Running: I Know About Running

A Little Background

I specialize in ultradistance running. Mostly 100 mile races in the mountains. I doubt the information below is going to help you compete in a 400 meter dash.

History

I've spent the last 15 or so years doing a lot of running (among other things). I've tried a bunch of things, made a bunch of mistakes, had a bunch of injuries, and learned a lot along the way. This page is a reference page for the things I know about running, and how I choose to train right now. Expect it to change often as I change things, or remember things that ought to be here. At some point I'll write about the things I've tried and why they did or didn't work for me, until then here is this.

General Guidelines

Zones

Your body doesn't actually know what training zones are, it responds in an analog and continuous way, not in a digital or discreet way. There are no on and off switches between heart rate or pace zones. The zones described are purely for your mind to better organize what you're doing. I will avoid putting the word "zone" in quotes every time I type it to avoid the annoyance of that for both you and me, but know that there is a lot of hand-waving between all of these zones, and they should be approximations for general feel and perceived exertion.

  • Recovery - So slow you're almost bored.
  • Zone 1 - Slow but running. You can tell a story and breath easily through your nose.
  • Zone 2 - A little faster, You can tell a story and breathe through your nose, but its getting tough
  • Zone 3 - Harder still, you can probably breath but only with difficulty. You feel like you can keep this up for about an hour.
  • Zone 4 - Very hard. You probably can't do this for more than 20 minutes
  • Zone 5 - Sprinting. All out. You probably can't maintain this for more than a minute if you're doing it right.

Types of Training

1 - Aerobic Training

The ability to move forward for long periods of time is an essential capability for runners, or really anyone. Aerobic base training improves the speed at which you will operate at an aerobic level, and for how long you can move forward without fatiguing.

Aerobic base training is running in Zones 1-2 for at least 30 minutes, but probably more like many hours. If you're all up on the Maffetone thing, training aerobic base is usually below even that threshold.

2 - Strength Training

General, specific and core strength. Yes, I think this is more important than sprinting and other running specific training, contrary to what many authors think. You're a human first, that you happen to run doesn't obviate the need for basic strength.

General Strength

Basic strength patterns that all humans should possess, regardless of running. This usually involves basic bodyweight movements such as pushups, pullups, situps, and unweighted squats. Moving beyond these movements picking things up and carrying them around is another basic fundamental human capability. Deadlifts, farmer's carries, and other load-bearing functional movements.

Specific Strength

Running, particularly running up hills, requires specific, single leg strength. Augmenting your basic strength with specifics like lunges, single leg deadlifts, single leg pressing and step-ups will improve specific strength for runners. No need to go crazy here.

Core Strength

Just enough to hold it together. Planks done for several minutes at a time may be just enough additional work to matter. If you're already deadlifting and performing other functional carrying movements, you likely have no need to augment much here.

3 - Recovery

Active Recovery

If you have nailed aerobic base training and strength, you will find you need to recover. Thats as simple as walking around until your body is ready for another working. Other active recovery might be swimming or stretching, or perhaps some light yoga. Nothing crazy here, just move at a very leisurely pace, walk around and look at the sights, or stretch out on the floor.

Recovery Workouts

These are somewhere between active recovery (walking and stretching) and an aerobic base workout. Think the slowest jog you can manage. Breathing through your nose. Pretend to relay a story about last Summer to your buddy. Can you make it through the whole story without feeling winded? Then you're doing a recovery workout.

4 - Anaerobic or Fast Twitch Recruitment Training

If you want to read about muscle fiber recruitment, check out Science of Running. Anaerobic training is sprinting all out for very short periods of time with lots of recovery in between. An example might be running eight 10 second sprints with 2:00+ minutes of recovery between them. Doing them on a hill is safest for injury prevention and to maximize recruitment for uphill specific events.

5 - Muscular Endurance

The ability to run up a hill requires more than cardiac output, it requires that your muscle fibers continue to be recruited throughout the effort despite increasing failure. This couples strength with endurance.

Consider doing a hill climb, a mile or more at a time, at a pace you can sustain without changing your breathing or heart rate that much, though you will probably be in the Zone 3-4 area. The pressure should be primarily on your leg muscles, not your heart muscle. Settle in to a groove and keep climbing.

6 - High Intensity

This is a zone above aerobic base training but below sprinting and all out efforts. Its the middle, and you shouldn't need to spend a lot of time here to reap benefits.

These runs are in the 3-4 range. You should be working hard, unable to breathe through your nose or speak much, and sense that muscle failure will occur if kept up for too long.

Intervals

Perform intervals of a variety of lengths with a variety of rest periods. Your work intervals should be 2-8 minutes depending on intensity, and rest intervals should be long enough that you can complete the next interval without too much trouble. 4 rounds of 4 minutes on, 4 minutes off is a good start.

Tempo and Threshold

These are extended efforts at paces nearing the edge of your capability at that intensity. A 10-20 minute tempo run should be stressful to complete. There is very little need to do these more than once per week, and then not every week.

A Note on Running Economy

While this is probably the single most important thing to train, you're mostly training it by doing all of the above. If you want to train specifically for better economy, there are some things you can do outside of the above like jumping rope and other calisthenics like box jumps. I will detail that sometime here.

Periods of Training

Most people should be periodizing their year. That means periods of very low intensity alternated with very high intensity. You may take small amounts of time off. In general, periodize in accordance with a race schedule, or with some seasonal variation.

Because the week provides the best point of division for most people, I use it. In an ideal world we would all use a 10 day cycle. Not even our bodies are that ideal though, so vary your training by how you feel, not by the day of the week.

To provide some structure to the periodization of your year, you may mark your calendar with some goal events, and work up to them with a series of different training periods. These will likely be some combination of the six training periods you see below:

Aimless Meandering Periods

When you're between races or seasons, have nothing on the calendar yet, but feel like moving

Base Periods

When you're ramping up toward a goal race, event, or just feel like starting up a new cycle. Consists almost entirely of aerobic base training. Perhaps a little sprinting and strength training.

  • Weekly Checklist
    • 1 - Aerobic Base:
      • Set a time, distance or vertical goal. Its hard to set all three, but two might be fine.
      • I prefer Time and Vertical. Example: 7 hours with 10K feet of vertical ascent
      • Run at least 1 very long run per week, 30-40% of your weekly goal
      • The rest of the week should be filled out with remainder of time/vert/distance
      • All of this running is at zone 1 or creeping into zone 2.
      • Do some strides (8 x 30 seconds) in your two longest runs
    • 2 - Strength: Get two workouts in per week:
      • General Strength: Pullups, pushups, squats. 5 x 3 Heavy Deadlift, Squats
      • Specific Strength: Do the runner's specific workout
    • 3 - Recovery: Don't feel like running? Do some walking or stretch.
      • If you ramp up into a jog keep it slow
      • Stretch
      • Legs too beat up even for a walk but you're feeling some cabin fever? Go for a swim
    • 4 - Anaerobic Training
      • Hill Sprints once a week. 4-8 x 10s with at least 2 minutes of rest in between
    • 5 - Muscular Endurance:
      • One long hill climb. Find a hill or hit a treadmill.
      • The grade should be 15% or higher.
      • Go for 10 minutes, rest (walk down) for 5 minutes.
      • Work up to 40 minutes of climbing (4 x 10 minutes)
    • 6 - High Intensity: Not necessary in this phase

Recovery

A specific week to get yourself back together after a race or extended training. The classic pattern is to do 3 weeks on, 1 week recovery.

  • Weekly Checklist
    • 1 - Aerobic Base:
      • Goal time/vertical/distance should be half of previous week
      • 1 long run 30-40% of total above
      • Fill out the rest of the week with the remaining time/vert/distance
      • Recovery efforts and jogging level. Take a look around you.
      • Do some pickups (8 x 30 seconds) in your two longest runs
    • 2 - Strength:
      • Just get one general strength workout in there somewhere, same as base period
    • 3 - Recovery:
      • Go to great lengths to recover. By that I mean walk around a lot.
    • 4 - Anaerobic Training:
      • Hill Sprints: run half as many as last week
      • If last week's workout was 10 x 10s, this week should be 5 x 10s.
      • You may skip these if you're particularly beat up
    • 5 - Muscular Endurance:
      • Cut by 50%
      • If you did 2 10 minute hill climbs the prior week, do 1 this week.
    • 6 - High Intensity
      • Only do this if the previous week was an intense week.
      • Cut in half if so
      • Example: if you did 4 x 8min efforts last week, do 2 this week.

Intense Periods

These trade some low intensity efforts for higher ones. You must continue to train your aerobic base, but some of those workouts will turn into higher intensity ones instead.

  • Weekly Checklist
    • 1 - Aerobic Base (same as base period):
      • Set a time, distance or vertical goal. Its hard to set all three, but two might be fine.
      • I prefer Time and Vertical. Example: 7 hours with 10K feet of vertical ascent
      • Run at least 1 very long run per week, 30-40% of total above
      • The rest of the week should be filled out with remainder of time/vert/distance
      • All of this running is at zone 1 or creeping into zone 2.
      • Do some pickups (8 x 30 seconds) in your two longest runs
    • 2 - Strength: Get two workouts in per week:
      • General Strength: Pullups, pushups, squats. 5 x 3 Heavy Deadlift, Squats
      • Specific Strength: Do the runner's specific workout
    • 3 - Recovery: Don't feel like running? Do some walking.
      • If you ramp up into a jog keep it slow
      • Stretch
      • Legs too beat up even for a walk but you're feeling some cabin fever? Go for a swim
    • 4 - Anaerobic Training
      • Hill Sprints once a week. 4-8 x 10s with at least 2 minutes of rest in between
    • 5 - Muscular Endurance
      • Replace with High Intensity
    • 6 - High Intensity:
      • Pull out 5-10% of your weekly volume from Base and do it in the Zone 3 or 4 range
      • Example: 7 hours of running = 420 minutes. 5-10% of that is ~20-40 minutes
      • Do 20-40 minutes of intervals with some rest in between.
      • 5 x 4 minutes on, 4 minutes off or 5 x 8 minutes on, 4-8 minutes off.

Specific Period

TBD

Tapering and Race Periods

TBD

Arranging A Calendar


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