What Training Do I Want?

Do I want to run for fun? Only want to get to 5k distance without a walk? Get better times for 5k? Run half marathons in less than 1:30? 

Your ambitions will decide for you what sort of training you want to do, if any. In Striders, we are all endurance runners, rather than sprinters, we are more like Sir Mo Farah (but much slower!) than Usain Bolt. All of our notes about training are related to endurance and much would not apply to sprinters.

If you regularly run, you will get fitter and develop your cardio-vascular system without doing any specific training, making faster or further running faster easier and possibly more fun, as you make better use of your energy systems. What you do on each run (pace, distance, intensity) will determine what sort of fitness you develop most. Your fitness will be maintained and may be enhanced while you continue your running regime.

If you run only occasionally (less than once a week) then you are possibly leaving such a time gap between runs that the gains you make by having a run have been lost by the time of the next one, so your fitness may not improve. Of course it depends on what else you do, as you might be a  swimmer for the other six days a week!

 If you decide you want to improve your running, whatever level you are at now, it is probable that the most important run for you is the ‘Long Distance‘ run to build endurance. How long (and how fast and how intense) this run is depends on what you have been doing to date. It’s not a fast run. For some it might be 3km, for others 30km. 

Building up to a 5km continuous run

If your intention is to build up your running so you can get to a continuous 5km without a walk, we suggest that you should ideally be doing three runs a week. Two shorter and one long run. Set a distance goal for your weekly long run that you know you can achieve. For example a 1km continuous run. Or 2km. Or 2.2km. Or 3.7km. For that run, complete your distance goal and go home – don’t be tempted to do a bit extra. Next run do the same. And again. And again. Only increase your weekly distance (not too much, no more than 10% a week) when you are confident you can do so. By achieving goals you will build self confidence and feel positive about doing more. 

Walking can also be part of getting fitter. But walking is not the same as running (Running is when you have no feet on the ground between steps) as it uses different muscle groups. For example a run of 1km, then walk 1km, then run 1km, is not the same as running 2km continuous. So if you plan to walk during a run, that’s perfectly fine, but the key word is plan. Set that run/walk goal clearly in your mind before you set off, so that you can achieve that goal and feel positive about it.

(Every year we hold a 10 week beginners running course. See section on Training Through the Year)

5km and above

Having built your fitness so you can run 5km, you might want to do more. You don’t need to have any detailed plans to run further or faster, just do it! As before, build up weekly distances slowly. You do not need any specific training if you want to increase the distance you can run from 5km to 10km, all you need to do is gradually increase the distance of your Long Distance run. At this stage, running faster will not be a great benefit to your endurance, its distance that matters most. One run of 9km (or even 7km) will do more for building your endurance than 3 runs of 3km. The most important run for a typical runner wishing to improve their endurance is a weekly long distance run at a slowish pace. See the article on Long Runs – To improve Endurance.

However, if you decide you are more serious about increasing speed or endurance or improving race times, you should consider more focused training. For example, training that is targeted at increasing the amount of oxygen your body can take in and get to your muscles.

There are several articles on here that will tell you more about different types of training, such as Tempo runs or Interval runs. The articles will give you advice on what pace you should run at based on your background. So when you read a training plan which says 20 mins Tempo it will not specify the pace, but you will have been able to work that out yourself using the advice in the Tempo article. The reason for having different types of training is to develop the appropriate Energy System.

Energy Systems

There are three energy systems used when running. The Lactic and Alactic energy systems  do not directly require oxygen to make them work. The third system, the Aerobic energy system does require oxygen. (See article on Energy Systems for more detail)

The table below is a guide to the proportion of each energy system used for various race distances. These do vary for males and females, so the data is indicative for all.

Race distance

Aerobic Energy used as % of Total Energy used (requires Oxygen)

Lactic and Alactic Energy used as % of Total Energy used

5k

85%

15%

10k

90%

10%

marathon

98%

2%

The implication is that the shorter the race distance, the more important it is for the runner to train for use of their Lactic and Alactic energy systems, which is one reason why the training emphasis is different for different race lengths.

Various example Training Plans are included in this training section to give further guidance. Clearly as every runner has a different background and has different objectives for improvement, then each requires their own plan. Ours can only be a guide.

Graeme Loudain – September 2019

These notes are published as a general aid to all endurance runners. They are guidelines based on current best practice, intended to illustrate the points in the articles rather than provide a precise training schedule. They are written in a way to be of help to runners. Individuals will have their own requirements and the content of the notes will not suit all. Please use them in the spirit in which they are intended and modify them to suit your own needs. If you have suggestions for improvement, amendments or comment, please email gladmin@btinternet.com.