I hope you are staying healthy, well, and positive!
This past week I went to the track for one of my workouts. This is a bit of a big deal for me because frankly, I’m not a fan of running on the track. However, I wanted to work on my running form and pace, so I performed twelve 200-meter bouts at slightly faster than 5k pace with a 200 meter slow jog recovery in between. It was a fairly tough workout, but a good one to work on improving my running form to optimize my performance for my next marathon.
One of the important ways to get better as a runner is by running faster. When we runner faster our bodies have to function more efficiently. Thus, we train our nervous system to better recruit our muscles so that we can run more efficiently and faster. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the silver linings of having events postponed or canceled is the opportunity to work on aspects of our running that could benefit from improvement. One area that many runners can benefit from, including myself, is running form. Therefore, I am making a focused effort to include workouts that will improve my running form and pace. In this post, I will discuss three different types of workouts you can perform to help you improve your running form, so that you can optimize your running performance. These workouts include strides, hill sprints, and 100-200 meter bouts. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Strides are short bouts performed in a primarily flat area lasting from 10-30 seconds, in which a runner gradually accelerates their pace over the duration of the stride. The speed that you perform strides depends on the event you are training for. In the case of marathon training, I would recommend performing strides at 5k pace or slightly faster.
To incorporate strides in a run, I would recommend running at an easy pace for 20-30 minutes. Then slowly accelerate your pace for 10-30 seconds, so that you are running at approximately your most recent 5k pace or slightly faster. During this time, focus on staying relaxed and maintaining proper form. See my previous post for cues for proper running form.
At the end of this increased bout, slowly decelerate to a slow jog for 60-90 seconds and repeat. Initially, perform 4-6 bouts of 10-20 seconds. Over time increase the duration of these bouts up to 30 seconds. Also, decrease your recovery time to 60 seconds.
Finish your run at an easy pace for at least 10 minutes.
In addition, to improving running form all three of these workouts also facilitate the use of muscles fibers typically not recruited when we run. These fibers are our fast twitch muscle fibers which will generate significant force, for speed and power, but are not be able to sustain contraction over a long period of time. This differs from our slow twitch muscle fibers mostly used when we run. It may not seem necessary to train fast twitch muscle fibers if we don’t use them much when running. However, these fibers can come in handy for speed, especially as we sprint to the finish line, and these fibers can be used during marathons and other long-distance events, as our slow twitch fibers fatigue and need to recover, allowing us to sustain our pace for a longer period of time.
Hill sprints are the best way to train the most difficult to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers, so that we have access to them during our long-distance event. Performing hill sprints has other benefits including strengthening the muscles around the ankles, which can result in decreased risk of plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, and knee pain. Hill sprints are also great for overall leg strengthening.
I have a favorite hill nearby that I perform hill sprints on, which has an incline of about 8%. This hill has a dirt path as well, which makes this workout easier on my body. For performing hill sprints, I recommend finding a hill that has an incline of ~6-8% and the surface is grass or dirt. This will significantly reduce the impact on your joints.
Hill sprints should last 8-10 seconds and truly be sprints, in which you are running as fast as you can. Use short strides and a slight lean into the hill. Use arm swing to help power you up the hill. After the hill sprint recover by walking back down the hill. Continue to walk for 2-3 minutes to fully recover before performing the next hill sprint. Start with 1-2 hill sprints performed after running at an easy pace for at least 20-30 minutes. Gradually increase (adding no more than 1-2 hill sprints) the number of hill sprints each week. Increase until you can perform 8-10 hill sprints.
Bouts of Increased Pace for 100-200 meters
After performing strides and hill sprints for at least 4-6 weeks, I recommend replacing one of these workouts with one in which you perform 100-200 meter bouts at approximately 5k pace or slightly faster on a track or other flat area. While performing these bouts remember to focus on proper running form. This is a great opportunity to focus on maintaining proper running posture, incorporating the glutes, and breathing rhythmically. After performing one of these bouts recover with a slow jog of 100-200 meters and repeat. Initially, perform 4-6 of these bouts and then gradually (add up to 2 per week) increase to 10-12.
Be sure to perform a dynamic warmup and easy run for at least 10 minutes before performing the 100-200 meter bouts.
After performing the 100-200 meter bouts, cooldown with an easy jog for at least 10-15 minutes, and then perform cooldown exercises, such as stretching and/or foam/lacrosse ball rolling.
For now, I would recommend incorporating 1-2 of these workouts per week. I would start with strides and hill sprints and then you may want to transition to 100-200 meter bouts on a track or other flat area. Leave at least 2-3 days in between each of these of workouts for recovery.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of use in any way.
Be safe and enjoy your runs!
Your friend and coach,