There are lots of different training methods available for each distance, so I’ve separated the article into the most popular distances (+42k as well, for the trail runners out there)!
We’ve recently published the beginner and advanced guide to periodization, a detailed guide that teaches you how to put together your very own training plan. In those articles, I taught the readers:
Planning isn’t necessary, but it’s a powerful tool to boost your running results and long-term success! The only thing I didn’t touch on in those articles was the different training techniques you can use to improve your overall aerobic (and anaerobic) conditioning. That’s what we’re going over in this article.
Speed training is real and essential if you want to improve your results! Studies show that it’s possible to increase your running speed in just two weeks! Anyway, I’ve split this article up into different distances, so just jump down to the distance you’re looking for and have a look at the different training techniques at your disposal. So without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Disclaimer: The techniques below are suggestions. They are usually done at a mid-high effort (somewhere between 7-10 on the RPE scale). You should still have plenty of easy running days! These sessions should not be performed everyday (unless I suggest this) and should be followed by a rest day or an easy run day.
5K + 10K
Plyometrics – This session consists of various jumps. For example, letting yourself fall off a chair and jumping as high as possible as soon as you touch the ground is an example of plyometric work. These exercises will improve your tendon/ligament strength. You want to be explosive and springy in your plyometric exercises! You can find various examples of plyometric exercises here.
Session example: Choose five different plyometric exercises and perform 3 sets of 10/15 repetitions for each exercise. You can do plyometric exercises before an easy run or before a gym/strength session.
Tempo Runs – This technique consists of keeping a sustained high effort for an entire training session. Tempo runs improve your lactate/anaerobic threshold which means your body is producing lactic acid at a slightly faster rate than it is capable of removing it.
Session example: run your normal training distance (not your long run), at a higher effort (around 70/80% of your max effort).
Interval Training – Interval training allows your body to build up lactic acid and then remove it from the body, which in turn improves your lactate/anaerobic threshold. You do this by sprinting for a set distance and then resting actively for a set period of time.
Session example: 10 x 400meters at 5K race pace
Explosive Strength – This work is usually much more common in track athletes who run short distances like the 100m, however, it can be wonderfully beneficial to anyone who decides to include it in their training plan.
Session example: Perform explosive jump squats, jumping lunges, pistol squats, etc… You can also do unilateral movements to add more difficulty to your workout. Single leg burpees and single leg glute bridges will provide many benefits such as improving your hip mobility and providing a larger stimulus to your mucles (promoting strength improvement and muscle growth)! 3 sets of 10/15 reps for each exercise (perform them in a circuit).
21K + 42K
Long Runs – are a no brainer! They should be included in your training plan at least once a week and you should be increasing your longs runs by 10% every week until you reach your distance goal.
Session example: Long run on Saturday (rest day on Sunday). Distance = 15K at an easy pace. Sessions duration/distance highly dependent on your current ability. Increase mileage responsibly.
Strength – If I were a long-distance runner, I would have a strength-specific training day planned every week. I would just stay at home or go to the gym and spend 30 minutes making sure my body is strong enough to endure endless miles on the road. If you don’t have one day to spare, I recommend doing these sessions in the morning, before an easy run in the afternoon/at night.
Session example: We want to do it all, the crunches, the planks, the squats, the lunges, the one-leg-side-to-side hops, the burpees, push-ups, pull-ups and all that good stuff! Focus on using the proper form and find a coach if you need any help performing these exercises. 3 sets of 10/15 reps. Perform the exercises in a circuit.
Multilateral Movement – I’m a firm believer in multilateral movement for long distance runners. Thing about it… in running, we’re always moving in one direction, forward! What about the other planes? We’re neglecting very important stabilization muscles by not doing multilateral work and this will increase your risk of injury. The aim of this session is to move in all directions, forward, back, side to side and diagonally.
Session example: Skater hops, side to side hops (also diagonally), run backwards for a few meters as a warm-up, try to balance (barefoot) on a Bosu Ball, etc… there’s many things you can do here. 3 sets of 10/15 repetitions. Perform the exercises in a circuit.
Long Tempo Runs – Although I’ve named these ‘long tempo runs’ they aren’t supposed to be that long! They’ll fall somewhere between your long run and your normal easy run distance. Give it your all and maintain a high effort for the whole session!
Session example: (If your long run is 15Km…) 10K at 20% slower than 5K pace.
Fartlek – Translated from Swedish into English, fartlek means speed play. Fartlek training challenges your body to adapt to different running speeds.
Session example: Simply head out for a 30 minute run (this may vary depending on your current ability), choose a point ahead of you (this can be a tree, a lamp post, etc) and increase your speed (to an 8/9 RPE level) until you get to that point. Make sure it’s at least 50/100 meters. When you reach the tree/lamp post, slow down and resume your normal training speed. Repeat these 3 or 4 times in your run.
Strength + Multilateral Movement – as I said above, I’m a firm believer in multilateral movement for long distance runners. In running, we’re always moving in one direction… forward! What about the other planes? We’re neglecting very important stabilization muscles by not doing multilateral work and this will increase your risk of injury. Especially as trail runners, when you spend countless hours in the trails! Trail runner need to have one day per week (at least) where they focus on improving overall strength – this is not negotiable!
The aim of this session is to move in all directions, forward, back, side to side and diagonally.
Session example: Weight lifting is great for providing a hard stimulus for your muscles to develop strength at a faster rate. Skater hops, side to side hops (also diagonally), run backwards for a few meters as a warm-up, try to balance (barefoot) on a Bosu Ball, etc…
Sign up to a gym and make sure you spend lots of time getting familiar with the machines and working out your muscles in various different movements. There are many things you can do here. 3 sets of 10/15 repetitions.
Long Runs – Ok, you’re a trail runner and you run/walk lots and lots of miles! That doesn’t mean you can just head out and run 100km, if the most you’ve even ran is 50km! You need a progression plan! As a trail runner, your training plan is similar to other distances in the sense that you will run 5/6 times per week and only one or two of those runs will be a long run! You will also increase your total weekly mileage by 10% every week until you reach your goal distance. Remember to have a de-load week every 3-4 weeks.
If you struggle with my exercise descriptions above, you can try looking on Google or YouTube! Finding yourself a coach would be the ideal option, so you can execute each exercise with the proper form.
That’s it! This is your cheat sheet for creating a training plan. Whenever you’re struggling to improve your speed, come back here and see which session you could add to your training plan, potentially giving you a chance to smash through your personal records.
Speaking of which – which race are you proud of? I mean, which race are you REALLY proud of? We all have that one race where we felt unstoppable and incredibly grateful after crossing the finish line. I can still remember the unique feeling of crossing the finish line in my first half marathon!
RunPage has recently released an option to create your very own exclusive Finisher Shirt! You can customize this shirt with your name, finish, the distance you ran and which race you completed. All of this information will be shown on your Finisher Shirt in a stylish manner, allowing you to boast your results and wear your efforts proudly!
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