While You Wait for You Next Running Event Improve Your Running Form And Pace With These Workouts

hill sprints

Hello Runners,

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

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.

Hill Sprints

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.

Final Thoughts

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,

Brian

 

Incorporate Fartlek (“Speed Play”) Runs in Your Training Plan to Achieve Your Running Goals for 2019

April 7 2019 Lupines near Lake Tekapo small version“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  ― Roy T. Bennett

Today I ran ~8 miles in an area with hills, and included a progression (more on this in a future post), in which I increased the pace for the last mile.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Front lunges (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Front V-lunges (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Side-to-side lunges (5 repetitions for each side)
  • Back V-lunges (5 repetitions for each side)
  • Back lunges (5 repetitions for each side)

After these exercises I performed foam and ball rolling for ~15 minutes.

As I near the end of the fitness training portion of my marathon training and transition into marathon-specific training, I’m reminded of some of the important workouts to incorporate during training, especially early during half- or full-marathon training. One type of run, which is beneficial, is the Fartlek run. Fartlek means “speed play”, and basically means running at different paces during your run. Fartlek runs are useful to incorporate early in half- or full-marathon specific training because they can help you get used to running at different speeds while you are still building aerobic fitness. Therefore, the speed bouts during Fartlek runs should be at a pace which is still primarily aerobic (~70-90% effort). For half- and full-marathon training this pace may be anywhere from approximately 5k pace to marathon pace. The primary benefits of Fartlek runs are:

  • Trains the cardiorespiratory system and neuromuscular systems to efficiently absorb, deliver, and utilize oxygen while removing carbon dioxide and lactic acid
  • Improves endurance with low muscle stress
  • Promotes running more efficiently
  • Trains runner to manage low grade physical discomfort
  • Increases strength, improves form, and less chance of injury due to less strain on ligaments and tendons

However, when, and if, you should begin incorporating Fartlek runs depends on your fitness level and runnign history. For example, beginners may include Fartlek runs later during their training, or may not include Fartlek runs at all.

For those who use Fartlek runs, the length of time that you are running at increased speed is from 30 seconds to about 4-5 minutes. These increased speed bouts can be run on flat or hilly terrain and the length of time of each bout may be the same or different. In fact, the time bouts may be structuted (running specific amount of time) or not (running to a landmark, such as the “next telephone pole”, running at different speeds). You can also vary the recovery time between bouts to make the workout more or less challenging.

Early on, I recommend keeping these bout short (30-60 seconds) and then increase them over time. As you increase the speed bout time you may want to decrease the pace. So, early on in your training a Fartlek run might look like this:

  • Dynamic warmup
  • Run 10-15 minutes at an easy pace
  • Perform 6 30-second bouts at ~5k pace, or a pace that feels comfortably hard
  • Recover in between each bout with an easy jog for 2 minutes
  • Finish your run at an easy pace

As your training progresses and the time length of your speed bouts increases, you may beginning incorporating ladder-type speed bouts in which you increase and/or decrease the time of each speed bout and run these at different paces and vary the recovery time. This can be a great transition into threshold or tempo runs, or half- or full-marathon pace runs.

So, consider incorporating Fartlek runs into your training, after you have completed a fitness training program, to help you improve your running speed and achieve your running goals for 2019. You may consider working with a coach, so that you can appropriately incorporate Fartlek runs in your training plan and get the most benefit.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 30: Hill Sprints: Great for Running Performance and Minimizing Injury-Risk

“When your desires are strong enough you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

This morning I incorporated two 8-second (2 x 8-second) hill sprints for the first time in my training for this year. I performed these towards the end of my run. In between hill sprints I walked back down the hill for my recovery. The hill had an incline of ~8% and I could definitely feel it in my legs! See the Recommendation and Tip of the Day sections for more information. I did an easy jog afterwards for about 5 minutes. The I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~45 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with static stretching for the hamstrings and calves, and lacrosse ball rolling on the plantar fascia.

Recommendations: For intermediate and advanced runners, you might want to begin incorporating hill sprints in your training after 2-4 weeks of easy-paced running, depending on the amount of time you have taken off from running. For beginners and those who have taken a significant amount of time off from running (three months or more) you might want to wait until at least 8 weeks of easy-paced running before including hill sprints. I would perform only 1-2 x 8-second hill sprints for your first session with a walking recovery.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend opting in on the Welcome Page to receive a fitness training program, which includes hill sprints for some of the runs.

Tip of the Day: Hill sprints strengthen all of the running muscles, especially quadriceps, glutes, claves, making a runner much less prone to injury. Hill sprints are also beneficial in that they increase the power and efficiency of the stride, enabling a runner to cover more ground with each stride with less energy during races. Therefore, I recommend incorporating hill sprints into your training program. However, it is important to incorporate hill sprints in an appropriate and progressive way which allows for proper recovery. This includes allowing at least three days of recovery between hill sprint sessions.

For intermediate and advanced runners, I recommend performing hill sprints on a hill or treadmill with a 6-8% incline. For beginner runners, I recommend performing hill sprints on a hill or treadmill with a 4-6% incline. Do not jog back down the hill for recovery, walk instead. This will minimize the stress on your joints. Fully recover between hill sprints before performing the next one.

If you experience pain, especially in any joints while performing hill sprints, stop immediately and seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. Hill sprints should not cause pain.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Have fun with hill sprints!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Reference:

  • Run Faster From 5k to Marathon. Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald. Broadway Books: New York, 2008.

Marathon Training 2019 Day 29, Strides: Simple To Do and Great for Running Performance

“The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.”

This morning I ran for ~33 minutes. During this run I incorporated 4 20-second (4 x 20-second) strides after ~20 minutes of easy-paced running. I recovered with a slow jog of ~90 seconds between strides. I will discuss strides more in the Tip of the Day. After performing strides, I finished with an easy run. Immediately after my run, I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg stands (~45 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balances (~30 seconds)

After these exercises I performed foam rolling for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: For intermediate and advanced runners, you might want to begin incorporating strides in your training after 2-4 weeks of easy-paced running, depending on the amount of time you have taken off from running. For beginners and those who have taken a significant amount of time off from running (three months or more) you might want to wait until at least 8 weeks of easy-paced running before including strides.

Again, if you have not done so, you can receive a complementary fitness training program, which includes strides, by opting in on the Welcome page of Denver Running Coach.

Tip of the Day: Strides are great to help you begin transitioning into speedwork. By performing strides you are training your body to run at faster paces, and performing strides can help you improve your running form, as you have to become more efficient to run at faster paces. To perform strides, it is best to run at least 15-20 minutes at an easy pace to warm up. Then, for each stride, gradually accelerate over the duration of the stride, until you are running at ~75-85% of your maximum speed. Then, decelerate to an easy jog to recover for 60-90 seconds. I recommend starting with 90 seconds of recovery and then over time decrease your recovery. I also recommend starting with four strides of 10-25 seconds depending on your running history and fitness level. Beginners should start with 10-15 seconds, while more advanced runners can start with 20-25 seconds. Strides should be performed in a flat area.

In a future post, I will discuss what you can focus on during strides to help you make the most out of strides.

If you experience pain, especially in any joints while performing strides, stop immediately and seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. Strides should not cause pain.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.

Have fun with strides!

Your friend and coach,

Brian