Six Training Building Blocks

(Reprinted from an earlier PEI Marathon Series of articles by Doug MacEachern in 2011)

Today we are going to build on the information that we presented last week and explain how you can tie the six training building blocks together to help with your running program. It is important to remember, depending on your training goals you can use all or a few of these techniques to help you along. These will help with any distance you plan to run in the upcoming Island Marathon.

“Fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play” and consists of bursts of speed in the middle of a training run. Essentially, it’s an unstructured interval session, the track without the rules. Fartlek gets your legs used to a variety of paces and in the process gives you an enhanced awareness of your ability to keep up those paces at various distances.

Pick out a landmark — a tree, light post, a fire hydrant or a bend in the path — where a speed section will end before you start picking up the pace. In other words, you have to know how far you are running for each section. Because the idea is to keep up a constant pace until you reach that landmark, it is important to pace yourself at the beginning. Don’t tear off so fast that you can’t keep up the pace through the end of each speed section.

Hills (for strength) Short Hills, ideal for building strength and good form. Short hills should be steep enough to give you pause, but not so steep that your form falls apart. Look for inclines between 100 and 200 meters long.

Long Hills To develop strength, stamina, and at least as important, confidence. Hills should be at least 1?2 a kilometer long and not quite as steep as your short hills.

Tempo Runs (for speed and pace) This is hands-down the least complicated variety of speedwork. There are no distances to keep track of, no split times to remember, no hassles. All you have to do is run faster than your usual training pace, somewhere right around your 10K race pace. Unlike most speedwork which consists of relatively short bursts of high effort, tempo runs call for a single sustained effort. The result is that your body learns race economy: running at a fast pace for relatively long periods of time. Tempo runs will give your top speed a boost, too. By running nearly at race pace, your body becomes accustomed to running close to its upper limit (though not exceeding it). In doing so, you actually increase that upper limit, and you become gradually faster.

Intervals (for speed) Interval sessions are the most formal of speed workouts in that the distances and target paces are precisely fixed before you run. The idea is to run a series of relatively short repetitions over distances from 200 meters to one kilometer or more , with rest periods of slower running in between. Because of their very nature, intervals involve a shorter period of effort than your usual run. This allows you to run much faster than you usually do, adapting your body to higher demands and your leg muscles to faster turnover. Over time, you become faster and more a efficient runner.

The Long Run (for endurance) Is the back bone of any training program. While the above mentioned techniques will enhance your running program, the long run will get you through your race. Over the course of your training program your long runs will become progressively longer.There is much debate on the distance of your longest training runs. Some marathon training plans will suggest 30 k (18 miles) and others, 42 k ( 26 miles) and others yet any where in between. Rick West a veteran Island marathoner will tell you the last 10 k of a marathon is the second half of the race. I tend to agree and go with the adage if your going to run the distance you should train the distance or at least most of the distance, especially, if you are looking to enhance your running time. One of the major mistakes many people make on the long run is running to quickly. The idea is getting your body used to being out on your feet for long periods of time and build your endurance. The long run should be run at 1 to 2 minutes per mile slower than your race pace. So for instance if you plan to run a 3 hr 45 minute marathon, you will need a 5 minute 20 second per kilometer pace. Your long training run should be run between 5 minute 58 second and 6 minute 34 second per kilometer pace. These runs are also excellent opportunities to practice and experiment with your nutrition and gear.

Easy run (for recovery) last but not least and every bit important, In-between each of these specialized sessions you should allow for a slow easy run to loosen up your muscles, and allow your body recovery.

You should not do any one of the above more than once a week with the exception of the easy run. For example a training week could look like this , Day 1 either a Fartlek, or Tempo run, Day 2, a easy run, Day 3, Hill work, Day 4 easy, Day 5 rest or cross train, day 6 easy, day 7 your long run. The following week you could trade off the tempo run with a interval.

Good luck with your training. Next week we will look at before the race and race day nutrition and important considerations for your race day running gear.

-Doug MacEachern


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