My Five Star Line-Up to Better Running (FIVE Part Series)
I am very competitive by nature, especially when it comes to sport. I had to be the best I could be so that the team could win. In training, I would make sure I was the fastest, most vocal, could jump the highest (or farthest in the long/triple jumps), score or assist the most goals/points, and so on.
You get the picture...
When it came to running, I was no different. Each run had to be faster than the last. That was because I used to think that there was just one type of run. Just lace up, head out the door and run the streets (or treadmill). My genuine belief back then was that over time, you naturally got faster as your body acclimatized to running, and thus having more stamina and more power, which to me would result in faster times. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, I would grow as a runner with each run to become faster and run farther.
This mentality is very dangerous, and I have quit running a number of times because of it.
I found myself getting into a comfort zone briefly until I was no longer happy with my results. My plan for getting faster just wasn’t working. The reason we train is to quote Daft Punk, to get “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. It wasn’t until I actually got myself a running coach that I learned the secrets to unlocking my speed.
There are indeed multiple ways to run or to use running as a workout. Some you may have heard of, others, maybe not so obvious. These runs as grouped as:
Not only is there a huge benefit to mixing up your runs in such a way, but it will also break the monotony that running can often be associated with.
Like an all-star line up from the NBA, these five areas were key to developing into a faster and more confident runner.
For the next few weeks, I will go into detail about what each workout is, what the benefits are, as well as some example runs that you can do as part of your training. I will also be pulling from my own experiences as I stepped up from middle distance running (5km & 10km racing), up to long distance running (so far three half marathons and counting).
Pretty straight forward in the sense that these workouts are all about speed. It involves running fast, very fast indeed, and we tend to do these kinds of sessions in intervals at, near, or even above our VO₂ max.
Now this will depend on your current fitness levels and what your race goals are to determine just how fast you go. The best part of running is that everyone is different! It doesn’t matter whether you run three minutes per km or ten minutes per km. As long as you’re feeling like you’re working hard, then you know it’s going to be working for you.
Running faster enables us to tap into these top-end speeds, which in turn helps us to unlock a greater speed range. In turn, this will help us improve our efficiency as runners, resulting in being able to run faster. It's that snow ball effect work as mentioned above. If we want to break into these top-end speeds, we have to break down our sessions into smaller segments, also known as intervals, or reps.
The easiest example of speed work would be the minute hard, minute easy session. An example work out (with pace ranges) for somebody training for a half-marathon can be seen below:
Repeat each rep four to six times. Then we can increase the repetitions by one or two each week.
If you want to be more distance-based, instead of keeping an eye on your watch for a minute on and off, you can do kilometre (or mile) repeats instead.
After a brief warm-up (for me this is usually 1–2km), I then speed up to, at or near race pace and go for 1km (see below). Then after 1km, I slow down and have 1–2 minutes of recovery (either walking or at a slower running pace), before ramping up again for another quick kilometre. When you do not come to a stop, this is called "Active Recovery".
Similar to our minute hard work out, we can start to increase the repetitions as we progress with training.
I was first introduced to Fartlek training when I was training with the Stockport Harriers during my highschool years. I enjoyed it as it utilises periods of speed and rest of varying intervals keeping the workout stimulating as well as challenging.
I briefly talk about Fartlek training in my “Try These Exercises, and Run Faster as a Result” post where I reduced the distances to a more measurable 50m-100m.
With the shorter distances, we can focus more on explosive speeds (sprinting), which for me is important as I like to finish my races with a sprint for the final 250m or so and really aim to finish strongly.
This can be done at the local track, or we can run around the block, the park, the options are limitless. Below is an example session I completed last time I was out on the track:
By the time I had finished, the group had covered around 9km, and we wouldn’t know it because of the variations in training and the switching of running fast and running slower.
The best part of Fartlek training is that based on your ability, it can be modified and you don’t even need a track to run around. So have some fun with Fartlek runs as there are no rules on how to do this effectively. It really is just about alternating our speeds and intensities during that one session.
That is it for this week's running workout. Check back next time when I go into our second type of runs; Tempo Runs.
about the author
David is a runner from Manchester, England and now resides in Toronto, Canada. He has been a "serious" runner since 2017 and his favorite distance is the 10k.
He represents Brooks Canada as part of their #RunHappy Team as well as supports mental health initiatives such as Outrun the Dark.