Some years ago, I invested in a treadmill for the outbuilding in my house (which now doesn't leave much room for anything else!). I figured it would be much easier to do a quick 20 mins session indoors on the treadmill, rather than go for what always seemed to be a lengthy outdoors session. And if I'm being perfectly honest, I bought it to help persuade me to carry on running throughout the cold, dark winter mornings. And i have to admit, it worked!
I would trudge down in the mornings, get on the treadmill, run 20-25 mins at a consistent speed, build up a little bit of a sweat and then do some stretches. Not bad right? That's what i thought. Although I lost a bit of weight, I soon became frustrated as I didn't seem to be building much strength or stamina. I couldn't seem to increase my running speed or distance as fast as I had hoped to. If my body started to ache or twinge, I would reduce the speed, time or even not run at all.
Having the chance to chat to pro distance runners at the top of their field about how they train. I soon realised that, every single training run they do is different, in terms of time running, speed, intensity, interval and recovery. Even the variation of running surface, footwear and altitude came into their training regimes.
If asked how to become better runners, most people would give the obvious answer... to run more. And to some extent, they wouldn't be wrong. But what if you have set aside 3 mornings a week where you know you will get half an hour to run. Just increasing speed or distance isn't going to work and will lead to fatigue, injury and disappointment.
Here are some pointers on how you can mix up your run training to maximise your workout. If you belong to a running club, the following terms may be familiar to you. If you are a novice, here are a few basic running techniques.
Mix up your running
Base run. A base run is your bread and butter run at your natural pace. This will be different for everyone. It serves as your go to run, the one that you know you can complete even on a bad day. It is therefore not too challenging, but needs to happen often. The bulk of your weekly mileage will come from here.
Long run. A long run is basically a base run plus some. It is pushing the boundaries of your usual run so you can build endurance and should leave your body fatigued.
Interval training. This should comprise of intense efforts followed by recovery time e.g. 1 minute of your hardest effort running followed by 2 minutes of recovery. The idea of intervals is so we can run at full intensity for longer than if we were just to go all out. The benefits of interval training include improved endurance, fatigue resistance and fat burning.
Recovery run. After a hard running session like an interval or long run, your body needs more time than you think to recover. The next run after a tough session should be a shorter one at an easy pace. This will be different for everyone so find the distance and speed that you feel comfortable with.
Tempo running is a faster pace run but not a full out sprint like an interval training session. The pace should be tough with a RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 8/10 but you should be able to maintain it for at least 20 minutes. A good way of finding this tempo is by using the talk test. Whilst running you should be able talk in short sentences, but not hold a full conversation. This usually happens around 80% of your maximum heart rate. The idea is to run just below your LT (see BLOG on lactate threshold). In time, you will increase your LT and be able to sustain a higher intensity for longer.
Hill running is a runners' training secret. To make the transition from a average to good runner, it is also a must. When it comes to improving strength, speed and stamina hills are unbeatable. However, finding the perfect hill and knowing how to run it properly is almost an art. It can't be too steep or shallow, and common pitfalls are to run them too quickly or slowly without enough recovery time. Hills can be run in a variety of ways;
Fartlek running. Funny name i know, but it means 'speed play' in Swedish. Fartlek is basically a mix of all the styles above. This is great because after all the discipline and regimental structure that accompanies modern day training, it is great to 'fart around' just to remind you that running should be fun, free and fulfilling There are no hard or fast rules on how to do this, nor should there be. As the name suggests, mess around and have fun with it e.g. try sprinting to random targets and mix it up every time. This is a great way to spice up your run but get the benefits of all the different techniques.
So the next time you set aside time to run, try and incorporate these ideas. If you are a predominately treadmill runner like myself, a lot of this is still possible by varying speed and incline. But try your best to get out and have a good time once in a while!