It is important to understand the different types of running you are doing, or should be doing.
Listed below are the different elements of training that we incorporate into our training schedules. Obviously the combination, intensity and duration of these elements would depend on your level of experience, current fitness, time of year and the racing goals you are aiming for.
When you are going to do any faster running it is important to warm up gradually. A 10-15 minute jog allows your muscles gradually warm up and improve their range of movement. It also allows your cardiovascular system to prepare for the harder work to be carried out.
A period of at least 10-15 minutes easy jogging and light stretching allows your body to adjust back to a steady state. Cooling down stops blood pooling in your legs, and helps remove some of the waste products, such as lactic acid, from the muscle cells, which helps to avoid undue muscle soreness.
Training for endurance requires your body to work hard but to see improvement this has to be done without breaking down. You therefore need some recovery runs. These should be easy and relaxed. You should be breathing easily and be capable of holding a conversation throughout the run. This will mean that your effort level is 6-6.5 out of 10, which at the beginning, may involve periods of walking. This allows your body to adapt to the training workload and therefore improve. It also helps with the removal of the waste products, which accumulate in your muscles after harder efforts.
The long run is an important element of training. At first simply concentrate on increasing the time you spend on your feet rather than worrying about the pace or distance. The key is working at a conversational pace that is a perceived effort level of 6.5-7.5 out of 10. This may be a brisk walk, a run/walk or a run depending on your current fitness and level of experience. These runs improve your muscular endurance, general body condition, running efficiency and economy.
Steady running is carried out a perceived effort level of 7.5-8 out of 10. We use this level of training when trying to develop your training towards threshold or increase the general workload within the training plan.
Threshold sessions are one of your most valuable workouts but they do require some effort. They are run at level of ‘controlled discomfort’ that is a perceived effort level of 8-8.5 out of 10. At this level you are only capable of uttering 4 or 5 words to your training partners. You will find that these sessions require concentration, but they will greatly improve your speed endurance, running style and economy.
Interval training gets you used to running at a faster pace, and involves running timed efforts with a controlled timed recovery. The perceived effort level is high, which means you can only utter around 2-5 words.
It is important that your training is balanced with some non-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, rowing, aerobics, body and core exercises etc, otherwise you are more likely to pick up an injury that will set back your training. It also adds to the enjoyment by keeping your exercise routine varied.
To help your body cope with the workload, rest is going to be as important a part of your training schedule as the running. 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. Remember: on rest days, that is exactly what you should be doing!