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Friday, 16 March 2012

Running Paces Explained

Contributed by Jason Finlen

Jack Daniels Training for Dummies
I was asked the other day about pacing during training runs and what it all meant. The actual question went something like “but if I’m running slower than what I can actually run then how do I get faster?”.  On the surface this seems logical right?, I can run faster so why shouldn’t I?  But how fast can they “actually” run? Perception V’s reality perhaps?  What are they training for at the time when they think they can go faster? Maybe they mean they can run longer when they say faster…like my wife when she says "OK" but really means "I dare you to". Or maybe they don’t understand what they are training for? I also get asked about aerobic and anaerobic training, base and endurance training and VO2 Max and VDOT. What the hell do they all mean and where do you start?

This is not a complete guide, in fact it’s not enough to train others and nowhere near enough to coach others. It is enough to be trained and nothing more. But hopefully it will shed some light as to why it is important to stick to the paces you are prescribed

Sub systems
The first thing to grasp is the fact that each different pace of running is designed to train a different sub system or to create a different muscle, nerve or even mental adaptation.

Think of a decathlete and their training and the 10 different track and field events. They need to train each event (subsystem) in order to be the best overall. Some decathletes are good runners whilst others are better at the javelin throw or shot-put. They need to balance their time between each event in order to get the best overall score or the best way to compete against their rivals. Ultimately though it is not about being the best or strongest in one discipline but in the ten overall.

Take this analogy one step further, those that are good at the 100 meters tend to also excel at the long jump as both require explosive short term speed.  But they tend to have to work hard at their weakness in discus and shot-put where strength play a much bigger role. The Javelin throw sits in the middle where brute strength is no good without speed.  The athletes either train at what they are good at or work on their weaknesses and this choice, rather than just the technique, usually decides the winner in modern day Olympics where training tends to be more equal across nations.

So imagine you’re running to be the same way. You have sub systems and each need to be trained to compete well. The choice needs to be made to train at what you are good at or work on your weaknesses and this is an art form. How to train the subsystems however, is a science. Your chosen event will also dictate how much time is required to be spent at each subsystem as well as your natural disposition. 

There are five running subsystems that we need to discuss.

Technically this is called base training or E2A or low heart rate. Ignore that, it’s easy running. It’s what the majority of your time running is spent doing including warm-ups, long runs and recovery runs. It’s easy, comfortable pace running and its builds the foundation for all running.  It creates specific muscle adaption for running in a low stress environment, teaches your body to better utilise fat as a fuel source and increases the body’s ability to carry oxygen through your blood. You should be able to hold a conversation whilst running at this pace.  Its that Easy!

Marathon Pace
Unlike the name suggest this is not just for marathoners. It is an uncomfortable pace that is much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge.  Runs exercising this subsystem allow the body get use to running with mental discomfort.  

Threshold is about improving endurance. Marathoners live and breathe this whilst half marathoners should become friendly with this intensity. It still has benefit for short distances as well but not at the frequency or duration as the longer runners. This intensity is uncomfortably hard but the feeling is that your legs are giving way before your lungs. The idea is to be able to keep below a pace so you can run long interval distances but slow enough as to not max out your heart and lung capacity. It’s the dead leg feeling your chasing.

This is all about heart and lungs! This pace is all about making your heart and lungs work and work hard. It’s done using intervals so that we reduce the tired or dead leg feeling and replace it with a lack of oxygen. Heart and lung capacity helps in every sport that involves moving around and life in general. It’s a very specific pace however and not flat out. It’s a very fine balance of optimal result with minimal stress, a very fine balance. For most runners who move from random training to a formal schedule will generally gain the most benefit from training in this zone.  But it’s also the zone that has to be finely balanced with ample recovery as well.

Repetition is all about technique efficiency. The more efficient every runner is the better they will be over every distance. It is not associated with V02Max and is not designed to increase any capacity or tolerance. Its very fast, light, efficient running with long breaks to allow full recovery. Its designed to make you feel more comfortable at faster paces and to develop the nerve patterns (proprioception) for good, efficient running technique.. It can also be used at the end of workouts to help feel that fast efficient running even when tired and to open up the stride..  

Let’s conclude by going back to our decathlete analogy. The guy that needs to work on his javelin throw will still benefit if he does nothing more than sprint training. His extra speed gained from sprinting will help with the javelin throw but was that his best time spent training when he really needed to improve his javelin throw? Just like the marathon runner that spends the majority of his time training at interval pace. Sure he will become faster at the marathon from this training but is this the best spend of his time training?

Understanding the different running subsystem’s is essential in order to be trained in these subsystems otherwise you don’t know what the feeling is you’re chasing and miss the point of the training session. You also don’t understand what feedback your coach requires. There is no point telling your coach you could have gone faster at last night’s interval session. Of course you could go faster...could you have gone longer at threshold pace? Training repetition for example and deciding to cut the rest time down as you’re short on time doesn’t make sense when you’re chasing efficiency and minimal stress. Running threshold sessions and reducing the distance or time spent running is a wasted set when you’re trying to get your legs to feel dead and heavy.    

Easy, Marathon and Threshold Pace are the most common paces that people get wrong.  They typically run Easy at too slow a pace and Threshold too fast and don’t effectively get the adaptation they are seeking.  A lot of runners don’t run at Marathon (or true Threshold) so don’t ‘teach’ their body to run at their goal event pace.

Those like me, which have limited time to train, want to maximise the benefits for the event they want to compete in. Less junk runs, more quality sessions.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

H.I.I.T v L.S.D ? Why not use both.

A Smart answer to the HIIT versus LSD Debate

Like Ford versus Holden or Audi versus BMW the debate has long raged about what is better - High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Long Slow Distance (LSD).  Like the car analogy both work. But when it comes to fat loss they work in different ways hence the debate continues to rage.

HIIT increases the metabolism after the exercise session through what is called EPOC - Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption.  During the workout, due to the intensity, glycogen or ATP is the primary fuel source however fat is burnt AFTER the session.

LSD uses fat as it's primary fuel source meaning you are burning fat whilst you are working out - if you exercise for 40mins then you are burning fat for 40 mins.  Actually this isn't quite true as it takes sometime for the body to start releasing fatty acids.

HIIT workouts are typically shorter but not everyone likes the intensity involved hence the preference for LSD however too many people confuse Long Slow Distance with Long STOPPED Distance and don't exercise at enough of an intensity to burn fat.

So far we have introduced HIIT, LSD and EPOC and here's another acronym - S.A.I.L which stands for Specific Adaptation to Implied Load.  Basically if you do the same exercise each morning like going for a brisk walk or bicycle ride your body, over time, becomes more efficient at it and requires less energy (fat) in order to complete the task so LSD becomes less effective.

But rather than debate which is more effective - HIIT or LSD why not leverage the metabolic benefits of both ?  

Huh ?

HIIT triggers the sympathetic nervous system (aka the Fight or Flight response) which causes the release of fat burning hormones like catecholamines.  These becomes the catalyst for free fatty acids to dump into the body at a steady rate.  So far so good.  But what happens to these free fatty acids ?  If they are not consumed then they are stored.  For men, fat is most easily stored around the abdomen, for women it's the buttocks (both of these are a throw back to primitive man) so HIIT can literally move unburnt fat to the area where you least want it.

So lets go back to LSD.  What does LSD use as it's fuel source ?  Free fatty acids.  Like bring a dog in to clean up the crumbs off the carpet LSD can 'clean up' the free fatty acids released by HIIT to prevent them being stored.

Here's how it works...

1.  An easy warmup to facilitate blood flow to the muscles and balance insulin.  This is vital as it's nearly impossible to burn fat in the presence of insulin.

2.  A short, intense HIIT work out.  This can be done using a treadmill, bike, elliptical trainer or even kettle bells or body weight.

3.  A strategically timed rest period to enable the dumping of free fatty acids and prevent re-esterification.

4.  A short low intensity (but not NO intensity) workout to 'clean up' the free fatty acids and prevent their storage where you least want it.

1 - 4
HIIT Burst

30 seconds Hard/30 seconds easy x 5-10
9 / 1
Strategic Rest
Steady State Cardio (LSD)

Intensity Level

Warmup.  Brisk Walk or slow jog.
Power Walk.  Should be able to hold a conversation but still feel like you are working.  Don't go too hard though or you will start burning blood sugar (glycogen) instead of fat.
Flat out.  As hard as you can go.  It's only 30 seconds so give it all you've got.  

The key with the hard reps is to make them as hard as you can.  It is better to start with 5 reps (that's only 2 1/2 minutes of actual 'work') and build up to 10 reps (5 minutes) than to do 10 at 80% intensity.

If time permits increase the Steady State Cardio to 40 mins for even more benefit.

Do this work out 3 times a week and your total workout time is 2-3 hours (which out of 168 hours in a week isn't much).  Leave two days at least between sessions.  Why ?  Well you 'A' Type personalities may want to do this every day but this can be counter productive.  Firstly it is hard to maintain the same intensity and focus every day so you may not get the benefit from the HIIT.  Secondly the HIIT sessions can cause muscle breakdown - muscle burns energy so less muscle means less calories burnt which means more fat stored.  I don't think I need to explain why that is a bad thing…

Try to do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as insulin levels are low first thing in the morning.  If you can't do it then try and do it at least two hours after eating again when insulin levels are lower.

Disclaimer (sorry - has to be done)
This information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor and this is not meant to be taken as medical advice. The information provided in this guide is based upon my experiences as well as my interpretations of the current research available.
The advice and tips given are meant for healthy adults only. You should consult your doctor to insure tips given in this course are appropriate for your individual circumstances.
If you have any health issues or pre-existing conditions, please consult with your doctor before implementing any of the information provided below.
This article is for informational purposes only and the author does not accept any responsibilities for any liabilities or damages, real or perceived, resulting from the use of this information.