Many of the terms you will see on training plans or in articles might be new to you but in reality most of it is common sense. Running is a simple sport and once you get your head around the basics you'll be confident with how to tackle off of these sessions and understand their purpose. Below we list some of the key sessions you'll see in our plans.
Rest & Adaptation: To help your body cope with the workload, rest is going to be as important a part of your training schedule as the running itself. Listen to your body and take heed of any warning signs. If you feel fatigued even before you’ve run a step, find yourself thinking up excuses not to run or start suffering a series of minor injuries; you probably need more time off. Taking enough rest allows physical and mental recovery and gives your body the time to adapt to your workload.
Recovery Running (RR): Training for endurance requires your body to work harder than it has ever done. To see improvement without breaking down, you’ll need some recovery runs. These are very short, very easy runs or cross training completed as 'active' recovery. Should be done at no harder than 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. The goal is to finish the session feeling fresher than you started it.
Easy Running (ER): Easy running should form the backbone of your weekly mileage. These should be nice and easy and you should feel relaxed and controlled. You should be breathing easily and be capable of holding a conversation throughout the run. This will mean that you are running around 70% range of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). Running at this intensity will build capillary density, the ability to use stored fats as a primary fuel source and, if you're newer to running, build up your time on feet sustainably. Many runners have a tendency to run their easy sessions too hard which can impact upon the quality of your faster sessions. Keep these fully conversational and when you can complete sessions of up to 60-75 minutes before breakfast which can further develop your ability to burn stored fats.
Steady Running (SR): Steady running sits between easy runs and your threshold and tempo runs. Generally in a range of 70-80% of you maximum heart rate we sometimes call this 'bus stop running'...you know when you pick up the pace as you pass a line of people or another runner (be honest!). It can have a role particularly in some of your long runs but should be used with caution....too much steady running and you'll lose some of the benefits of your easy runs and be too tired to hit your harder sessions effectively.
Threshold Running (TR): After the long run threshold runs are probably your most valuable workouts. They are run at a controlled brisk pace, about 80–85% of your MHR, you’ll only be capable of uttering a couple of words to your training partners. Tempo/threshold runs improve your lactate threshold (the speed above which your body struggles to cope with the lactic acid created by burning energy without oxygen), your running economy and aerobic capacity. Threshold runs will appear regularly in your plans year round.
Fast Hills (FH): Hill running develops strength in your muscles and tendons without putting them under the type of stress they are exposed to during faster running. Short fast hills covering efforts between 30 seconds right up to 2-3 minutes are used in your training to develop strength and power. With this sort of session you hard hard up, focusing on a tall, strong posture and powerful arm drive. At the end of each effort you'll jog back down to recover. This type of session can be mixed with efforts on the flat to create a highly specific endurance session for anything from sprinting up to marathons.
Continuous Hills / Kenyan Hills (CH): This are a slightly different type of session focused more on strength endurance and involve running both up and down hill at effort, this way you'll load a greater range of muscles. Run up a 5-8% gradient for 45-90 seconds at a ‘threshold effort’. Turn immediately at the top and run down the hill at the same effort, then turn at the bottom and repeat without any recovery until the rep time ends. Like a tempo/threshold run, a hill session is time to concentrate, as you should be working at about 80–85% of MHR and be able to utter just a few words.
Long Runs (LR): Long runs are vital in your plan and key to racing well in long distance races from 5km – marathon. At first, concentrate on increasing the time on your feet rather than worrying about distance. Start off by heading out for at least an hour and run at a conversational pace or 6/10 effort. Gradually this will build to 75%+ of WHR as you start to practice periods of marathon or race pace running. These runs improve your muscular endurance and condition your body to burn fat as its primary fuel source. You'll often see that we will include efforts which encourage you to run faster in your long run than you might be used to and specifically blocks of marathon pace or even threshold running where relevant.
Interval Running (IR): Interval training helps to boost specific race pace speed and involve running timed efforts with a controlled recovery. The effort level is around 85–100% of MHR, depending on the duration of the event you are training for and the length and volume of intervals used. A typical example might be 6 x 3 minutes @ 5km race pace with a 90 second jog recovery but commonly includes efforts from 30 seconds right through to 4-5 minutes depending on the goal of the session. These sessions build speed and your maximum oxygen uptake (vo2 max).
Fartlek (F): This is a Swedish term that literally means “speed play”. It involves a number of bursts of effort over a variety of distances with a variable recovery. Originally the length of effort was based on the terrain, for example, pushing harder every time you came to a climb, no matter how long it was. You can adapt it for your needs.
Race Pace Running (RP): Ultimately if you want to race at a given pace you need to be strong and confident running at that pace. Your training is designed to get you more and more economical and efficient at your goal race pace as you move through. You'll see blocks of race pace included in interval sessions, 'tempo' runs and even your long run depending on the event you are training for.
Cross Training (XT): It is important that your training is balanced with some non-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, rowing, the cross trainer etc, otherwise you are more likely to pick up an annoying injury that will set back your training. More experienced runners should also add cross training to their regime. Endurance running, especially the marathon, requires whole body-conditioning. To achieve this you should aim to work a variety of muscle groups and not just your legs. Be careful not to make the cross-training, whether it is core conditioning, lifting weights, using an elliptical trainer or practicing Pilates, so intense that you are left too tired for your running.
Strides (SD): Strides are short relaxed runs of 60-100 metres run at 80-90% of your maximum speed. They are highly effective in developing your neuromuscular system, increasing leg speed and provide a great way of practicing good 'running form' and technique over short distances. They are short enough not to create lasting fatigue and so can be used in warm ups or after easy runs. Do not try to sprint these efforts, they are relaxed fast runs.