Today I want to talk about an athlete whom we will call Alex. Alex is a talented high school student with a natural talent for running. Alex loved the feeling of pounding the pavement. Every day, Alex would lace up their shoes and head out for a run, enjoying the breeze and the sun on their face. And every day, Alex would come home feeling great and accomplished, having completed another run.
But as time passed, Alex started to realize that something was missing. Despite running every day and adding more miles to their routine, Alex was not seeing any significant progress in their performance. Frustrated and confused, Alex started to wonder if they were doing something wrong. Was it possible that mileage runs weren’t enough to achieve their goals?
If you’re a runner like Alex, you might be wondering the same thing. The truth is, easy runs are essential for building a strong base, but they are not enough on their own. To achieve your goals and avoid injuries, you need to train smarter and vary your workouts to target different body systems.
Understanding the different types of runs and how they impact your body systems is essential to designing an effective training plan. Below, we’ll discuss some basic types of runs and how they can benefit you.
Easy Days/Active Recovery Runs
Many runners struggle with slowing down and running easy miles, but easy runs are crucial to allow your body to recover from previous workouts without increasing the accumulated stress and damage on the body. By adding up more base mileage, you can increase your endurance base and build up a resistance to injury. Easy runs also help strengthen your cardiovascular system, allowing your heart to pump blood more efficiently and increasing stroke volume. Improvement occurs not during workouts but when your body adapts and recovers from them. Running too hard without adequate recovery will eventually lead to injury.
Tempo runs, sometimes described as comfortably hard or sustained effort runs, can help improve your endurance base at higher intensities. As your body runs faster, your metabolic rate increases, and lactic acid builds up. Your lactic threshold is the breaking point where your body can no longer keep up with the increasing buildup, leading to muscle fatigue. By training at this threshold, your body becomes more efficient at clearing lactic acid and other by-products, allowing you to run at higher intensities for longer periods.
Physiologically, your long run is a key workout for building your endurance base by increasing the impact load your muscles, joints, and connective tissues can support during longer distances. By running long, you increase the mitochondrial production of capillaries, allowing your body to convert nutrients to energy more efficiently. During long runs, your body learns to store glycogen while using other energy sources more efficiently. Long runs are also great for mental preparation, practicing hydration and refueling techniques, and preparing for endurance races.
Speed work, also known as interval training, is a calculated workout session used to stress certain body systems and allow them to recover. Small adjustments in pace can have a significant impact on a training session. During speed work, you’re training your body to perform efficiently at high paces and build up resistance to fatigue. Interval training helps a runner build up speed, improve running economy, and manage pain. Focus on the form while completing speed work to improve efficiency and biomechanics.
Remember, you’re training with a goal in mind, and the training load is a balancing act. Your distances and paces are important in maintaining that balance. Don’t try to “beat” the workout – you’re not racing the workout; you’re merely applying a stress load to your body that will cause it to rebuild stronger. Pushing your paces too much increases your training load, which can increase your risk of injury and not allowing adequate recovery time. A complete training program should include a variety of training sessions and paces. Before implementing speed work into your training, build up an endurance base by running consistently for at least 2-3 months.
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of runs and how they impact your body systems, it’s time to apply this knowledge to your own training. Consider working with a coach or trainer who can help you design a personalized training program that’s tailored to your specific goals and fitness level. Alternatively, if you prefer to train on your own, start by setting clear goals for each workout and listen to your body to ensure that you’re not pushing yourself too hard. Remember, consistency is key, so make sure to stick to your training plan and be patient with yourself as you work toward your goals. Good luck, and happy running!
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