Thursday, 16 August 2012

Got the stamina? How to improve your running speed

Hill reps, Ally Pally

I recently completed the marathon des sables. This means I'm now pretty good at racking up the miles. However this also means I'm now pretty slow.

I've lost all the speed I used to have (even though this wasn't much it was still more than what I have presently)

So my current challenge is how to build that speed back up but keep the endurance in time for Ealing half marathon at the end of September?

I'm following a Runner's World half marathon schedule. It's really good but I'm adapting it slightly to take my strengths and weaknesses into account.

1) Fartlek within a steady run
Fartlek running basically means warming up before running at speed for a time, then jogging to recover before repeating. It's an unstructured speed session. This can mean your session is either really hard, or really easy, depending on how much you push yourself.

For runners training for shorter 5-10k distances, it make sense to run shorter bursts. Runners like me training for half marathon plus have to try and stick it out for longer bursts of speed.

2) Horrible old short speed session
My speed session intervals vary from 400m up to 1500m sessions. I tend to run these on flat surfaces; track if possible, or the treadmill.

I hate these sessions with a passion as they hurt! But I try to remember two things when I am doing them. 1) Keep your form. Maintain strong arms and legs and keep thinking about your technique. 2) Keep your pace. There is no point going all guns blazing on rep 1 to shuffle on in come rep 10. Know your rough limits and stick to it. Try to keep the same speed for all reps.

3) Threshold running
Threshold running means running "comfortably hard". Also known as a tempo run, threshold running increases your ability to fun fast, but over a sustained distance. Threshold running trains the body to use oxygen efficiently by increasing the lactate threshold. This means your muscles are able to deal with lactate acid better than before, so you tire less quickly.

Tempo runs need to be done over a fair distance. So for a half marathon, runners need to build up tempo runs up to around six to eight miles.

How to know if the pace is right? You need to be able to sustain the distance without stopping i.e. it's not race pace, but it needs to be feeling like it's challenging (and you'd like to be able to stop if you could!)

For me these runs are crucial, as I now need to build up speed but over endurance.

4) Hills
Ah hill repeats! How I love thee. Like speed intervals sessions but uphill. I'm incorporating these into my training about a third of the way in, and doing them once a week, nothing more as they are very intensive.

As with the interval sessions, the key is to keep good form and maintain the pace. Hill repeats build great strength in your legs, meaning you will be able to further without tiring.

5) Strength work
Combined with hill training, targeted strength work firms up those thighs no end. I'm focusing on my quads, gluts and hip flexors and doing two sessions a week.

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