Training Variations for Performance Boosts
By Brock Shirley
Image © snaptitude / Fotolia
Running is tricky enough to get your head around at the best of times, let alone when you’re trying to get yourself to that next level. It’s hard to break through the ceiling, to run faster or for longer, and you can find burnout or boredom hits before the goal even comes into view.
If you’re on the verge of frustration and the same old isn’t interesting you in the slightest, you’ll want to know (or be reminded) that there’s so many different ways to train for running. Any of them, if done well, can bring great results and a whole heck of fun. Read on and give some of the following techniques a go. Don’t expect results overnight but do expect your enjoyment to skyrocket almost immediately.
These are just a small taste of what’s out there, and the descriptions are basic. Once you’ve decided on what interests you I’d recommend doing more research on each method or taking some questions to your coach. Remember, education is power.
We start with fartlek because it sounds the most fun. Fartlek is Swedish for “Speed Play” (bet you didn’t think running would make you bi-lingual hey). It’s exactly how it sounds. You play with speed. It doesn’t have a set structure but involves changing your speed and the time at which you run that speed. Here’s one example of speed play at work:
After a good five to ten minutes warm up run, pick yourself an object in the distance or a set time. It might be the stop sign 150m away. Run a sprint to that sign then slow down to a comfortable jog and recover for as long as you want. Don’t get lazy and allow too much rest, set another task. It might be 30 seconds flat out then recover. Repeat this until you’ve had enough. Trust you body and run by feel. It’s that easy.
Speed, recovery, endurance and enjoyment will be improved mostly with this method.
Here’s another easy one that works best at the end of a short/easy run. You’ll need an area safe to run on that’s 100m in length. Here’s how you run the 100m:
Take off and push until you get to 95% of your top speed (should be in the first 40m) then decelerate until you reach a near walk for the rest of the length. Repeat this for as many times as you have energy, then head home, stretch and rest up. You deserve it.
This will work a lot on speed and power, which can be a savior when the going gets tough on those long runs.
3. Head for the hills
Before you hit the hills, please make sure you have a good endurance base under you first. Aim for 30-40mins of running without coughing up a lung. Now you’re ready for hills.
This is pretty simple. You just have to pick a run route that has one, or even better, a few hills in it. For your first couple of runs you might want to drop back the distance from your flat runs. Hills hurt but they will improve speed and strength. And lets be honest, there’s not many places or races where hills don’t exist, so you may as well get used to them.
4. Gain some weight
Tricked ya! I’m talking about hitting the weights room. This should be done for any level of runner. A strong body is imperative for running and injury prevention. Work on your body as a whole not just your legs.
Be sure that every workout includes upper body (because upper body works during your run too), core stability and of course legs. If you have a long run coming up soon, go a little lighter on leg day leading into it.
When you’re running, your whole body is working. One weak link in the chain and the anchor can be dropped quicker than you can say GPS watch.
This will work on strength, speed, form, endurance and injury prevention.
There’s no excuses for missing strength training.
5. Tabata sessions
This one is fun and very handy if you’re a little time poor as it doesn’t go for as long as some of your other runs will. A quick word of caution; this does involve all out sprints so make sure your fitness base is solid to avoid injury or burn out. This can be done on sand, hills, roads, grass etc. My preferred environment is a running track. Here’s how it works:
Start with a decent warm up, for example a slow jog for five to ten minutes, then some strides and a few shorter sprints to get you really oiled up and ready to get fast. Next run as fast as you can for 20 seconds then follow it with a ten second walk/slow jog break. Repeat this for about eight cycles or ten minutes, whichever you can last to. Follow this all up with a short, slow jog as a warm down.
This will help improve your speed, power and recovery.
6. Something else?
If list above fails to tickle your fancy, look into a few of the following methods and give them a shot:
- Bleacher runs/ Stair runs
- Pyramid runs
- Trail running
- Yasso 800’s
- HIIT workouts
- Tempo runs
- Tinker with your gait (see a professional for this one)
- Mixing in a few of these sessions throughout a training plan can help keep things fresh and can bring about huge improvements in your running. The power is in your hands to use them. So go get it!