Whether you’re just getting started with your running adventures or you’re a seasoned pro, one thing never changes: you need a good game plan to go from good to great.
Without a plan to get from point A to point B, you’re literally just pounding the pavement. While simply getting out and running is good, if you have a little prior planning into how you are running, you’ll fare far better.
Ready to get a plan into action?
Let’s go over how you can maximize your running performance and kick-start your results.
Step 1: Determine Your Goal
First, it’s imperative that you know the goal you are working towards. Don’t just say you want to become a better runner, define it. How do you want to become a better runner?
Do you want better endurance? More speed? Faster acceleration? Or maybe you want to achieve the epitome of running – that marathon event.
Whatever the case, figure this out first as it will dictate the nature of the workouts you need to perform.
Step 2: Figure Out Your Schedule
Next, start thinking about your schedule. How many days a week can you devote to your running training? Everyone has a different lifestyle and some are busier than others. Don’t feel bad if you can’t run 6 days a week – know that any running is better than no running.
Make the most of the time you do have. Being realistic from the start about your availability will help prevent frustration down the road and ensure the program you do set up for yourself is one that you can sustain.
Step 3: Understand The Workout Options Available
Now it’s time to learn about the various types of running workouts you can perform. Each serves its own purpose in terms of making you a better runner. Here are the main ones to know.
The first type of session is your basic aerobic or endurance focused training. Your mission here: run for as long as you can before fatigue sets in.
It’s a good idea to build a base level of endurance before adding speed workouts into the mix, which we’ll be discussing next. Ideally you should be able to run for about 20-30 minutes straight before you begin speed work and on top of that, be putting in around 15-40 miles per week with your usual training. Once you can do this, you know you’re ready to take things up a notch.
Keep in mind that for your endurance training, you want to be achieving a heart rate of around 55-70% of your maximum (which can be found by subtracting your age from 220). Ideally you’ll keep at least one endurance training session in your plan per week, which will allow you to sustain optimal levels of aerobic fitness.
If your goal is based strictly around speed however, then once you have the cardio base and are moving on to speed work, this may not be a necessity any longer.
Lactate Threshold Training
The first type of speed work is basically an endurance session that’s had the dial cranked up. Now, instead of going for as long as you can, you’re going to increase the intensity so that you can only maintain the pace for about 20 minutes until fatigue sets in. This isn’t meant to be a long run but rather, one that challenges you maximally without rest.
If you feel like you have to stop by the time you’re at around that 20 minute mark, you know you’ve been running at a pace that’s fast enough. If you could keep going, next run, increase the pace.
This training will help you push up your fatigue threshold so that when you do your endurance work later on, it feels far easier.
Next we have interval training. With this training style, you’re going to alternate periods of very intense exercise with active periods of rest. You may exercise for 15-60 seconds at your maximum pace (how long you choose is dependent on the goals you have) and then supplement that with a rest period that’s 1-3 times as long. This process is then repeated 5-15 times, making up the workout.
The idea here is you push your body to new training levels that it has not experienced before, developing a greater ability to run at an all-out pace.
Keep in mind the shorter the interval, the more intense that interval should be. If it’s just 15 seconds long, you should be going at 100% of your maximum effort. If it’s 60 seconds long, you may be at around 85% of your maximum running speed.
If you’d prefer not to watch the clock, speed repetitions may be the workout for you. For this workout, you’re basically going to go by distance, rather than time. So instead of doing an interval that’s 30 seconds in duration, you might do an interval that’s 100 meters.
You’d sprint that 100 meters and then walk back to the start. Then repeat the process until your intervals are completed.
Here again, the longer that distance you’re trying to cover, the slower you’ll be running. Note these are meant to be intense though, so they should never feel easy.
Finally, fartlek training is another form of speed workout that is going to help you develop into a faster runner without the stress of being so precise.
These workouts are more relaxed and simply have you picking up the pace during your run when you feel up to it.
Start out at a steady pace and then when you feel ready, sprint the next however many meters until fatigue sets in. Slow back down to your jog and then repeat this process until the workout is over.
Unlike the above two speed workouts, you shouldn’t come to a full walk with this one. Instead, try and keep yourself moving at a decent pace the entire time if possible.
Step 4: Create Your Weekly Schedule
Now that you know the various workouts you can do, it’s time to create your weekly schedule.
Ideally you’ll have one endurance focused workout added into the mix and two speed workouts, preferably of different varieties. Beyond that, you can add any other workouts you feel necessary to help you reach the goals you have set for yourself.
If you are primary seeking endurance, this might mean adding another 2-3 endurance workouts. If you want speed, you might add another session or two of interval training.
Just a few words of caution:
Follow these three guidelines and you’ll be all set.
All that’s needed now is for you to take action. Remember you won’t achieve a better level of fitness sitting on the sidelines reading about good running programming. Now that you have your game plan, put it to use. That is what will make you a truly great runner.