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Ian Torrence Thursday, 11 July 2013 11:29 TWEET COMMENTS 6

The Dream Season - Page 3

Photo by Patitucciphoto.


Sacramento-based trail runner Steve Itano comments on why training is a true discipline: “In the past I tended to run every run hard and did not really differentiate between workouts. I ran my easy runs way too hard and did not push hard enough on key workouts. Knowing the purpose for each run, whether it be recovery, long runs or tempo runs, really helps me execute each properly.”

Let’s discuss the nuts and bolts of a typical plan.

Training zones and
accompanying workouts
Our body undergoes huge physiological changes as we pass from a slow jog into a steady run. As we increase effort our heart rate, rate of breathing (ventilation), oxygen consumption, and lactate accumulation all increase. Heart rate and oxygen consumption increase linearly until they can go no higher. Lactate and ventilation reach a point after which they increase at a much faster rate than at slower paces. Training is the art of replicating different exertion levels in short, controlled bouts so that our body and mind may adapt to the new stressors and be better able to handle that workload on race day.

There are four training zones. Within each
 of these specific zones there are optimal workouts that develop each zone’s physiological benefits.

Workouts in the sprint zone enhance the body’s ability to run very fast when the muscles are inundated with lactic acid—that burn we feel in the muscles when running all-out.

  • Sprint Intervals
    These fast intervals last between 30 seconds to a minute and are run at an effort you can sustain for two to six minutes. The recovery between repeats is relatively long—two to five times the length of the hard running. These are rigorous workouts and might not benefit everybody, as the risk of injury is relatively high.
  • Neuromuscular Strides
    Lasting between 10 and 30 seconds, these promote quick leg turnover without accumulating lactate in the muscles. Recover fully by walking or jogging slowly after each stride. Perform a stride workout of six to eight times 15 to 25 seconds once or twice a week right after an easy workout.
  • [THE IDEA] Neuromuscular Training
    Neuromuscular training improves running economy by developing better coordination between the muscles and the nervous system. The goal is to focus on proper running form, something that can
be lost by running too slowly too often. These intervals are much shorter than the sprint intervals mentioned above, making them relatively safe and quite invigorating.


Speed workouts are very challenging, but teach you to run harder for longer by improving:

  • Biomechanics that reinforce proper running form and range of motion.
  • Recruitment and growth of fast-twitch muscle fiber.
  • Metabolic pathways that help store and use fuel sources more efficiently
  • Lactic-acid-buffering capability.
  • Oxygen uptake from the blood once it reaches the muscles.

These advancements, working in concert, will allow you to reach your maximum aerobic capacity or VO2 max.

[THE IDEA] VO2 max
VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen an individual can use during intense exercise. This measurement is an indicator of an athlete’s endurance and cardiovascular fitness. The more oxygen you can utilize during hard bouts of exercise, the higher your VO2 max, and the more power you can produce during a workout.

VO2 Max Intervals
These speed workouts last between one and six minutes with paces that emulate an 8- to 15-minute race. Heart rate will range between 94 and 98 percent of maximum. A recovery jog that lasts roughly one half the distance or the same duration as the fast running is required between repeats. The goal of the workout is to spend a cumulative total of 10 to 30 minutes at these quick speeds.

Two examples of this kind of workout (after a thorough warm-up) include:

  • A fartlek run comprising a series of one-minute fast (slightly faster than 5K effort) and one-minute jog rotations.
  • A session of five to eight times a half mile at 5K pace separated by 2-to-3-minute recovery jogs.

These workouts can be done on any flat to rolling surface with good footing. Keep in mind that the purpose is to run fast so technical trails should be avoided. If you are new to this type of workout, avoid injury by starting on soft surfaces such as a track, treadmill or well-groomed dirt path. Begin slowly and integrate a modest amount of speed into your training plan. This will be all you need to reinforce this zone’s physiological benefits.


Stamina-zone workouts hone your ability to run at a steady pace for a long period of time by improving your speed at lactate threshold, the best indicator of endurance performance, and perfecting your ability to run by effort.

[THE IDEA] Lactate Threshold
Blood lactate is formed through any simple muscle movement. During light activity, the body
is able to rid the muscles of the small amount of lactate created. However, at higher exercise intensities, muscles are flooded with lactate and a point is eventually reached at which the body can no longer clear the lactate created. This is your lactate threshold. Stamina workouts enable you to shift your lactate threshold toward faster speeds and harder efforts. In general, lactate threshold is attained at near one-hour race pace and stamina workouts focus on working at or near this point.

1) Steady-State Runs
Steady-state runs are performed at slightly below lactate threshold pace—roughly 30K race pace. If you train by heart rate, you’ll
want to stay between 83 and 87 percent of maximum. The use of 20-to-30-minute steady state workouts will provide training benefits early in the training cycle, and as your fitness improves, you can increase the duration to an hour or more.

2) Tempo Runs
Tempo runs are more intense and thus shorter in duration than steady-state runs. They last between 15 and 40 minutes and are performed right at lactate threshold (between 50- to 70-minute race pace). Heart rates should fall between 85 and 90 percent of maximum.

3) Tempo Intervals
If you find the length of a tempo run too tough or difficult to recover from, break the workout up by using tempo intervals. Though these are slightly faster than tempo-run pace, they are broken into two or more repeats with short (2-to-5-minute) recovery jogs in between. Tempo intervals are run at 40- to 50-minute race pace. Each repeat should last between six and 15 minutes. Longer repeats necessitate a longer recovery interval.

4) Cruise Intervals
Cruise intervals are a shorter and slightly more intense version of tempo intervals. They last
 3 to 8 minutes and are completed at a pace slightly faster than your lactate threshold, roughly 25- to 40-minute race pace. They
are followed by short recovery intervals (30 seconds to 2 minutes).

5) Progression Runs
Progression runs begin at a comfortable, conversational pace; however, as the workout progresses, you pass from an endurance-training zone into a stamina-training zone, and sometimes into a speed-training zone. These workouts are an excellent way to develop a sense of pace and effort as you pass from one zone to the next. Here are three examples:

  • “Thirds” progression runs vary between 45 to 120 minutes depending on your fitness level. During the first third of the workout, run at a very slow, easy pace. In the second third, increase your pace to a manageable, but steady speed. During the final third of the workout, increase your speed to between marathon and half-marathon effort or roughly 80 and 90 percent of maximum heart rate.
  • Super-fast-finish progression runs begin at your normal steady pace, but finish with a final 3-to-6-minute 5K-effort kick. While they stimulate muscle coordination and recruitment, they will leave you with little to no lasting effects.
  • DUSA Progression Runs are one of Flagstaff-based coach Greg McMillan’s favorite workouts. McMillan learned of these workouts when he coached with the Discovery USA Program. Run 75 to 90 percent of your total run at a steady, easy pace. Then, as you approach the final 10 to 25 percent, increase your effort to 10K to half-marathon race pace. These workouts should last a total of 45 to 90 minutes. Walk or jog for five minutes to cool down. This is another excellent way to squeeze a few more minutes of stamina training into the week without causing any lasting fatigue.


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