Not everything about distance training is explained, namely the small details about running itself. I try to let my runners know they can ask me anything about running, no matter how big or small, from aspects of form to the biological responses of specific workouts, but it’s hard to convey EVERYTHING. With that said, I want to go through a typical routine that comprises a “workout”. I know I picked up a lot of these details from training with other competitive runners and mimicking their routines, but not everyone has the benefit of running with a group, so I hope this explanation gives insight to preparing and executing a planned workout.
A workout description is often listed as such:
3:00 / 1:00 Intervals
Run 3:00 at a strong, but controlled pace /
1:00 slow recovery for 5 miles
The 3:00 minute should be at a strong pace, but reserved enough to maintain speed and form through all the repetitions. The workout is deceptively harder than you think as the efforts accumulate upon themselves and the recovery needs extend. Stay consistent with pacing and concentrate on maintaining form, leg turnover, and upright running as the efforts get harder.
This workout is great for training the body to utilize and flush lactate consumption in the muscles, as well as increase speed and endurance.
I always prescribe a “warm up” to every workout, which consists of the first part of the mileage for the day. If it’s a 10 mile total run, a good 2 to 3 miles of easy, slow, conversation paced running acts as the first part of the warmup. This is to get the systems ready, muscles loose, and heart rate going, but isn’t meant to be anything strenuous.
Once the 2 to 3 miles of running is completed, the runner should stop running and go through a set of prepatory drills. This could be any number of dynamic stretching exercises such as side leg swings, forward leg swings, high knees, butt kicks, etc. These are all meant to have the body fully flexible and ready to push hard during the actual workout.
The final warmup preparation are striders. These are short bursts of speed, lasting anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds of increasing pace. Most runners will go through 3 to 5 striders, which really prime the cardiovascular system to start pushing at a pace of increased intensity far above conversation pace. These can be near sprinting at the peak of the strider, but shouldn’t be over taxing and have the runner gasping for breath at the end of each.
Once the final flexibility and strider exercises are completed the runner should let their heart rate settle and prepare to begin the workout.
The workouts are described in detail for each runner, as in the one listed above. For this workout, the runner is to run a strong pace for 3:00 and then back off and jog to as full a recovery as possible during the 1:00 interval, then repeat the efforts for 5 miles. This is the bulk of the run and most important component of the complete effort, which necessitates the warm up and cool down.
Once the runner completes whatever workout is given (5 miles in the given example), the cool down begins. This often varies depending upon the runner and effort, but most often consists of completing the last part of the workout on a very taxed body, and then coming to either a complete stop or slowing significantly into a conversation paced jog. Sometimes, depending on the workout effort, the runner needs to completely stop and walk and get their heart rate back to a stable level before beginning the cool down. Other times the runner can come out of the effort and start right into a very slow jog before everything settles and they are able to finish the mileage with some degree of stability and strength. This cool down effort will be at the same pace as the warm up effort, just easy conversation paced running.
The mileage for the cool down will depend upon the total mileage for the day and the mileage completed during the warmup. In this case, if the runner did 3 miles to start, then 5 for the workout, they’ll have 2 miles of easy running to finish.
The final bit of post-workout effort involves stretching. This doesn’t have to be of extended duration, but any amount of static stretching (stretch and holds) to the calves, quads, hamstrings, etc., will be of benefit to recovery and preparing for the days of running to come.
To recap, start in on easy jogging, into drills and striders, into the workout, then back into easy jogging and stretching. As workouts are the primary means to running strong and fast on race day, they take a different degree of preparation for training, both mentally and physically. Make sure you are maximizing the training progressions of the workouts by taking your time in getting prepared to run the bulk of the effort.