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Top Tips for Running Faster and Further

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Running faster and further is closely associated with an athlete’s exercising capabilities, including the rate at which the body can process lactic acid or its “lactate threshold”. If athletes want to run faster and further, they will need to increase their lactic threshold by “tempo” training.
  • Runners who train at a high tempo over shorter distances (50 kilometers / week) will have a higher lactic threshold than those who run at a lower intensity over longer distances.
  • Each person’s tempo training level will differ and there are numerous ways to identify your own personal tempo, for example by increasing your pace, using your heart rate, analyzing your body state or trying to hold a conversation while running.

 

Top Tips for Running Faster and Further

Whatever your individual goal when running, whether it is to prove a point or just to keep fit, there will come a time when running faster and further than before will enter your thoughts. Additionally, there will also come a time when no matter how hard you train, you’ll be unable to go any further or faster than before and you’ll have reached what is known as the “running plateau”.

When attempting to run further, many runners will constantly try to increase the distance they train at, eventually causing themselves injury. Moreover, when trying to increase speed, some runners will try to run faster over the same distance each time they train until their body cannot take it anymore, meaning that they are overtraining. As a result the body will require an extended rest period before starting training all over again. If this cycle is allowed to be repeated continuously, it will slow down a person’s overall running development or even stop any development altogether.

Before we begin to look at ways to train that will help you avoid the aforementioned issues and help you gradually improve your running, we must first understand what is meant by the term “lactate threshold”. Lactate threshold refers to the intensity at which an athlete can train while his or her body is still capable of processing the lactic acid produced in order for it to be returned to the body and used as fuel for exercise.

Yes, that’s right. Lactic acid is actually a key source of energy for the body. It isn’t the only chemical responsible for making us feel fatigued as many would have you believe. Additionally, lactate threshold has been proven to be a much better indicator of training effectiveness than VO2Max due to the fact that regular runners will not see much difference in their VO2Max levels despite their relatively high fitness levels.

With regard to running faster and further, we will only be capable of doing this by gradually increasing our lactate threshold. The way in which we can do this is to train close to our threshold, and this form of training is commonly referred to as “tempo” training.

Tempo training refers to a training intensity that is higher than regular aerobic training and takes place over “shorter” distances. Research has shown that training at this level of intensity can increase a person’s lactate threshold more effectively than continuously training at aerobic intensity.

A study by Eystein Enoksen split runners into two groups: one group trained at high intensity over short distances (50 kilometers / week), while the other trained at low intensity over longer distances (70 kilometers / week). The results of the study showed that the first group had a significantly sharper increase in their lactate threshold.

The next question that you may be asking yourselves right now is: “How can I find out what my tempo pace is?” While it is true that every individual will have their own tempo pace, there are many simple ways in which we can identify our own personal tempo pace. For example:

  • Increase the time from your 10-kilometer race pace* by around 15-20 seconds or increase the time from your 5-kilometer race pace by around 30-40 seconds (*pace refers to your average speed over 1 kilometer, for instance, Pace 6 = taking 6 minutes to run 1 kilometer).
  • If you prefer to use your heart rate as a measurement, it is recommended that you run at 85-90% of your maximum heart rate (HRmax).
  • For runners who like to base their training on how they feel, your level of strain should be around an 8 out of 10 (quite strenuous).
  • Trying to hold a conversation while running is another way to find your threshold. At this level, you should only be able to say individual words rather than being able to speak in full sentences.

With regard to training programs, these will differ significantly depending on each individual runner’s needs, and there are a huge number of such programs available out there. However, it is extremely important that you reduce your usual training distance when doing your tempo run and that these runs make up no more than two of your weekly training sessions. This is crucial because your body needs time to recover properly in order to avoid injuries and to ensure that you are not overtraining as may have happened in the past. Just remember: “Time spent resting and recovering is just as important as the time spent training.”


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Reference list

  1. NCBI – The changes in running performance and maximal oxygen uptake after long-term training in elite athletes:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16446673.  Accessed on October 29, 2015.
  2. NCBI – Influence of regression model and initial intensity of an incremental test on the relationship between the lactate threshold estimated by the maximal-deviation method and running performance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24479420.  Accessed on October 29, 2015.
  3. NCBI – The effect of high- vs. low-intensity training on aerobic capacity in well-trained male middle-distance runners: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20647950. Accessed on October 29, 2015.

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