This is the year of virtual running events, and while you may not feel the same urgency to train as you do for a physical race, it’s actually just as important if you want to run your best – and complete your runs in record time.
In fact, when participating in a virtual event like the Kaiser Permanente Around-the-Bay Virtual Challenge and Half Marathon, 10K and 5K, strategic training will be even more important in the absence of public training events.
Here’s the good news: there are specific techniques developed by runners and running coaches for that can help you increase your speed as well as build stamina to run further and longer.
Experiment with these five training runs to vary your routine and up your running game.
1. Tempo and Interval Runs
Tempo and interval runs are important in building up stamina and cardiovascular conditioning. They also increase your lactate threshold — the point at which lactic acid begins to build up in the muscles making them tired and sore. See this article from Runners World for more information about tempo runs and how to integrate them into your training.
2. Hill Training
Why run up and down hills when it’s so much harder? The simple answer: Running on hills builds strength and power, and increases your aerobic capacity. Or, in more technical terms, hill running improves your running economy, which is how efficiently your body utilizes oxygen. Incorporating even brief hill training sessions will increase these capacities over time and help you run faster and will less strain. Research shows that including just 40 seconds of hill running makes a difference.
3. Reverse Splits
Also sometimes referred to as “negative splits,” these drills help you pick up rather than lose speed as your race goes on. Divide your total run by thirds, starting out at an easy pace and increasing speed in each interval. By running slower than your maximum capability during the first third of the run, you preserve the glycogen stored in your muscles as long as possible. Run at a comfortable pace during the middle third, saving your reserves for the final push. You’ll find that not only will you be able to keep going longer, but you will finish stronger and faster.
4. Form Runs
During a form run, most of your focus is on how you’re running: from how your foot hits the ground, to how your arms swing, and where your eyes land on the road ahead. In other words, forget about speed and distance and direct your attention to how your body feels. Running with proper form helps you run faster, more efficiently, and with less risk of injury. Use these tips to improve your running form, then set aside some running time to practice them.
5. Speed Work
Speed drills are multiple repetitions of short intervals at varying speeds, designed to boost your overall speed. If you’re new to speed training, start by running uphill at a quicker-than-normal pace for 30 to 45 seconds, then jog back down. Repeat four to six times. Do this once a week to start and move up from there. Another kind of speed workout, called a “stopwatch fartlek” involves alternating 45-second slow jogs with 15-second pickups. Repeat the cycle eight to 12 times, focusing on fast feet and a rapid stride. This article from Runner’s World describes many common speed work routines.