Running workouts during a “typical” training week can be defined as intensity (intervals/track or fartlek), long, or recovery/technique runs. All of these runs follow a simple workout structure, include a warm-up into the main portion of the run, followed by a cool-down.
Track Workouts / Fartlek Running
Higher intensity runs can be performed as either track workouts or “fartlek” (literally- speedplay) runs. Fartlek running can be as structured or unstructured as the individual would like. A structured fartlek run might be done on a favorite loop and would include a warm-up followed by a main set, and cool down. Structured example: WU: 10-15’ MS: 5 x 2’ @ zone 3, RI: 1’ recovery @zone 1, CD: 10-15’. An unstructured fartlek run might include the same warm up and cool down with an assortment of pick-ups within the middle 15 minutes. You could pick objects in the distance (light poles, telephone poles, parked cars, trees, small dogs), hills, flats, or downhills as the distances to “pick it up”.
A typical track workout:
Warmup 10-15 minutes, perform two to three laps of ins-and-outs, straights-and-turns, or whatever you want to call them. The purpose of these is to get your body up to the pace you want to run your intervals with a minimum of shock to your system.
A common session would be MS: 8 x 400m RI: 200m recovery jog in between. As the season progresses you will, hopefully, be able to increase the pace of the recovery without hindering the pace of the 400s. After the last 400 CD: 10-15’
The main points to remember when doing a track workout is to keep the session moving (make it a continuous run from warm-up to strides to the main set to the cool down!). Stopping for more than a couple of minutes allows your muscles to cool down thus increasing your chances of injury when you get going again.
Strides / Accelerations and Form Drills
Many runners complain of their lack of leg speed and general poor efficiency in their running mechanics. Although one’s bio-mechanics are inherited to a certain extent, there are some things that can be done to improve both speed and efficiency.
“Strides/accelerations and drills” are best done in the beginning or end of an average distance, moderately paced run. Many athletes do these as part of the warm-up or cool down for a track workout and, if this is the only opportunity to do them, then one must take advantage of the occasion. Since intensity and longer days provide enough specific stress by themselves, it is more useful to do strides and drills on days when one’s legs are warmed up (at the end of a run) but the necessary focus and energy can be given to performing these exercises optimally.
During a “normal” moderately paced run, athletes fall into their customary stride length and rate. Over time, the motor neurons that innervate the running muscles (and the muscles themselves) become entrenched in this one rate / range pattern. Considering the total time spent running at this pace, it’s easy to see why “changing gears” becomes difficult for many athletes. One’s natural leg speed never gets trained to its potential and, subsequently, diminishes. Even when doing intervals as short as 400 meters, one’s stride rate isn’t close to one’s pure speed potential.
Strides and drills enable an athlete to lengthen their normal stride and fire the motor neurons involved in running at a much faster rate than they are accustomed to. With consistent practice, the pure speed component that lies latent within everyone becomes trained and made available for use in running at all paces.
Find a 10 to 140 meter stretch of nice grass (a football field at the local high-school is great). If this stretch is on a gradual slope, so much the better. The “workout” goes as follows:
· 2 x 40-80 steps of high knees
· 2 x 40-80 steps of butt kicks
· 2 x 25-50 steps of skipping
· 4-10 x 100-120 meter strides / accelerations
(the first 2-5 for form and the second 2-5 for leg speed)
All of the drills should be performed on one’s forefoot and are done at a high rate (quick feet!).
Running Drills-Refer to Newton Running Form Friday
This drill is done just how it sounds. Maintaining a normal running posture, you exaggerate the knee lift portion of your stride. Arm action is also slightly exaggerated. The knee comes up to, but not beyond, the height of the hip.
This drill emphasizes the recovery or heel to butt portion of the stride. There is no knee lift in this drill but as the heel comes up to one’s rear, the knee will naturally move forward. One is simply maintaining normal posture and slightly exaggerated arm action while flicking the heels up to the butt. The biggest mistake one tends to make is in leaning forward too far. Strive to maintain normal posture and keep your feet underneath your hips.
This is the same thing but you are driving your knee up and extending the rear leg in an exaggerated full stride. You skip on the extended leg and do the same thing on the other side continuing down the field in front of God and everybody. Again arms are slightly exaggerated and must be synchronized properly (right arm-left leg, left leg-right arm).
Common mistakes include:
· Incorrect synchronization of arms and legs. Remember that when your left knee is up, your right arm is forward and up (just like when you run). Don’t forget your arms.
· Too much bouncing up and down. Make an effort to limit bouncing up and down when doing these drills. It is possible to limit vertical oscillation (bouncing) by focusing on lifting the foot off of the ground (not placing the foot on the ground). Think about limiting the amount of time the foot spends on the ground while keeping one’s body (hips up to head) in one plane.
· An overly upright-leaning back posture (knees coming up higher than the hips). Posture should remain as though you were running (straight up to slight forward
· lean, depending on who you are, with eyes looking about 10-15 meters ahead) normally.
Note: the purpose of these drills is to exaggerate the different stages of a running stride. You are not interested in getting down the field at a fast pace but focused on proper execution of the drill.
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