"The idea of mileage is stupid. . .there is not mileage without combination of speed..." - Renato Canova
Wait.. theres more to the long run then just running ... Long?
If you want to take your running to the next level. You must add variety to your long efforts. Training should always be progressive over time. Remember the definition of insanity? If you keep doing the same type of run, distance, terrain and intensity over and over again guess what? You will get the same results.
When to add variety?
First, see where you get by incorperating an extensive run in your running toolbox. After a build-up or two of long runs as a staple of your program then you are ready to add some variety.
Event demands matter.
The kind of spice or variations that you add will depend on the event or series of events you are training for. Regardless, I like to follow a general to specific model.
The endurance continuum.
Here is a very basic template that I keep in mind when planning for events, I have also assigned a period that would be a good time to emphasize these modalities.
INTRODUCTORY: General Endurance
FUNDAMENTAL: Direct Endurance Support
SPECIFIC: Specific Endurance
FUNDAMENTAL: Direct Speed Support
INTRODUCTORY: General Speed
I am saying all that.. to say this.
Using a general 16 week Half Marathon prep as an example:
Early in training (week 1-4), its advisable to perform long runs at an easy effort, on varied surfaces and progressive extensively. As you progress your training you can sprinkle in surges or post run strides or build-ups. That covers general speed & endurance.
Example: 90 minutes Easy on trails with 6 x 15 sec Build-Ups post run (1 min rest between).
Through the middle of your program (week 5-12), start introducing progressively steady efforts and surges at faster than goal race pace with plenty of easy running between.
Example #1: 90 minute Progression Run (60 min Easy, 30 min Steady).
Example #2: 90 minute Easy with 8 x 45 second surge at 5-10K effort, 2:15 Easy between.
In the ladder parts of your program (week 13-15), you are really trying to dial in your specific endurance. Therefore workouts should stimulate and simulate the demands of your goal race. I am a
Example #1: 16K Swing Set: 2K Easy, 1K @ Half Marathon Pace, 1K @ 10K Effort (repeat 4 times)
Example #2: 16K with Alterations: 1K @ Half Marathon Pace, 1K Easy-Steady
Example #3: 16K Progression Run 8K @ Easy to Steady + 6K @ Half Marathon Pace + 2K @ Threshold
These sessions can be demanding. I am a big fan of alternating an extensive easy long run with something of quality every 10-14 days.
How many long runs you got.. a lot.. how many variations you got.. a lot..
While there are so many variations to choose from, it can be an overwhelming task to make sense of it. Training can be simple if you put trust in someone who can add purpose to your training. Hire a regulated health professional that can offer sound advice and a tailored prescription based on experience, hard evidence and common sense.
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