There are many ways to get faster, stronger and in better shape, but which method is right for you? With countless books and articles on which is the "perfect" workout, it's easy to confuse yourself. And if you try to cover all the bases (the do-all approach), you'll most likely end up overtraining.
Then there is the "do one until you die" approach. Such as doing all hills this summer or hitting the track to gain speed all the time. The problem with this is that by themselves, these approaches probably would have little effect on your training.
The key is a comprehensive approach that incorporates a variety of different methods that work your mind and body in different ways. Based off of research by Owen Anderson, Ph. D., these five areas are good areas to work on that will help you in your training.
Max VO2 is simply how much oxygen you use when you exercise. Increasing your max VO2 enables you to run faster and longer at the same level of effort. So what is the best way to boost max VO2? Running 1200-meter intervals at your current 5-K pace. Do a max VO2-building workout every other week or so.
Not too many obstacles set you back as much as an injury. If you can't run, you can't improve or even enjoy yourself. And now research shows that runners who have a regular strength training regimen are injured less frequently than those who don't. Twice a week, strengthen the muscles, connective tissues and ligaments of the legs by doing squats, leg presses, leg curls, heel raises, toe raises and bench step-ups.
Improved economy means you need less oxygen to maintain any given pace. To work on this, try doing strength work. Also, you need to run workouts at a pace faster than your goal race pace. For example, 5-K runners should do 800-meter intervals about 10 seconds per 800 faster than 5-K race pace, with 4- to 6-minute recoveries, done every other week. Concentrate on a smooth, flowing hip movement.
Power-boosting isn't just for the elite athletes and sprinters. It's important for distance runners, too. Improved power translates to a quicker foot turnover and longer strides. Reducing footstrike time by two-hundredths of a second and increasing stride length by a mere half-inch will shave 15 minutes from a midpack marathoner's race time. The best way to boost your power is with hill work -- preferably once a week or so. Combine high-speed "assaults" up steep hills with more moderate, continuous running on less steep hills.
Lactate threshold velocity (LTV)
LTV is the running speed beyond which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood, the workouts that make your legs hurt for days. The important thing to remember is that as the LTV increases in your muscles, your race times will improve. A classic LTV-boosting workout: run 10-minute intervals at your current 10-K pace, with 5-minute recoveries. If you're a new runner, do two of these repeats per session. More experienced runners should aim for three or four. Keep the frequency of these workouts around once every two weeks.
"Life without ice cream would be nothing but darkness and chaos." -- Emil Zatopek, Olympic champion and the only person to win the 5,000-, 10,000-meter and marathon in the same Olympics.
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