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Be a stronger runner this year

‘New Year, New You’! We’ve heard it loads before but what does it actually mean for you as an individual runner? The new year provides both a chance to start afresh, tackle new challenges and set new goals, review and consolidate the good training you may have implemented in 2016.

W13240603_1088938937846415_1548091568490348331_nhen thinking about 2017, runners can be broadly split into two categories: those who get majorly motivated by the statement and begin to plan this ‘New Self’ versus those who cynically think ‘yeah yeah I’ve tried it all before’.

The main reason many runner’s new years resolutions fail is because the goals are often too extreme and the changes unrealistic. However by choosing the correct targets for YOU and planning exactly how you are going to achieve them. By the end of 2017 you could find yourself smugly looking back over 12 months of new years resolutions having come true.

Here are some suggestions from HIGH5 running coaches Running With Us for different categories of runners who are looking for some new year inspiration or guidance.

The raw recruit

Park Blue 5354 croppedRunning has massively grown in popularity over the last few years and as running coaches we see a big influx of new runners into the sport each January. If you are a complete beginner and your New Years resolution is to take up running from scratch then firstly you need to choose an achievable target. A 5k is a great starting distance. The end goal gives your running focus and the training is manageable and not too daunting. Check out www.parkrun.org which might be a great place to start, plan your campaign to get to 5km to last 6-8 weeks and work with a structured plan if you can.

Work out how many times you can realistically fit running or exercise into your week and use this as a basis when choosing a training schedule. The number of training sessions can always be increased as fitness and motivation progress as the weeks go on, but beginning with an unrealistic number of sessions per week can often lead to demotivation due to this being unachievable. Too many people want to go from zero to hero in the first week!

Consistency is key, so if two or three runs per week fits in with your life balance right now and is an obtainable target then stick to this. Regularity of training over a few weeks beats binge training one week and doing nothing the next. If you can link up with a local running club or group who will help to motivate and inspire you to keep progressing. If you are not sure where to start check out www.runtogether.co.uk – there you will find details of groups in your area.

The seasoned campaigner

Training PlanIf you are a more experienced runner you have a choice. Churn out the same routes, runs and races or are you going to finally break that plateau and achieve some new PBs? If so then some changes certainly need to be made…

Sit down with a calendar; consider your goals, injuries, lifestyle and your current fitness and target a race that will allow you the time to peak at your optimum physical condition. For a marathon or a half this might require 12 months, for a 10km you might try to peak twice in a year but give yourself the time to incorporate some of the advice below. This is your macrocycle.

Within this period you should aim to break your year down into smaller chunks that give you the opportunity to develop different elements of your fitness: your endurance, your strength, your speed, your race pace, your taper. These smaller chunks are your mesocycles which typically last 4-8 weeks. Try some periods and races that will take you out of your comfort zone. For example, if you tend to focus on marathons and ultras look to include a phase in the year focusing on short distances and working on your 5-10km time or maybe even get onto the track in the summer. In the winter the cross country season can provide a great way of challenging your body differently.

Analyse what went right and wrong within last years training. Stick to the positive elements but change the negative. This may mean choosing a new and challenging training schedule, finding a coach who can give you fresh advice and structure or beginning training with other runners by joining a group/club.

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The Spring marathoner
If 2017 is beginning with a spring marathon target for you, then let’s get organised and ensure you are on the road to success.

  • Have you chosen a good trustworthy training schedule that will guide you through the next 12 to 14 weeks and is suited to your ability? We have some great training plans here.
  • Have you scheduled in your pre-marathon races? One or two half marathons along the way will provide short and mid term goals and will give you an indication of how your training is going.
  • Are you wearing the correct trainers that have been fitted properly and suit your running needs?
  • Have you found a good trustworthy physio to help you with sports massage, injury prevention and provide an MOT to check for strengths/weaknesses and advise on what to concentrate on in order to get to that start line in one piece?

Have a look at the points above and aim to have them all ticked in order to begin your marathon journey successfully. It is time to get organised and get motivated. You can’t cram for a marathon and it is a process of putting all of the correct ingredients together in order to achieve your 26.2 miles of success!

Make 2017 the year you take control of your running. For nutrition advice for running check out this section: http://highfive.co.uk/high5-faster-and-further/#running.

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Understanding my training zones

Have you ever left the front door not sure how fast to run? You may have a training plan, but just how hard is an easy run and how should your threshold or interval training feel? Our coaching partners Running With Us explain the different effort levels and what these should feel like.

Easy/Recovery running
Gi_WomanOnTreadmill_RT2croppedFor those of you who are very new to running, we promise that this sport doesn’t have to be exhausting and each run shouldn’t leave you tired for days. The early runs where you are learning to cover distance and time should be completed at the speed of chat. That’s right, you should be able to still talk to the person next to you whilst running. We call this the ‘talk test’ and it is great to use to gage your effort level.

For those who are more experienced, running at ‘the speed of chat’ is how your easy runs should feel in a training week. You should feel totally in control, relaxed and able to talk whilst running. This is easier to check whilst running with a friend but if on your own, you may find you are running along the street talking to yourself. It’s not a bad thing as long as it helps you gage your effort! If you wanted to give this type of running a score on an effort level 1-10 (1 being the easiest) it should be 6/10.

If experienced and running before breakfast, your easy runs could become crucial in your half, full and even ultra marathon training. Running at 6/10 or around the 60% of max heart rate will ensure much of your energy comes from stored fats. In events where you will be working for longer than 90 minutes at a consistent effort, becoming efficient at metabolising stored fats as a fuel source will become crucial in your quest for a new PB, even when you take gels and have a good breakfast on race day. It is therefore very wise to make some of your easy/recovery runs pre-breakfast moments, stimulating this stored fat system and preparing the body to use both stored fat and carbohydrate on race day.

Effort level: 6 out of 10 or around 60% of your maximum heart rate (MHR)

Top Tip – The key to this zone is making sure you can hold a conversation easily at anytime and feeling totally in control.

Steady Running
The next level: this is steady running and the backbone of training for the more experienced. It isn’t complicated but does require honesty. You can push this area too hard and run junk miles that leave you too tired for the important sessions that we will talk about next. This area is perhaps a 7/10 on your scorecard and is still conversational, although the chat is slightly strained.

Effort level: 7/10 or around 70% MHR

Top Tip – Many runners run or drift along at a steady effort on their easy and recovery days never allowing their bodies to regenerate in an optimum way. Be careful not to compromise your next harder day or key session by running steady all week!
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Threshold & tempo running
If you really want to train like a pro and begin to see your heart get stronger, stoke volume improve and ultimately your running economy progress then this is the magic area. We call this ‘uncomfortable running’ or ‘controlled discomfort.’

The real key though is that you can still talk between each breath but it’s only 3-4 word answers. If you can utter a couple of distressed words, you are working too hard and conversely if you can say most of a sentence you are not working hard enough. This is running uncomfortably but with control… just! It is certainly not sprinting or running to exhaustion.

Initially, you might only be ready to include a few 3-minute blocks of this in a run each week but it can grow and you can build the volume over the months. We call this type of running ‘the bedrock’ and it is vital when becoming a better runner. Sessions could grow from 4 x 5 minutes with a jog recovery to 3 x 10 mins and ultimately 20-30 mins all controlled and cruising at a consistent pace but still just in the aerobic zone.

Our 3-4 word talk test is pretty accurate but for those of you wanting to get this spot on and nail the marginal gains, we suggest a lab test to establish lactate levels against heart rate and even your current VO2 max. Your heart rate monitor will then guide you perfectly with training zones that match your personal running DNA.

Effort level: 8/10 0r around 80-85% MHR

Top Tip – The key to this magic zone is keeping it feeling like 3-4 word answer pace and not progressively harder. You shouldn’t feel like you are in the final stages of a 5k or 10k. Keep that control… just!

Warehouse GrayPink 9074Interval training & VO2 max/high lactate sessions
It’s time to visit the hurt locker! To a point, how a 5k/10k effort or intense interval training feels is up to you. You could be wise and hold back slightly letting the pace and intensity prescribed build the pain for you, or you could be the head banger who loves to hit it harder and hang on. The choice is yours but remember to be consistent in this zone. It is meant to hurt and sessions such as 6-8 x 1km or 6 x 4 mins off 75-90 seconds recovery can really hurt and require focus.

Runners often prefer to train in a group when doing these sessions, hunting as a pack and helping to push each other on. These sessions will certainly boost your VO2 max though and make that engine of yours (the heart) a few cylinders stronger but you can’t visit this zone too often. Maybe once a week in a thought out training plan but only when you are already running threshold each week and feeling good.

Effort level: above 8.5/10 or higher than 85% MHR

Top tip – Join a running group, club or friends to complete these sessions. Completing weekly interval sessions with others adds competition, company and disguises the true pain and mental strength required to nail the moment.

Training PlanSo the next time you leave the front door have a planned route and know what you want from your training. Have a purpose and listen to your body as you run.

Remember these 4 key levels/zones:
• Easy run – fully conversational at the speed of chat and about 6/10 (60-65% max heart rate)
• Steady run – conversational, controlled but slightly strained and about 7/10 (70-75% max heart rate)
• Threshold running – controlled discomfort and 3-4 word answer pace or8-9/10 (80 – 85% max heart rate, but get tested to be sure)
• Interval training & 5k/10k effort or quicker – No time to chat here and 9/10 or more as the session progresses. It’s 1 or 2 word answer time and perhaps more of a grunt (85% -over 90% max heart rate…ouch!)

Do you have any run related questions? Ask Nick Anderson from Running With Us on twitter @nickandersonrun

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