Hill, tempo, interval and form runs are all important tools for training.

5 Essential Training Strategies for Runners

When training for a race like the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon, 10K and 5K, we have a tendency to think about how to run longer and further. But the best way to train for strength and stamina is with specific techniques that have been developed by runners and running coaches for maximum effectiveness.

Here are five types of runs you may have heard or read about, and why you might want to incorporate these types of training into your routine.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Brian Soo is a senior physical therapist at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center who works inpatient, outpatient, and in sports medicine.  A recreational runner for many years, Brian also bicycles, plays racquetball, and most importantly, paddles on a 20-person Dragon Boat team that competes internationally and practices three times a week. He also enjoys active video games and believes they can be an excellent complement to an overall fitness regime.