Since Bay to Breakers was just this past weekend and the summer is upon us, leading to all sorts of other distance running events, I’d like to talk about the missing element in training for distance runs. When most people want to run a distance race, the only thing they think about is getting out there and putting the miles in. This is important and it can help get our bodies ready for the pounding that we take when we run for an extended period of time. What we don’t often think about are some other ways that we can not only protect our body from injury, but also improve our running efficiency and our time.
One of my bootcamp clients ran in the Bay to Breakers over the weekend and after the event he sent me this text: “This is my eleventh year running Bay to Breakers. For most of those years my goal was to finish it in under an hour. it wasn’t until after regular sessions in your bootcamp that I was able to achieve that.” – Bill Anderson.
Keep in mind that Bill is an experienced runner and he’s also very proud of the fact that with his latest birthday he is now able to get the special discount at Denny’s. What that means is that he is experiencing some big improvements at a point when many people are going the other way.
Now, in my bootcamp sessions I don’t have anyone do any distance running at all, so how was he able improve and surpass the goal he’s been after for over a decade? Two things: interval training and resistance training.
Let’s talk about interval training first. If you don’t know what interval training is, it is a type of training where you exercise at a very high level of intensity for a short period of time followed by a longer period of very low intensity movement or complete rest. For example, a 20 second sprint followed by 40 seconds of rest. How could doing a few 20 sprints improve your time for a distance race? That’s a fair question. The answer is that it helps in quite a few ways. For one, it gets the body used to running at a faster pace. By definition, we can only exercise at a high level of intensity for a pretty short period of time, so by using short, high intensity sprints we get our body better used to running at that intensity and speed. Another way is that interval training actually improves our aerobic conditioning more than long, slower exercise bouts. That means that we can maintain a higher level of intensity for longer periods of time.
The second way we were able to improve his time is resistance training. How does that help? Well, at it’s core, running is all about force production. The more force you are able to put into the ground the more distance you are able to cover with each stride and the faster you will go. Getting stronger throughout your body allows you to simply put more force into the ground with each step. This additional strength and stability also has the additional benefit of helping you prevent the overuse injuries that are so very common among endurance athletes of all types.
I hope that if you’re thinking of doing some running this summer you take just a little time in your training to add in some of these techniques. I think you’ll really see a big improvement in your times. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Have a great day!