, with either recovery jogs (as in the longintervals in tempo training) or complete rest inbetween. Here, we’re using interval training toimprove maximal aerobic capacity (VO² max).While tempo running is a way of teaching yourbody to get comfortable working at a higherproportion of its maximum aerobic capacity,interval training helps improve the maximumcapacity itself. The higher your VO² max, thefaster you can run while still maintaining aerobicenergy production. Once energy productionbecomes ‘anaerobic’ – when there isn’t enoughoxygen coming into the body to supply themuscles – you’ll have to slow down or stop.The best way to train VO² max is to run at, orclose to, the pace (or effort level) that lets youreach your maximum (VO² max is a physiologicalmeasurement, not a pace). You won’t be chattingto your running buddies! On that one-to-10 scaleyou’ll be at nine or 10. This is tough training, butyou only need to work in short bouts to reap thebenefits and you get long rests in between. Foreach minute of effort, take 30-60 seconds ofrecovery – and limit the efforts themselves toone to five minutes in length.VO² max training is most beneficial for thosetraining at shorter distances, such as 5K and 10KOne study found that four weeks of a weeklyVO² max session consisting of five, three-minuteefforts increased pace at VO² max by three percent. Re-assess your VO² pace everysix to eight weeks.

THE LONG HAUL

Contrary to what you might think, long runsaren’t just the domain of those gearing upfor marathons – all runners can benefitfrom a regular long run in their programme.This is because it improves cardiovascularfitness (by making oxygen delivery to theworking muscles more efficient), enhancesfat use, (sparing precious glycogen stores)and helps muscles, tendons and otherconnective tissues adapt to the forces ofrunning. It also burns a ton of calories!How long is ‘long’? It’s all relative. Ifyou’re new to long runs, get your startingpoint by adding 10-15 minutes to yourcurrent longest run. You can also increasethe distance by adding in some walk breaks.This enables you to extend ‘time on feet’without overdoing things.In most instances, the long run is allabout distance, not pace – so don’t betempted to go too fast or you’ll risk burningout too soon. It’s smarter to slightly reduceyour usual pace per mile and have a strongfinish. For those training for long races,adding in the occasional more challengingrun, by including some miles at the paceyou intend to race at, is also a great idea.Good luck with your training!

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