Strength Training for the Distance Athlete-Time to Build a Robust More Resilient Body

Simply put, strength is the ability to produce force. With my strength training approach for distance athletes, it is multidimensional and follows a planned series of programs with the goal of improving your stability, postural control, strength, power and running economy and performance. Prehab work will focus on strengthening supporting muscles to facilitate proper biomechanics to avoid injury. 

Before doing a strength and conditioning program, it is recommended that athletes go through an anatomical adaptation phase (AA) in order to maximize training adaptations and to prevent the onset of overtraining syndrome. A methodoligically structured AA phase is the foundation on which the other phases of strength training are built.

Low to medium loads at the start will aid in the adaptation level of your musculoskeletal system and prepare the body for the more challenging program inherent in the following phases of training. It also aids in the improvement of inter-muscular coordination (balance, coordination and neural firing patterns).
I incorporate drills, core strength and stability work as this will help help to prevent injuries, improve biomechanics and performance. 

Athletes should be looking to maintain muscle balance and stability and proprioception and work to maintain mobility around key joints like the hips as the miles take their toll on the body while working all planes of motion. The aim for middle distance or distance athletes is to have a big engine with a small frame and very high efficiency. We don’t want to increase our non specific muscle mass too much using conventional weight training as it will create a larger payload to be carried around the track or the road. The muscle should be very specific to running otherwise it is a liability that will come at a high energy cost.

Glute max is the largest muscle in the human body and its primary function is to extend the hip. Exerts large forces on the ground generates greater propulsive forces and controls trunk pitch. Glute medius and minimus provide hip stability and control.
Quads key function is to flex the hip and extend the knee, rectus femoris is active during swing and early stance.
Hamstrings key function is to extend the hip and flex the knee, active during late swing to prepare the limb for contact and during early stance phase.
Calf Muscle Complex-Triceps surae- gastric- soleus. Gastroc is biarticular, soleus contributes 50% vertical support force required to accelerate the body, the calf is the engine for the achilles tendon.
Foot and ankle-multiplanar and subtalar joint and plantar fascia allow the foot to pronate and expand to absorb impact during stance phase. Each individual has varying degrees of pronation and supination.

The focus in recent years has turned to the power capabilities of runners and in particular the rate of force development (RFD). This essentially refers to the speed at which force can be produced. Power then in running terms is the ability to move with great speed or force. Power is defined as force x velocity, therefore by making runners stronger, you increase their force capability. Rate of force development (RFD) plays a large role. Running is a function of power and therefore RFD. How quickly can we exert the force needed to maintain our pace.
What we want are neurally induced gains in strength and muscle fiber recruitment.
Max strength training component aims to fatigue the muscle between 4 to 6 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets with an extended rest period between sets. Exercises should be compound in nature and target the full body and are at the start of the program. A closed chain exercise like the deadlift lifts the weight upwards and away from the ground as our trunk opens up and extends just like when we run and accomplishes what we want for approx. 90% of the skeletal muscle used in running.
Athletes alike should be aware of proper technique and execution of exercises. .

Variables like contact time, flight time, vertical oscillation or leg stiffness, among others, have shown to be well linked to running performance. Specifically, those variables have been used to measure the cost of running, i.e.the energy used to move ourselves forward at a certain speed.
Thus, shorter contact times, higher flight times, shorter vertical oscillation (i.e., the vertical displacement of the Center of Mass while running, a metric indicating how much do we ‘bounce’) and higher leg stiffness (i.e., how ‘reactive’ are our steps, the higher leg stiffness, the higher elastic energy produced by our tendons) would mean greater running economy. A stiffer spring is more efficient because it delivers and receives impact force very quickly so that little of this energy is lost through dissipation.
Running Economy is the oxygen cost of maintaining a given pace. A stronger athlete with appropriate strength, stability and mobility will cover the same distance more efficiently than an athlete who has poor RE.
Runners with good RE have greater stride length and frequency than those who struggle to control their technique due to a weak body so it is important to keep this up. Running economy has been correlated with running performance

Balance the Weak Links

Just because running is a uni-directional movement, it doesn’t mean there is not a lot of rotation and lateral motion going on to produce that movement.
When we predominantly train the muscles which work to produce straight line, sagittal plane movements (quads, hamstrings) they become the ones which get worked the hardest and developed strongest, leaving the muscles which get loaded more effectively through rotation and lateral movement (glutes, obliques and adductors) yet are responsible for providing stability as we run to remain weak and deconditioned.
Many of the weak links in runners occur in the frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) planes of motion.
A good choice of strength exercise is the crab walk exercise which mirrors this multiplanar movement
Function at the ankle, knee and hip is maximal when the hip displays great stability.

Clamshells

Plyometrics

KEEP IT SIMPLE A variety of hops, skips, jumps, and bounds make up the plyos runners use. These exercises teach the body how to maximize our rate of force development. They represent the last step in converting the muscular force development into specific running improvements.
Reactive strength-The focus here is on minimizing ground contact.
Running by itself is a plyometric event and with that in mind, the volume and complexity of plyos should be kept low and have ample recovery in between sets to keep the quality of the movement high. Sprinting is the most specific plyo to do as the ground contact times are about as low as you can get and a large amount of force is generated in a very short time.
Plyometrics improves RE by improving the concentric and eccentric coupling of muscles (stretch shortening cycle) thereby developing velocity. These are a great way for runners to learn to absorb, store and produce larger amounts of force. The potential of these exercises can only be realized if used correctly!
The first phase is learning how to jump and land.
Developing eccentric strength for landing is the most important part of plyometric training.
*The more softly a runner land’s the better.
*Landing should never be deeper than a half squat position.


Core Exercises- A little goes along way

The function of the core is to prevent excessive torso rotation, transfer force and stabilize the spine. Core training should be multi-dimensional and should begin with stability and progress onto more dynamic mobility exercises.Your ability to control your torso is essential for optimal Running Economy (RE). Just as essential is the ability to use the core section of the body to transfer force from the upper and lower extremities. An inability to transfer force, due to a weak core, leads to an inefficient RE and thus a waste of energy. Additionally insignificant core strength and imbalance can lead to compensation by other parts of the body which can lead to a number of acute and overuse injuries.

As mileage during competition phases is reduced, the volume of strength training is also reduced according to fixtures and heavy periods of mileage.
The power benefits can be maintained with regular plyometric drills incorporated into the training plan without having an adverse effect on performance.

 

Michelle Greaney, (MG Coaching), Strength and Conditioning, Athletics Ireland Level 2 Endurance Running Coach

Success in Running

 

When it comes to paving the way for success as an athlete, preparation and planning is critical.

A good overall yearly plan and well executed preparation will make it far less likely that you will fall short in actual performance.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ ~Benjamin Franklin

  1. Consistency

The number one route to improved performance is to aim for consistency with your training.

Concentrate on the task at hand, neither dwelling on the past nor looking too far forward. The only thing you can control is the present and when you focus on that and remain consistent, you will find your greatest success. Athletes must do everything in their power to stay healthy, injury free and consistent in their training for as long as possible.

Consistent daily improvements lead to big progress over time. Momentum is the backbone of progression.

Training consistently and building up gradually with the right structure and progression will reduce injury risk and improve performance. Don’t be ambitious with your paces in a workout just because you feel good, every workout serves a purpose!!! Remember we are trying to extend our ability to run at a certain pace.

Don’t rush development. Also, workouts are not predictive, they are developmental-we are trying to change and evolve by manipulating workouts to keep getting better

Recovery runs need to be emphasised as much as everything else and athletes are not paying enough attention to this little detail.

Each session should have a specific purpose, including your easy runs. Could you be hitting those quality sessions even better by going 30-60 seconds slower per mile when going easy. The potential gains here are huge, even beyond the obvious that the easier load on the body means you’re more likely to keep consistently training over weeks, months and years with a healthy body.

Too high a percentage of speed work in your training week will only lead to short term gains. If you are working hard for every single workout and pushing every single workout, you are showing up for the days when you really need to work with less to give basically defeating the whole purpose of that workout date. Maximise your results on tempo/speed days by taking the other days easy.

A well-designed training plan (that is adaptable and adjustable) specific to the athlete followed consistently will maximise results. It will have the proper mix of stress and recovery and ensures the right type of training occurs at the right time.

2. Variety

Variability is a runners best friend.

It is critical for all endurance runners of all levels to have plenty of variety in their training.

Creating added stimuli to your training aiding progression, helping prevent injury and keep an enjoyment factor to your training. Running on a variety of different surfaces is important too.

3. Listen to your body

This is the most important thing you can take out of training. Be body intuitive. You know your body more than any training plan does.

Your training plan does not know about the poor night’s sleep you had last night or how the last week of training took a little too much out of you. But you know this and you can listen to what is going on and respond to it to increase your longevity as a runner.

4. Don’t be afraid of change

If you are not responding positively to a certain type of training, then change it. All runners and athletes have different physiological and psychological make ups, so different types of training works for some and not for others.

5. Goals

A dream written down becomes a goal. You are holding yourself accountable for what it is you want to achieve. Make this dream a reality.

All athletes should set goals for themselves- reasonable and readily achievable short term goals along the way and also longterm goals. It also creates added motivation. How are you getting better today? What will you achieve today? How will you respond to failure and setbacks? This is what sets everyone apart. Will you take a set back in your stride knowing that it is all part of the process or let it get the better of you and give up?

Don’t have a yesterday attitude by dwelling on things that didn’t go well in a previous performance or a tomorrow attitude by procrastinating and not getting things done now.

Believe in your ability to succeed.

Using the SMART principle for goal setting is used with huge success.

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Time
Be flexible with your goals. Accept that there are many ways to reach your objectives then you wont be disturbed by the changes you perhaps need to make.

6. Planning

After you have set your goals for the year ahead, it is important that you lay out a plan to help you achieve them, and to get there in the best possible condition.

Use a training diary and record everything so you can look back and reflect on things following a key race or a full season.

Also a plan should be written in pencil and not set in stone. Adjust as needed! Success in running relies on being able to make adaptations when necessary.

You need to evaluate, feedback is needed from a previous years training/racing to reveal areas that need improving or changing.

You need to decide the structure of the annual plan, are you peaking for 1 race or for 2 keys time during the year etc.

Decide your objectives and duration of each phase of annual plan

Preparation Phase (general and specific) This is the time of year that you lay speed/strength/endurance foundations to prepare for more specific training.

Competition Phase (pre comp and comp) More specific training and racing to allow you to be in the best possible shape to race. This phase only works well if you have prepared properly in preceding phase of training.

Transition/Recovery Phase This is the time of year that you allow tue body to transition from hard training and racing and focus on recovery before starting the cycle again.

Taking time off is a good idea, this is a vital part of the training process. Just as the body reacts positively to easy days of training between quality sessions, so can a bit of time away from training allow the body and mind to reach a new level of performance once back to a regular training schedule. (Supplementary training may minimise loss of fitness during the break from running)

We need to quantify training loads with our training cycles (need to look at volume/intensity/time/rate of percieved exertion (RPE)

7. Recovery

Sleep and nutrition are the two most underrated performance enhancers available to all athletes. Use these wisely and reap the rewards in your training and racing. Make your recovery specific to you. We need to monitor the following regularly:

-Mood/motivation

-Sleep quality and duration

-Energy levels

Muscle soreness

-Resting Heart rate

-Cold/flu symptoms

-Fatigue and stress

-RPE

STRESS~RECOVER~ADAPT

8. Basics

Too many athletes seek to go after the advanced training methods before nailing the basics. Master the basic fundamental training areas, recovery methods etc. first before you try advancing your training. The basics when done well on a consistent basis lead to great results.

Understand the concept of each run you are doing. Know what is each run trying to accomplish.

As a runner, we want to run in the most efficient manner possible to limit wasting energy. Spend time working on your run mechanics to help you run more fluent and relaxed through run drills, strength and conditioning programme, hill running and strides/short sprints on flat & on steep hills. This combination will help you run more effortlessly.

9. Patience
The bottom line is that endurance training can be monotonous at times, you don’t always see quick results, you must deal with setbacks etc so patience in the process delivers time and time again.

Wishing you every success are you prepare for their next season😊

Michelle Greaney

Athletics Ireland National Level 2 Endurance Running Coach |Strength and Conditioning Coach | 

 

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Goal Setting: Steps to Make 2019 your Best Year Yet

To achieve great things we must be patient and take a long term approach to training to grow, adapt and improve.

A systematic programme of goal setting, and working to achieve goals is highly effective in developing both physical and psychological skills. Well defined goals improve performance, helps clarify expectations, relieves boredom, and increase pride and self confidence.

Setting goals will provide:

1. Direction.

Goals are empowering tools and help you makes the right decisions

2. Motivation.

They can stretch and push you out of your comfort zone resulting in increased effort and persistence. Identifying the gap between where you are now and where you want to be creates motivation and the desire to close the gap.

3. Strategy Refinement

After setting a challenging goal, you will think longer and more creatively about how to accomplish it and how to measure progress towards achieving it.

Nobody knows their body better than you do and everybody is individual. In between busy schedules and the demands of everyday life, fitting in training can be a challenge, but if you are participating with others for a set event, it can be a great motivator.

Your training plan cannot be rigid – You must be able to modify it. Modifications and adjustments are to be expected!! We need to be able to maximise the time available to us.

Here are 3 steps for setting up your 2019 plan

  • Recognise

Decide what it is you want to achieve. This step is often the most difficult until you make your goals clear and specific, they will probably stay wishes and dreams for yet another year so choose your goals, write them down to make them real.

  • Research

Figure out the prep and then prep for the plan. Once you know exactly what you want, this step is about figuring out how to make it happen. If you research enough, you will be prepared.

There is no bad plan just bad preparation.

Fail to prepare prepare to fail

  • Reach

Start taking action and don’t be afraid to explore new territory’s.

Up until this point in your planning process, it was all just talk, once you have the blueprint in place, the only way you can get what you want is by taking consistent action.

To have what you have never had before you will have to push yourself beyond what you have done before. Decide what you need to do today in order to move closer to the next milestone. Write down the actions you need to take that you are currently not taking and then start checking the boxes!

As you roll forward into 2019, make sure you follow the steps above with the time you have available to you.

Becoming a better version of you starts by being SMART

Follow these guidelines to setting SMART goals.

Specific.

Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. The more detailed you can be the better. A more specific and ambitious goal will lead to more performance improvement than a general goal.

Measurable.

A goal to “lose weight” or run a particular time in a 5k is not enough. Set process goals (aimed at achieving certain outcomes/performance) and get to action.

Mini goals will keep you on track to stay motivated and see progress.

To be successful we must not put all of our focus on the outcome, we must consider the process also.

Outcome: The ideal result, hopeful conclusion, best end for your goal.

Process: The skills you need, the method required to get you there.

Attainable.

It’s good to shoot for the stars, but don’t be too extreme. If you can’t actually attain your goal it will only serve to frustrate and dishearten you.

Likewise, a goal that is too easy is also not very motivating. Only you know your limits.

Relevant.

Set goals that are important to where you are in your life right now. Don’t set a goal that someone else is pressuring you to attain-that isn’t very motivating.

Time Frame

Have a clear idea of your timeline and include an end-point. Knowing that you have a deadline motivates you to get started and creates a sense of urgency.

Sometimes however, we may need to cut the dead weight. Your plan is not always going to exactly go to plan. Sometimes you will have to revisit, review and refocus.

If things stall, decide if you need to restart. Find the things that are weighing you down, remove them and start again without hesitation. It is ok to occasionally change the milestone or date and start again – just stick to the plan.

Be fully committed to achieving your goals and best of luck for 2019.

Yours in Sport

Michelle Greaney

MG Coaching

Train Hard – Recover Harder

Stress demands rest and rest supports stress

The over-arching key to sustainable performance is simplified using the growth equation:

Stress + rest = adapt/growth. It is a simple yet profound guide to structuring your days, weeks and years.

A bird’s-eye view of a training plan given by a coach will show the growth equation providing you with a bird’s-eye view to improving performance. It can’t be emphasised enough, working like this is key to a lifetime of sustainable improvement and success.

Great performers leave nothing to chance by designing each and every day to get the most out of themselves. So too can the rest of us.

In a society that glorifies grinding, short term gains and pushing to extremes, it takes guts to rest.

There are no shortcuts to places worth going. We need to be consistent with our training but also with our recovery. Burning the candle at both ends by over training and insufficient recovery results in burnout and increases the risk of injury and illness. When we are tired, our ability to train productively and think clearly is compromised. Fatigue can make cowards of us. We shouldn’t repeatedly demand more of our bodies than they can deliver! The key to diagnosing overtraining is knowing when fatigue at either end of the day has become excessive.

Training is a holism and certain aspects of an athletes lifestyle will contribute to overtraining.

In order to be good you have to train at a high level but you must also allow your body time to recover. You need to take time off, you need to run easy on some days.

Rest: give your body time and space to adapt to the training stress. You will start gaining more fitness and performing better than ever. Rest supports growth and adaptation. Rest will become as productive as additional training. We need to recover and rest properly in order to prevent injuries and maximize performance.

If we neglect rest and keep pushing, breakdown continues and eventually our health and performance suffer. But if we listen and allow the body to rest, it shifts from a catabolic (breakdown) state to an anabolic one, in which the body repairs and rebuilds so that it can come back stronger.

Sleeping is a catalyst for physical growth. Just as the brain is actively processing the work we’ve done throughout the day, when we sleep, the body is doing the same.

The best athletes in the world prioritise sleep. Sneaking in an extra hour of training at the expense of sleep is rarely a good idea.

We don’t grow when we are in the gym or logging miles on the road, we grow in our sleep. We can put in all the work in the world while we’re awake, but if we don’t sleep, much of it’s value is lost.

There are increasing marginal returns to sleep. Hours 7-9, the hours that the majority of us never get are actually the most powerful.

Extended breaks annually will keep us physically and psycholigically healthy over the years.

If we never take easy periods, we are never able to go full throttle and the hard periods end up being not that hard at all.

Unfortunately, we have lost the notion of smart work at the expense of hard work, which somehow almost always gets confused with more work.

Going through the motions.

A well timed rest day yields enormous dividends. Rest days allow you to recover from the accumulated stress of the recent past and revitalizes you so that you can push harder in the near future.

Hard work only becomes smart and sustainable work when it is supported by rest. Resting hard often takes more guts than working hard.

Recovery encompasses more than just muscle repair. It involves restoring your chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system, mental state and so much more. Don’t ignore your body when it needs to be rested.

We need to strategically insert longer periods of rest to follow longer periods of stress.

Don’t rush the process.

Athletic development and the prevention of injuries requires time and patience-do not cut corners.

Michelle Greaney 

MG Coaching

Athletics Ireland Certified Level 2 Endurance Coach

Running Cadence-worth understanding it and working to improve it.

 

Monitoring running cadence for the right reasons is one powerful instrument in your journey to becoming a better runner. It implies that a higher cadence implies lower risk of injury and better energy efficiency.

As a run progresses, if our breathing becomes laboured or our legs start to feel heavy, staying focused on form becomes increasingly difficult. We get distracted, fall into bad habits instead of trying to adapt our movements to make the run feel better and more efficient.

Subtle increases in step rate can substantially reduce the loading to the hip and knee joints during running and may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries.

Cadence is one of 2 factors that make up a runners speed, the other is stride length.

To run at a faster speed, the goal is to increase your cadence, pulling your foot from the ground quicker.

Keeping an eye on your running cadence has many benefits:
*Decreases over-striding
*Improved running efficiency
*Reduced risk of injury
*Reduced muscle damage in training and enhanced recovery

Running cadence is leg turnover and defined as the total number of steps you take per minute. One easy way to measure your running cadence is to count the times your left foot hits the ground in 60 seconds, then double it for both feet. There isn’t a magic cadence number for everyone but an ideal range for you personally.
Several unique factors such as height, hip mobility, and level of overall fitness will all play a role.

Cadence and Form

The shorter your stride length, the quicker your stride rate, the faster and better you run. If you have a low cadence, you most likely have a long stride which makes for a choppy and more bouncy run. The more bouncy and over striding you are in your gait, the more susceptible you are to injury.

When you shorten your stride you will also change the position of where your foot lands beneath you. The optimal placement of your foot is beneath your hips which is where your foot will automatically land if you take the necessary steps to increase your cadence and shorten your stride length. This is the point of your center of gravity and where the least amount of impact from a heel strike will occur from its braking effect.

Your turnover will increase which will propel you forward and will waste less energy since you will now be moving forward and back not up and down.

The above photo shows a slight forward lean in the body.
Ensuring this slight lean comes from your ankles and not from the waist keeps your body in alignment.
If you lean from the ankles, your hips will move forward allowing gravity to do some of your work and save you energy.

Notice, even though they have a high knee lift, they actually place their foot down under their body with a bent knee – not out in front with a straight leg.

How to Improve Your Cadence

Find your current cadence and then increase by 5% gradually as a guide. Never change too much too soon, that goes for any variable of your running form. Also, dont think about it too much.
Start by increasing your cadence for only one to two runs per week or for short periods during each run.

Universally, higher numbers are always something to strive for. Increases in step frequency of 5% or even 7.5% above preferred regardless of footstrike pattern may also lower peak Achilles tendon stress and strain. ITBS, medial tibial stress syndrome can also benefit from it. It will always be about assessing the actual individual, it cant ever be just about a recipe and getting everyone to aim for the same number, we are all very very different.

~Running to a beat is a very effective way to keep technique fresh and cadence quick and consistent, especially when you feel concentration is lapsing.
The optimal running beat is three beats every second and with each beat equating to a step, that’s 180 steps per minute.

Step rate changes are very much dependent on what your starting point is. You wont want the increase to be too much of a challenge in terms of effort.

Although 180 steps per minute (SPM) has been cited as being the ideal cadence, if you have a long stride currently it may feel much too fast and cadence is highly individual, your body knows what is optimal. Runners should not necessarily manipulate their cadence to run 180 spm but rather monitor cadence as their running progresses.

Height and speed affect an individual’s cadence. Taller runners have lower step frequency than shorter runners. And also when you pick up the pace, cadence increases.

The ability to master running cadence is not difficult but dont let it govern everything.

Search for music that is 170bpm or even 165bpm if you are struggling and build gradually. There is an array of playlists and albums to choose from.
The beat stops us from staying too long on the ground and moves us onto the next step without having to concentrate too much. Your running is going to feel less effort, more relaxed and lighter when running to the beat.

~Another option is a portable metronome or metronome app on your phone.

~Running watches records live running cadence. They record your entire run with various paces, ascents and descents.

It is a case where a little understanding goes a long way so it is worth understanding it and working to improve it. It will improve your running form and efficiency, speed and help make running effortless and so much more enjoyable

Be patient and use it wisely.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20

Michelle Greaney

Athletics Ireland Endurance Coach

Tempo Running- Developing Mental Toughness for Racing

As endurance runners, we must maintain our aerobic capacity.

Every training session should have a purpose whether that is to build aerobic capacity, to increase lactate buffering or speed development.
The body and mind reacts very well to variability.

Tempo running can be a great foundation for improvement and crucial for racing success. They should be incorporated into endurance training from 1500m right up to the marathon as they train your body to sustain speed over distance.
They are good workouts for practicing your ability to concentrate on a running task and keep in touch with how your body feels while running comfortably hard. Training at this intensity  can actually help runners avoid overtraining and yield more satisfying workouts and better consistency.

These are hard sessions and when mixed up with other training sessions like VO2max workouts, require sufficient recovery!

A tempo run (82%-90% max HR) is a sustained period of running a comfortably hard effort.
For most runners, it is between 10k and 10 mile race pace or approx 15 seconds slower than current 10k race pace, you know you are working but not racing! You should feel challenged but at a level you can sustain. Training at speeds that are not quite all-out efforts tap into the concentration required to develop mental toughness for racing. You should feel like you have an extra gear.
It can be based off actual lactate readings, current race fitness at different distances or simply effort. Because the relationship between LT and heart rate varies depending on genetics and fitness, your heart rate at 10 mile race pace (or the effort you could maintain for an hour) is probably a more accurate estimate. 

A tempo sits between our aerobic (2 mMol/L) and anaerobic (4 mMol/L) thresholds where hydrogen (H+) ions are being produced in the muscle but being cleared into the blood at a rate that is sustainable and does not lead to accumulation.

Lactate threshold is the point at which your body starts to produce lactic acid faster than it can be removed from your muscles so lactate starts to build up in the bloodstream. We refer to the lactate turnpoint and try to nudge on this point. The great thing is that training slightly below or at this turnpoint, you will be able to improve it over time. Everyone’s lactate threshold pace is slightly different and we need to keep accessing this stimulus. It is the fastest speed in which lactate production and clearance are in equilibrium.

For runners of all levels and targeting distance events of 1500m and longer improving their Aerobic Threshold (AT) is a significant predictor to distance running performance

Almost all of the gains in performance will derive from improving the capacity and/or efficiency of the aerobic system primarily.
They train it to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently. Running at a comfortably hard faster pace helps the body clear lactic acid more efficiently from the bloodstream and boost performance.

Remember our AT is the point at which we go from being sustainable with our aerobic energy demands, to unsustainable. So if we can raise our AT (increase the pace at which H+ are produced and cleared at the same rate) our aerobic performance ceiling is increased and our distance running performance can improve significantly.

Tempo runs can be performed at a continuous pace or in intervals

Improving lactate threshold can be done by the following new approaches:

  1. Training up to 10s per mile faster than LT pace
  2. Interspersing harder efforts with training at or slightly slower than LT pace.

Both of these methods may provide a greater stimulus for the adaptations in the muscle fibers that lead to improvements in LT pace.

Cruise intervals are repeated runs of between 3-15 mins at threshold pace broken up by short recovery periods of usually 1 minute or less. Rather than focusing on a certain pace for a certain amount of time, e.g, 20 minutes at 7:00 minutes per mile pace, cruise intervals are tempo runs interspersed at regular (say, one kilometer or 5 minute) intervals by 30 to 60-second rest periods. This pattern diminishes the psychological difficulty of the workout while preserving the aerobic benefits, allows greater volume and may help guard against excessive speed, which can lead to overuse injury or burnout.
The total amount of quality running for a cruise interval workout must never exceed 10% of the weekly mileage.

It is important to run at this pace and not any faster which is hard for many over-enthusiastic runners to do. Running at a higher intensity does not enhance the physiological adaptations to this type of training. We lose the aerobic stimulus required to get maximum aerobic adaptation for minimal anaerobic input (and therefore fatigue – the anaerobic system produces significantly greater levels of fatigue relative to the aerobic system).
Remember that the purpose of the workout is to stress lactate-clearance capability, not to overstress that capability.

To continue to improve your AT, we need to gradually increase the amount of time we spend running at your AT. This can be achieved by having less recovery between AT intervals or spending more time at your AT.
For runners of all levels, improving their AT is a significant predictor to distance running performance. For runners targeting events of 3000m and longer, almost all of their gains in performance will derive from improving the efficiency of their aerobic system.

If you want to keep improving the threshold, the stimulus has to change. You can do some work above LT, some mixed intervals, aerobic intervals, or alternations, LT hills Whatever you chose, the stimulus must change.

As you become more competent, some runners can aim to spend up to 40min at their AT. If you can achieve this, then it would be recommend to re-test your AT to quantify the improvement you have seen.
Individuality of the athlete and training response must be taken into account.

The 3 principles of progressive overload can be applied to tempo training to improve the aerobic and muscular stimulus the session will provide

Begin a tempo workout with a good warm-up of at least 10 minutes of easy running and some drills and light strides.

Beginner Session
5′ jog warm up, running drills
4 x 3′ at threshold pace/1′ rec
5′ jog cool down
Progression, keep same pace but increase the reps.

Intermediate
10′ jog warm up, running drills
10′ at threshold
2′ rec
2 x 5′ at threshold pace, 1′ rec
10′ jog cool down
Progression, 2 x 10′ at threshold, 2′ jog rec

20′ threshold》last 5′ slightly faster

Advanced
15′ warm up, running drills
15’/10’/10’/5′ 1′ rec
15′ jog cool down

Progression
20′/15′ at threshold, 1′ jog recovery

25′ threshold

Often, some runners want to see progress in their workouts and sometimes try to perform a particular workout at faster speeds over the course of a fairly short period of time.

Trying to compete against yourself in this way is inadvisable. It doesn’t conform to the principle of letting your body react and adjust to a particular type of stress before increasing the amount of stress.

It’s better to perform the same workout a few times at the same speed, or until a race performance indicates that you’ve achieved a higher fitness level.

This is very important!

WE MUST EARN THE RIGHT TO PROGRESS!

You want to be able to experience doing a standard workout with diminishing discomfort.
When a workout begins to feel easier, use that feeling to support the idea that you are getting fitter. Prove then that you are getting better in a race, not in a session.

Make sure to gently introduce faster running into your programs and only add more according to how your body responds to the new training stimulus. You must have laid a good aerobic and structural foundation first in order for these workouts to be beneficial through easy aerobic runs, long runs, stability, mobility, quality of movement, strength and conditioning, drills, strides etc.

Having a solid foundation, you will be more robust, and better able to handle faster paced workouts and a larger volume and intensity of training. This must be maintained during the fast paced training season.

Michelle Greaney (MG Coaching)
Athletics Ireland Level 2 Endurance Coach

 

Easy Runs

How to get faster and recover from high loading by going slow

A high volume of easy running is the bread and butter of any distance runners training plan. Recovery runs need to be emphasised as much as everything else and athletes are not paying enough attention to this little detail.
Each session should have a specific purpose, including your easy runs. Could you be hitting those quality sessions even better by going 30-60 seconds slower per mile when going easy. The potential gains here are huge, even beyond the obvious that the easier load on the body means you’re more likely to keep consistently training over weeks, months and years with a healthy body.
Too high a percentage of speed work in your training week will only lead to short term gains.
The simple physiological equation employed by most coaches is as follows:

**Training plus recovery equals adaptation**

**Stress-recover-adapt**

Easy running provides fundamental adaptations but receive very little respect. They provide a stimulus to improve your aerobic fitness
In any proper training plan, easy pace will make up a large majority of your running and most tend to run too fast on easy days. What’s incredible about this training type are the huge physiological benefits that occur as a function of time spent running, not speed.

In scientific terms, easy runs teach our bodies how to utilise fats better as a fuel source, they increase Mitochondria aerobic enzymes, capillary density and myoglobin, all of which have a positive impact on your running.
Runners should achieve a training effect every day, recovery is a training effect, maybe the most important one.
It is during recovery that adaptations from the hard training take place. If a runner doesn’t recover, the body is not going to adapt, and you’ll either continue digging a hole for yourself or get injured.
The individual need of each athlete for both training and recovery needs to be recognised.
Recovery is not just the absence of activity, it can also mean an enhancement of activity, or a change of activity, such as swimming instead of running.

Slow, easy running helps to flush oxygen-rich blood through the legs and also heals micro-tears and other damage that a workout creates.
Mitochondria, capillaries and blood flow to muscles are increased so they are better able to utilize oxygen.
They allow for recovery from the hard days. Easy days allow your body to rebuild and reset after a hard workout and before the next big workout

Keep your easy days very easy, better to go a bit too slow than too fast.

Recovery is recovery!.

The problem is that we prefer to focus on what we do best–training! Focussing on recovery can be difficult.
Many fail to run easy on their easy days and then they don’t have the energy to run fast on their really important training sessions. They go out there we bring this competitive mindset to it, push a little harder, thinking that if they work harder, then they will produce better results. What does happen though when we push harder? We increase the amount of hormones we produce, also put other stresses on our body but we don’t gain any more benefits. Those things will happen at a slower pace, and so when we are doing that level of conditioning work, we really want to go as slowly as we possibly can and as comfortably as we possibly can so that we can come back tomorrow and the day after and develop consistency without what we call adrenalisation or hormonal influences that cause us to be stressed and them can lead to breakdown not only in the muscle tissue in the form of injury or in joints, tendons and ligaments but also in terms of illness.

Easy pace running refers to warm-ups, cool-downs, recovery runs, recovery running within a workout and generally long runs.
When it comes to recovery, it takes more confidence to run slowly than it does to run fast”.
Generally in the range of 59-74% of VO2max or 65-79% of your maxHr. In general, it is running at a comfortable, conversational pace, which certainly may vary daily, depending on how you are feeling.

Running at your easy pace promotes physiological benefits that build a solid base from which higher-intensity training can be performed. The heart muscle is strengthened, muscles receive increased blood supplies and increase their ability to process oxygen delivered through the cardiovascular system.What happens physiologically when we train is we are looking for adaptations in the muscles themselves as well as adaptations in the lungs to deliver oxygen.
Our ability to store energy and then produce energy increases through training.

Only 15-20% of training should be high intensity quality sessions. All the rest is easy, being able to have a conversation, finishing a run feeling really comfortable.
In this way, we will gain much more fitness from a physiological standpoint and from a emotional standpoint🏃‍♂️😊

Interval Training-Improve Your Performance

Variation and progression are key to success in running and to prevent training plateaus. The body adapts to a training stimulus relatively quickly. Difficulty of sessions must be progressed in some form otherwise there is diminishing marginal returns from the workout.

It is extremely important that the progression of the workout is done in a controlled fashion. Gently increasing the difficulty will prevent injury and reduce the risk of over training.

Interval training teaches athletes to be mentally tough and to believe in their ability to extend themselves in a way they had never done before.

The most logical purpose of interval training is to maximise aerobic power (Vo2 max). The best way to improve any bodily function is to stress that function, Intensity has to be at or close to VO2 max and the work-to-rest ratio has to optimize that purpose. It is wise to always try to gain the maximum benefit out of the least amount of stress rather than trying to achieve maximum benefit from the most amount of stress.

What the athlete does during the recovery intervals is crucial and actually has a profound effect on the training of the metabolic energy pathways.

An active roll on running recovery will enable improved performance over all paces and distances. A longer lasting fitness can be achieved if original interval training is combined with sufficient aerobic endurance development to stabilise the improved cardio-respiratory response.

Alternating paces produce massive improvements in running economy, by optimally using lactate around the body. Lactate is a positive and central player in our metabolism and in how we produce energy. When the intensity in the faster sections is increased, lactate production is increased and when intensity is reduced, the lactate is utilised as the preferred fuel for aerobic ATP production and ‘cleared’

There should be a smooth transition back to faster pace of rep after active roll on recovery. As the athlete’s lactate utilisation and clearance abilities develop, their roll-on recoveries will become more active and faster naturally.

4 main parameters used to progress a workout:

1. No. of intervals

2. Pace of intervals

3. Length of intervals

4. Duration of Recovery (incl speed of recovery-walk, steady run etc)

Warm up is extremely important before this type of warm session. Start with an easy 10-15 minute jog and gradually increase the pace. Dynamic warm up exercises before a workout like this will maintain elastic properties of the muscle while also limbering it up for more intense effort.

warm up

Finally all types of interval training are only beneficial when you have laid a solid aerobic foundation first through easy aerobic running, long runs, tempo/threshold runs, strength and conditioning exercises, drills, strides etc. When the aerobic foundation has been laid, we become more robust, can handle more volume and intensity of training and gain more from the interval training. This aerobic work must also be continued or maintained during the interval training period

For most athletes small doses of interval training are all that is needed to produce a good race performance. Too much can have a negative impact-especially when done too intensely. Intervals are not only for speed and anaerobic development; they can be used for aerobic development. It’s all about balance!

And, of course, add in extra recovery for the new stress. Your training stress and your recovery must be in balance. Training involves breakdown, and recovery must be appropriate to rebuild this breakdown otherwise you’ll be on your way to overtraining. The harder you run, the more aerobic recovery work is needed.

Allowing sufficient recovery will maximize your performance improvement and avoid injury or illness from overtraining. It is important to realize that there is not a bottomless pit for training.

Michelle Greaney (MG Coaching)

Athletics Ireland National Level 2 Endurance Coach

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Dynamic Warm Up for Runners

Drills work different planes of motion and really stimulate the central nervous system.”

These aren’t meant to make you tired. Take your time so you can work on your form and technique.

Strides prepare your body to run at a quicker pace.

Stretching is popular among runners and regularly advocated. Runners need enough flexibility and mobility to move well without any limitations. Static stretching is best done separately to hard running sessions. A small amount of dynamic stretching where a stretch is repeatedly held for only a few seconds at a time, is more desirable during a warm-up so as to maintain a muscle’s optimal tension and elasticity. Having greater flexibility and mobility than required has no additional benefit. Hyper-mobile athletes can be more injury-prone.

A good warm-up should prepare the body for the movements and the intensity required. A warm-up does not need to be time consuming or complicated, but it is an opportunity to address any movement deficits an athlete may have.

RAMP sequence

Activate and Potentiate

We must take into account that running requires good interaction between the body and the ground. The body applies force to the ground, absorbs it and generates force to propel itself off the ground again. When the foot is in contact with the ground the limb needs to stiffen to load up and store elastic energy and then release it at the right time and in the right direction.

A compliant limb where the joints continue to bend and muscles stretch, as load is being absorbed can waste energy and can lead to lower limb injury. Try riding a bike with flat tyres – a lot of effort goes into the pedals with so little in return and a risk of further structural damage!

A desirable warm-up should follow the RAMP principles – Raise, Activate & Mobilise and Potentiate, but not necessarily in that order being an endurance athlete.

The muscles around the hips have big jobs to do and need to be prepared for that. These include the gluteal muscles and hip flexors, and for some athletes with internal hip rotation tendencies – the external hip rotators. Some ankle activation work is also useful particularly the ankle plantar flexors.

When running it is desirable to have hip extensors and ankle plantar flexors pre-activated before initial contact with the ground to achieve optimal ankle and knee ‘stiffness’ during mid stance phase. This can be achieved by actively striking the ground with a vertical shin as opposed to just passively striking the ground.

Some athletes may chose to begin with some Raise activity such as a jog, but it can be more beneficial to begin with Mobility and Activation exercises first before you run. It may be more effective to train good muscle recruitment and movement patterns first and then look to ‘activate’ the aerobic or anaerobic energy systems a little closer to the activity depending on race distance and individual needs. A Marathon runner may not need an intense warm-up, but a middle distance runner would benefit from priming their anaerobic energy system before a race with some sustained run efforts at race pace.

Potentiation movement drills activate the neural patterns required for running. These are usually fast movement patterns that include low-level plyometric exercises, sprinting and short foot contacts with the ground. Some hopping, skipping and ground reaction exercises and drills are ideal, followed by some short sprints at close to maximum speed. Just one or two sets of low volume duration are required to help prime the system for the task in hand.

To stretch or not to stretch?

Static stretching should be avoided immediately prior to activity.

Dynamic mobility exercises are much more beneficial in the warm-up as an athlete only needs enough mobility to fulfil the movement requirements of their sporting activity. Such exercises allow for more elastic movements involving a stretch-reflex response that are required for running.

A warm-up should follow some logic and be relevant to the movements required for your sport.

Warm Up for Runners

Warm ups are viewed to served 4 primary purposes:

  1. Mental readiness
  2. Physical readiness
  3. Injury prevention
  4. Performance enhancement

Stretching is popular among runners and regularly advocated. Avoid static stretching immediately prior to activity, it is best done separately or following your workout.

Dynamic mobility exercises are much more beneficial in a warm-up as an athlete only needs enough mobility to fulfil the movement requirements of their sporting activity. Such exercises allow for more elastic movements involving a stretch-reflex response that are required for running, thus improving performance. It also minimizes the potential for injury.

A good warm-up should prepare the body for the movements and the intensity required in the session. It doesn’t not need to be time consuming or complicated, but it is an opportunity to address any movement deficits an athlete may have.

 

drill 2

RAMP sequence

A desirable warm-up should follow the RAMP principles

*Raise ( e.g jogging )
*Activate ( e.g knee hugs )
*Mobilise ( e.g lateral leg swings )
*Potentiate ( e.g skipping, hopping )

Not necessarily in that order if you are an endurance athlete.

The aim of the ‘raise’ section is to:

↑ Body temperature

↑ Heart rate

↑ Respiration rate

↑ Blood flow

↑ Joint viscosity

Activate and Potentiate

Running requires good interaction between the body and the ground. The body applies force to the ground, absorbs it and generates force to propel itself off the ground again.
When the foot is in contact with the ground the limb needs to stiffen to load up and store elastic energy and then release it at the right time and in the right direction.

A compliant limb where the joints continue to bend and muscles stretch, as load is being absorbed can waste energy and can lead to lower limb injury.

drill 1

The muscles around the hips have big jobs to do and need to be prepared for that. These include the gluteal muscles and hip flexors, and for some athletes with internal hip rotation tendencies – the external hip rotators.
Some ankle activation work is also useful particularly the ankle plantar flexors which should be pre-activated before initial contact with the ground to achieve optimal stiffness during mid stance phase.

This can be achieved by actively striking the ground with a vertical shin as opposed to just passively striking the ground.

It may be more effective to train good muscle recruitment and movement patterns first and then look to ‘activate’ the aerobic or anaerobic energy systems a little closer to the activity depending on race distance and individual needs. A Marathon runner may not need an intense warm-up, but a middle distance runner would benefit from priming their anaerobic energy system before a race with some sustained run efforts at race pace.

Potentiation movement drills activate the neural patterns required for running. These are usually fast movement patterns that include low-level plyometric exercises, sprinting and short foot contacts with the ground. Some hopping, skipping and ground reaction exercises and drills are ideal, followed by some short sprints/strides at close to maximum speed. Just one or two sets of low volume duration are required to help prime the system for the task in hand.

drill 3

 

Drills work different planes of motion and really stimulate the central nervous system.
These aren’t meant to make you tired. Take your time so you can work on your form and technique.