With all the advice out there on how to get faster, it’s hard to know where to start. Should you prioritize form changes, more frequency, mileage, or quality workouts? And when did run training become so complicated?
IRONMAN U Master Coach Lance Watson of LifeSport Coaching believes that you can simplify things and enjoy improvements at the same time: “Running can be a technical sport, but it also beautiful in its simplicity: throw on a pair of shoes and head out the door.” Watson adds that sometimes a few small training changes can freshen things up and keep you engaged. “And you might even find yourself running faster than ever before,” he adds.
Below are three of his favorite, simple changes that can help revive your training this winter.
1. Change the flow of your training week
During the fall and winter months consider scheduling your training week to emphasize your run. You still may bike, swim, and do other cross-training, but you will structure things to hit your key runs when most rested. Coach Watson advises that “making sure you hit your main run sessions rested will also allow you to make further gains in your run program.”
For example, let’s say you normally hit your key bike sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, then your quality runs on Wednesday and Saturday. One simple change that incorporates this principle would be shifting your key runs to, take place after a rest day or swim.
Monday – OFF or Swim
Tuesday – Key Bike/ Brick
Wednesday – Key Run
Thursday – Key Bike / Brick
Friday – Swim
Saturday- Long Bike
Sunday- Long Run
Run Focused Week
Monday- OFF or Swim
Tuesday- Key Run
Wednesday- Key Bike/ Brick
Friday- Long Run
Saturday- Key Bike/ Brick
Sunday- Long Bike
2. Run hills
Lance Watson recommends incorporating hill sessions that progress in volume, then intensity. According to Watson, “incorporating hills can help develop power and muscle elasticity, improve stride frequency and length while encouraging the proper use of arm action while driving up the hill, develop control and stabilization as well as improved speed (downhill running), promote strength endurance, and improve lactate tolerance.”
In order to improve strength, Watson suggests incorporating hills on a weekly basis. Here are a few workout ideas to get started.
Classic Hill Reps
How often: Weekly or every other week
Grade: 4 – 8 percent
Goal: To work on strength while keeping heart rate (HR) below threshold
Execution: Find a hill that is not so steep that you cannot run with good form. The first few weeks are shorter hills with more rest, 10-15 beats below threshold with a 1/1 work/ rest ratio.
Example: 5-15 x 1-2 minutes up hill, with 1/1 work/ rest ratio. (I.e. 1-minute rest for a 1-minute hill; 2 minutes rest for a 2 minutes hill.)
Progress to longer hills at 5 or 10 beats below the threshold.
Example: 4-8 x 3 to 5-minute hills (75 percent rest).
How often: Weekly or every other week
Grade: 6 – 8 percent
Goal: To mimic an uphill tempo run with shorter periods of rest
Execution: For rest periods, simply step to the side of the treadmill
Example: 10-15 x 1 minute uphill, 5 – 10 beats below threshold, with 2/1 work/rest ratio. (i.e. :30 seconds for a 1 minute hill). Do 10-15 minutes of total work.
Progress to a longer work interval and more total work. Let heart rate rise to 5 beats below threshold i.e.15-25 minutes of work as 10-15 x 1.5-2 minute hills with 2/1 work/ rest ratio.
3. Enter running races
Meaningful goals give motivation, purpose, and a target to your training. You generally will run faster in a race than in training which means races are great for boosting run fitness. Also, because of neuromuscular wiring, changes in run mechanics, and simply being fresher during standalone run races, you will run faster than in the run portion of a triathlon.
Watson explains that these standalone results are helpful because they then give you a frame of reference for your triathlon running. “You will know what your best running feels like, both in terms of your cardiovascular ability, as well as biomechanically, so you can model that as closely as possible when running off the bike.”
Finally, running races will give you valuable experience racing in general. “Running races will give you different competitive experiences and you may even learn a few tricks from your single sport compatriots to add to your triathlon racing toolkit.”
This article was first published on Ironman blog.