Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Change of Pace/Half Marathon Training Part 2

For those of you who are planning to run a May or June half marathon, March is a good time to begin thinking about a change of pace. This is especially true if you want to do more than just finish. With two months in the books with a gradual increase in long runs and weekly mileage now is the time to add anaerobic threshold workouts such as tempo runs, cruise intervals and maybe even some aerobic capacity runs (vo2 max). To get the most out of speed training, it is important to understand what these terms mean and how do these types of workouts. Click on the underlined words for the McMillan running calculator for pace goals and for excellent definitions of these terms.

Two examples of anaerobic threshold training (AT)are tempo runs and cruise intervals. A heart rate monitor really helps keep my effort on these workouts in check. It keeps me from pushing too hard and from slacking off. The Runner's Web is a good place to find heart rate training zones.

My early season speed workouts are blind tempo runs of 20-60 minutes. For example, on my first tempo run of the season I ran for 20 minutes on an unknown course length. My goal pace was to keep my heart rate in my AT heart rate zone of 157-163 bpm. When I got home I measured the distance on USATF course calculator. I am not concerned about the distance until after the run. On the next tempo run I ran the same workout but on another unknown course. This time I was able to cover more distance was able to still keep my heart rate in my AT zone. Sometimes, I will do tempo runs in the last half of a longer run. I will usually alternate between these tempo runs or cruise intervals from week to week.

Cruise intervals are described in Jack Daniel's book, Peak Running Performance. These are another form of anaerobic threshold workouts. For example, I will do 3 to 6, 1 mile repeats within my AT heart rate zone or at 10k pace. After each 1 mile I will take a very short rest (for me approximately 1 minute). Each 1 mile repeat must be maintained at the goal pace with a variation of only 2-5 seconds. These miles should be hard but manageable.

I will sometimes add in an aerobic capacity workout. These are nearly all out speed workouts with a long recovery interval. I may run 3-4, 1 mile repeats but much harder/ within my AC heart rate zone. However instead of a short rest interval, I will take a full recovery approximately 3-5 minutes. For example, I may run 3 x's 1 at a pace near 5:30 or faster while keeping my heart rate between 163-177 bpm. Between each 1 mile, I will take a full rest (no jogging) until I am completely recovered.

Basically, these speed workouts will improve my ability to handle a faster pace for longer periods of time. I now am at the age where I can only do one speed workout and a long run a week. If I do more than that very often I don't recover well and run the risk of an injury. I still will deload every 2 weeks by lowering my quality miles as well as my weekly mileage by 25%. I also will alter these workouts around any tune up races. Remember rest is also a very important part of training. After a heavy load the body must have enough time to recover and rebuild. When in doubt, I will reschedule a hard run if I am having any symptoms or pain during my average day. Hopefully this post was helpful in explaining the need for speed and how to include it in half marathon training. In April, I will review tapering for the big race.

Note to readers:
Always consult a physician before starting any exercise program.

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