If you want to run faster and farther you are going to need variety in your run training. Like any programming (think in the gym with a personal trainer) you don’t want to just do one type of run training as you will stagnate and plateau, so it is best to cycle through different kinds of programming. There are four main types of training, or programming, you will want to incorporate into your runs. Each program will have a different intent to make you a better runner. Their order of importance will depend on the kind of race you are training for. Each will challenge and adapt you to prepare for different physiological demands.
These training programs are:
1) Endurance / Aerobic - These are your longer runs. I find most runners spend too much time training here.
2) Lactate Threshold - Uptempo training. Lactate threshold will usually dictate the pace your 10k and half marathon.
3) VO2 Max - Higher intensity, long interval training to improve oxygen uptake and utilization. Tends to dictate pace of distance runs up to 5k.
4) Speed - Short, fast interval training to improve speed and run form. Sprint times don’t predict distance performance, however it improves running efficiency as well has having a host of physiological benefits that will make you a better runner.
If you think of these training programs as corners of a square, you want to hit all the corners. How much time you spend in each corner will depend on the distance you are training for. Each program will stress the body differently and will have different recovery periods. It is definitely possible to hit all the corners in a week.You could also do 4-6 week training blocks focusing on just one corner of the box. As you get closer to a race, you will start to prioritize the corners depending on the primary demand of your race. For most of you, it will be a mix of endurance and lactate threshold training.
I am by no means coaching Olympic athletes, nor do I think you are aspiring to be one. There is definitely a science to programming, but for most runners hitting all the corners of training on top of sound running mechanics is all you need to become your best running self before trying out for the national team.
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