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Preparation For Long Distance Running
27th Aug

2013

When you are thinking about entering or PREPARING for a long distance running event such as 5km or 10km run, it is important to plan your training so that your body is in a state to endure it and PERFORM well.

This is an obvious point that is unfortunately overlooked by a lot of people. In most instances, recreationally trained people will sign up for a race or an event months before it is on and absolutely rip into their training. Sadly though, their enthusiasm is often their downfall as they often lack direction in their training programs and train far too much for what their body can handle, and injuries or boredom often sets in.

One thing that I often explain to people when I am writing a long term training plan, is that there has to be periods of time where you train really hard, and there are other periods where the intensity is significantly reduced. The length of time that you have to prepare for the event will determine the length of time that you will be in each phase. For example, I see people come in and run on the treadmill for 30-40 minutes every day for a week, when the combined total of their running time in the last 6 months does not even total 40 minutes… and then they say the event is still 5 months away! After the first week they begin to get stiff knees, painful shins and muscles so tight they can’t even touch their toes.

More often than not, rather then treating the injuries and reassessing their plan, they cease training altogether and come back in a couple of weeks when they feel better, only to repeat the same process. For the recreationally trained individuals, I want to make one thing clear… this is not how you should be training, and you do not need to be running as much as endurance trained athletes do. Elite endurance athletes will easily run at least 40 minutes every day without getting those niggling over-use injuries for one reason only, they have spent years conditioning their bodies to do so.

 

Where do I begin?

Great question.

 

In order to plan a training program (let’s look at a 12-week preparation, seeing as though that seems to be a good time-frame to give people who have not run much in the past, a chance to get into shape in order to run a respectable race time) it is important to first of all identify what distance you want to compete in, and second of all realise that you are not just training to become generally fit, because anybody can do that, you are training to become a runner.  Those people that tell you “you shouldn’t run to get fit” talk total garbage, because when planned right with adequate rest and recovery, running is an optimal form of increasing fitness while increasing joint stability and bone density.

Once you have realised these things, the next step is to find out what you can actually do at the moment, so that it gives you a baseline that you can use in order to prepare adequate training volumes and intensities, and also you can monitor your fitness progressions over time.  You need to calculate your Average Aerobic Speed (AAS). This is the average speed that you can maintain over a period of time.  For longer events such as the 5km or 10km I like to use roughly 1/3 to 1/2 the time you think it would take to complete the race and use that time frame for the test. For shorter events like a 3km, it would be better just to use that distance as the test and time how long it takes you to complete the distance, I will show you how to find you AAS score from this later. So for a 5km event, I like to use a 10 minutes continuous running test, but for 10km races, I like to use a 20-minute running test.

How to determine your Average Aerobic Speed

During the course of the program, you will see various percentages of the AAS and an attached time that you will have to run at that speed for. In order to attain an AAS, you need to run on a treadmill for 10 minutes or 20 minutes and try to get the most distance that you can in the time frame; if you have to stop and walk, DO NOT stop the time, as this will count into your AAS score. Once you have finished the time, the treadmill will show you how far you have run (or if you are doing this at a park, than you will need to have an accurate measurement of the field; a 400m track is best or simply up and down a 100m sports playing field and record the distance). Let’s look at the following example and attain the AAS score:

I stop the treadmill after running for ten minutes and it says I have completed 2.59km. Even though I may have run fast at some points, then slowly at other points, the average speed that I ran at was 15.5 km/hr, which is the same as 259 metres per minute or 4.32 metres per second. I prefer to use the metres per second figure as it is more accurate, but the easiest way to figure out running speeds is to use the km/hr figure. So 15.5km/hr is my AAS, I can use it to calculate various running speeds throughout the program, such as 110%, 120% or slow speeds like 80%.

 

In the program it could be written like this:

2 minutes @ 110% AAS

2 minutes @ 80% AAS

X 5

 

As 15.5km/hr is my AAS, it means I will run at 17.1km/hr for 2 minutes then slow the treadmill down to 12.4km/hr for 2 minutes. I then repeat this 4 more times to complete the drill. Over the entire 10 minutes I would have worked at an average 95% of my AAS, which is great for improving aerobic fitness. If for example, you’re AAS score is something like 17.5km/hr and then you try to multiply it by 130%, this may give a speed that is above the fastest limit of the treadmill. This leaves you two options, you have to do the training outdoors where speed is unrestricted, or put the treadmill to the maximal speed and increase the incline by around 3% in order to increase the power output needed to create the same running stimulus.

The Plan

I like to divide a 12-week plan into 3 x 4-week mini-plans (in strength and conditioning terms, they are called mesocycles). From here the first 2 weeks of each block are about getting into the program, progressively building volume and intensity and the third week of each block is the hardest and most draining of all. In the fourth week, you have what is called a de-load week. This is where training load and intensity is reduced to around 60-70% of the previous week. It gives you the chance to re-group, maybe try some cross-training and recover from the previous three weeks, so that by the time week 1 of the next cycle occurs, you will be ready to go.

The cycle 2 starts that same way, however the overall volume in week 1 of this cycle if greater than in week one of the first cycle. If we repeat this pattern until the end of the12 weeks, you would notice a step-like pyramid form so that come race day, you will be in peak shape. Overall training volumes and intensities will vary due to fitness levels, experience, equipment access and motivation.

The following is an example of a program that I would use when planning a 10km race program for a beginner; someone that has had little structured training practice, but remains fairly active and capable of jogging 3km without stopping. The second table is for an intermediate runner; someone that maintains fitness but doesn’t train for a specific goal or sport and could get through a 10km event by jogging or jogging/walking. The final table is for an advanced runner that runs regularly and could run 10km without stopping.

BEGINNER

WEEK

WEEKLY VOLUME

SESSION A-

Long intervals

Moderate Intensity

SESSION B-

Continuous

Low Intensity

SESSION C-

Short intervals

High Intensity

1

6km

2km

2km

2km

2

7km

2km

3km

2km

3

8km

3km

3km

2km

4

5km

2km

2km- FAST

1km

5

7km

2km

3km

2km

6

8km

2km

4km

2km

7

10km

3km

5km

2km

8

6km

2km

3km- FAST

2km

9

11km

3km

6km

2km

10

12km

3km

7km

2km

11

15km

4km

8km

3km

12

8km

2km

5km- FAST

1km

INTERMEDIATE

WEEK

WEEKLY VOLUME

SESSION A-

Long intervals

Moderate Intensity

SESSION B-

Continuous

Low Intensity

SESSION C-

Short intervals

High Intensity

1

10km

3km

4km

3km

2

11km

3km

5km

3km

3

13km

4km

6km

3km

4

7km

2km

3km- FAST

2km

5

14km

4km

7km

3km

6

16km

5km

8km

3km

7

19km

6km

9km

4km

8

10km

3km

5km- FAST

2km

9

16km

4km

9km

3km

10

18km

4km

10km

4km

11

24km

6km

14km

4km

12

12km

3km

6km- FAST

3km

ADVANCED

WEEK

WEEKLY VOLUME

MON

TUE

WED

THUR

FRI

SAT

SUN

1

 

20km

MIIT

4km

REST

LSD

5km

LSD

8km

REST

HIIT

3km

REST

2

 

25km

MIIT

5km

REST

LSD

6km

HIIT

3km

MIIT

3km

REST

LSD

8km

3

 

28km

MIIT

5km

LSD

8km

REST

MIIT

3km

LSD

10km

HIIT

2km

REST

4

 

16km

MIIT

4km

REST

LSD

5km

MIIT

2km

LSD

5km

REST

REST

5

 

26km

MIIT

6km

REST

LSD

6km

LSD

10km

REST

HIIT

4km

REST

6

 

28km

MIIT

7km

REST

LSD

8km

HIIT

3km

MIIT

4km

REST

LSD

10km

7

 

34km

MIIT

7km

LSD

10km

REST

MIIT

4km

LSD

12km

HIIT

3km

REST

8

 

18km

MIIT

3km

REST

LSD

6km

MIIT

3km

LSD

6km

REST

REST

9

 

48km

LSD

10km

MIIT

5km

LSD

14km

REST

HIIT

4km

MIIT

7km

LSD

8km

10

 

54km

LSD

8km

MIIT

9km

REST

HIIT

4km

LSD

15km

MIIT

6km

LSD

12km

11

 

18km

REST

REST

HIIT

2km

MIIT

6km

REST

REST

LSD

10km

12 18km HIIT  2km REST LSD

8km

MIIT   8km REST REST RACE   10km

*HIIT= High Intensity Interval Training; MIIT= Moderate Intensity Interval Training; LSC= Long Slow Continuous; Red boxes indicate rest days.

This is the best way to modulate training frequency and duration, so that overuse injuries are prevented. By using intervals with a calculated intensity, it takes way the guessing of whether you are working hard enough or not. The old rule that says if you can run and talk, you are in the right zone is out the window! This is the most up to date and most efficient way of training.

I hope this gives you a better idea of how to shape and construct your aerobic training sessions. If you want the detailed 12-week STRENGTH TRAINING program for running a 10km race, please go to PROGRAMS and purchase the program!

 

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