Say Good-bye to Conventional Training for Runners

by Eric Bofinger

Often in today’s world of running there is too much hype about finishing a race and not enough talk about racing it! “A race is a work of art,” said former University of Oregon standout, Steve Prefontaine. Finishing a 5k or a marathon is a great first goal for the beginning runner, but will your goal always be finishing? Hold yourself to a higher standard and challenge yourself to the next level, something I call racing.

The best thing to do when planning a racing season or schedule is to pick a race that you plan to use as your peak race.  Typically the sport of running is split into two or three main seasons depending on your school of thought, with the bulk of the races during the late spring, summer and early fall months. Typically there are 3 main phases to every training plan: aerobic base, strength, anaerobic phase.

The aerobic base is typically a 10-12 week long process where you are gradually building your weekly mileage up to where it will remain for most of your training season.  Typically weekly mileage increases are taken in steps no larger than 10% increments with a dip in mileage every 4-5 weeks to keep your legs fresh and recovered.  Generally all of these runs are easy to moderate.  Most of these runs should be done around 60-90 sec slower per mile than 5k race pace.  A common flaw with training is that most runners never graduate from aerobic base training.

The strength phase lasts for 4-6 weeks and typically includes hill repeats and longer tempo type runs.  A tempo run is done around 30 seconds per mile slower than 5k race and is sustained for 20-60min.  The strength phase is a segue-way from the aerobic base to the anaerobic speed phase.

The anaerobic phase last 10 weeks and is further sub divided into three sub-phases: anaerobic development, racing, and taper.  Anaerobic development lasts 4 weeks and includes interval workouts (i.e. 5 x 1000m at goal race pace with 3 min recovery), fartleks (i.e. 4 min easy, 1 min hard x 8 repeats) and other track type workouts.  The racing phase includes racing distances which are higher or lower than your competitive distance in order to sharpen your body. Typically there should be 4-5 races over a 5 week period.  All other workouts during this phase should be relaxed fast runs and other sharpening workouts at goal race pace.  The final week of the anaerobic development phase is the taper, where the intensity of your workouts remain high, but there is a large decline in volume to prepare for the final race.

Just when you think you’ve done the hardest workout ever, think about this one…Emil Zátopek, the only man to ever win the 5k, 10k and Marathon in a single Olympics reportedly ran 60 x 400m in 60 seconds on multiple occasions.. Thats 15 miles of sprinting!

For those who are more serious about training and competing please read this article by the famous coach from New Zealand, Arthur Lydiard.