Coach's Corner - Strength and Speed Endurance

STRENGTH AND SPEED ENDURANCE

Success at long-distance running is not simply a matter of putting in lots of mileage in training. There are two key elements to take into account in any endurance training programme:

  •  Strength endurance;
  •  Speed endurance;

Strength Endurance: Strength endurance – the ability to run long-distances without suffering fatigue - is the core to long-distance running and is achieved by increasing training mileage. If you are running a marathon or a half-marathon you need the strength to keep going for 26.2 or 13.1 miles. The foundation for this is the weekly long-run – usually referred to as LSD, long, slow distance.

Outside of competition, athletes need to build up mileage to an appropriate level. For a marathon this might be anything from 60 miles per week, upwards. For a half-marathon the target weekly mileage needs to be in the order of 30 to 40+ miles.

The key element in this will always be the weekly long run.

For a marathon the aim should be to build up, over a number of weeks or months, to a long run of at least 18 to 20 miles – but not, unless you are extremely fit and able to recover quickly from the effort, the full marathon distance.

For a half-marathon the mileage build-up should aim for a long run of at least 14 or 15 miles. Whilst this is over race distance, recovery times are relatively short.

In any training programme the final long run should be no less than two weeks before the race. A long run nearer the race date will give you insufficient time to recover and will jeopardise your chances of performing at your best.

Speed Endurance: The problem with running long distances at a slow, steady pace, is that, in the long term, it will simply enable you to run long distance races at a slow, steady pace. Initially your speed may improve but, over time, this will plateau.

In a race you may also find that your pace falls off in the latter stages, due to fatigue. The strength may be there to get you to the end but the speed could be lacking.

To improve your times for long distance races you therefore need to introduce a speed element to your training. If you constantly train at 6, 7, 8, etc, minutes per mile, that is the pace that you are likely to race at. To improve race times you therefore need to inject a speed element into your training and to develop the ability to run further, faster.

Introducing speed endurance sessions to a training programme needs to be done carefully – too much, too soon could easily lead to injury.

If you haven't already tried speed sessions in your training, start relatively easily. If you are out for a road run, a simple speed session can involve sprinting and jogging between alternate lamp posts.

Fartlek is another easy way to introduce some speed training. In the course of a normal training run use different paces – e.g. 1k warm-up; 500m steady; 200m sprint; 200m gentle; 500m fast; 500m gentle; 400m sprint; 400m gentle; etc. Alternatively, base such sessions on time – e.g. 1 minute gentle; 1 minute fast; etc.

For those with more experience endurance training should be geared to sessions with longer, faster, distances:

  •  Weeks 1 to 3:   3 x 1k with 2 to 3 minutes recovery;
  •  Weeks 4 to 6:   5 x 1k;
  •  Weeks 7 to 9:   8 x 1k.

These should be run at your usual 10k pace.

For the more experienced, faster runner, training should involve longer repetitions:

  •  3 x 2k or 3k with 3 minutes recovery, building up to
  •  2 x 5k with 4 or 5 minutes recovery.

Shorter intervals or repetitions can be beneficial but, for long distance races, long repetitions are essential.

The basic message is – if you want to race long and fast, train long and fast.

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