Garmin’s Virtual Coach: Article #2 – Training Elements for Endurance Running

ImageIn our second installment of Coach’s Corner in association with Full Potential, we give you all the information you need for your training elements when endurance running. 

If you missed the first installment of Coach’s Corner you can read it here where we tell you all about training and heart rate.

Article #2 – Training Elements for Endurance Running

Training Elements for Endurance Running To get the most from your Garmin, you have to understand the different types of running you are doing, or should be doing. You need to understand what each run is trying to achieve and its intensity and distance. Using your Garmin, you can measure your heart rate, elevation and distance, all of which will have an impact on the intensity of the run. One of the classic situations why people plateau in their racing performance is because the training they are doing is not structured, progressive or appropriate.

Here are the different elements of training that we would look to incorporate into our training schedules. Obviously the combination, intensity and duration of these elements would depend on your own level of experience, current fitness, time of year and the racing goals you are aiming for.

Perhaps it is time to evaluate your training routine and see if there are areas where you could make some changes to help you improve your autumn performances.

Recovery Run

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 should be nice and easy and you should feel relaxed. Enjoy the scenery. You should be breathing easily and be capable of holding a conversation throughout the run. This will mean that you are running in the 60–65% range of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and it should be no more than 45 minutes in duration. 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.

Threshold Runs

After the long endurance runs, tempo runs are probably your most valuable workouts. You will find them slightly uncomfortable and they’ll require concentration, but they are well worth the effort. As they’re 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 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 efficiency and aerobic capacity (your body’s ability to utilise oxygen). All this helps to improve your endurance performance.

Long Runs

Long runs are vital. After all, a marathon is a very long run. 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 65% of MHR (conversational pace). Gradually this will build to 75% of MHR as you start to practice periods of marathon pace (MP) running. These runs improve your muscular endurance and condition your body to burn fat as its primary fuel source. They also prepare you physically and mentally for the task ahead.

Kenyan Hills

Hill running develops strength in your muscles and tendons without putting them under the type of stress they are exposed to during faster running. Run up a 10% gradient for 90 seconds to two minutes at a steady pace. Turn immediately at the top and jog down the hill at a relaxed pace, then turn and repeat without any recovery. This type of session is used extensively by elite Kenyan athletes – so I call them Kenyan Hills – and are one of their main conditioning sessions. Like a tempo run, a hill session isn’t a time for witty social intercourse, as you should be working at about 80–85% of MHR and be able to utter three or four words.


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. But you can adapt it for your needs.

Interval Training

Intervals help to boost specific race pace speed and involve running timed efforts with a controlled recovery. The effort level is around 90–100% of MHR, depending on the duration of the event you are training for.

Race Pace Practice

Understanding the pace you are able to run your race is very important. Pace judgment is crucial to running your best performance. You have to practice running for appropriate periods of time at your predicted race pace as this allows your body and mind to get used to what will be required on the big day.

Warming Up

When you are going to do any faster running such as Hills, Threshold Runs, Intervals or a race, it is important to warm up gradually. A 10-15 minute jog lets your muscles warm up and improve their range of movement. It also allows your cardiovascular system to prepare.

Cooling Down

Gentle 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 waste products, such as lactic acid, from the muscle cells, which helps to avoid undue muscle soreness.


It is important that your training is balanced with some non-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, rowing, aerobics, etc, otherwise you are more likely to pick up an annoying injury that will set back your training. But 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. Remember, though, that you are a runner, so just be careful not to make the cross-training, whether it is lifting weights, using an elliptical trainer or practicing Pilates, so intense that you are left too tired for your running.


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!

Now you’ve got the latest advice check out Garmin’s Virtual Coach when you can download training videos and training plans for the Forerunner 405 Training Watch.