Do you run, run and run and you don’t manage to improve your race times or increase your kilometers? Maybe it’s because you always run in the same way, at the same pace or with the same intensity. If we want to improve our records, race training must be made up of different types of training. Running is not just running.
If you want to know what these different types of race training are and how to combine them to improve your marks or to prepare for a longer race, we explain it to you below.
The different types of race training
The usual thing when we train for a race is to set a specific goal in mind: it can be to participate in a longer distance than we are used to (make the jump from 10 kilometers to half marathon, or from half to marathon, or go to an ultra) or to improve our performance in a specific distance (for example, to go below 50 minutes in the 10 kilometers, as we are doing with our challenge this quarter).
To train with a specific objective implies a periodization and organization of the trainings: when we have a goal we cannot go out to run “to see how it is given to me” if we want to fulfill our objectives. Our trainings will have to include different types of outings that we will have to combine to improve little by little.
Short throws or short distance starts
The short runs are usually done at a pace similar to the one we are going to take the day of the race and, as they are short distance runs, we can combine them with our strength training or running technique, both essential to improve as runners.
This type of training, being of moderate intensity and not very long duration, is ideal for training near the longest or most demanding, such as long runs or series training, respectively.
Long Throws or Long Distance Departures
Long throws are preferred by many runners as they are made at a slower pace than usual, even though they are always longer distances. But they are perfect to organize “pachangas” with friends and to go out to run in group. Not in vain, they are usually left for the morning of the weekend, when there is more time and you can make groups of more runners who make the miles more enjoyable.
The function of long runs is to add kilometers to prepare our legs for a big effort, such as a half marathon or a marathon. Depending on what the distance of our target race is, so will have to be the longest throw we make, following a proportional rule.
If we want to improve our running times, the series training must be part of our usual routine, normally once a week or once every two weeks alternating with other training of different series (of which we will talk below: short series, pyramid, ascending …).
The long series, generally one kilometer, two kilometers or more, depending on our overall training, our physical condition and the distance we are going to run, are run at a pace a little faster than our race pace and require a little prolonged rest to allow the pulsations to drop again (about two minutes, depending on each runner).
The short series are one of the most feared training by runners, and is that they require a very large effort that usually requires that the day following this training is a day of rest. The most common short series are usually 100, 200 or 500 meters, although you can also run other distances, and require running much faster than our target race pace.
Here the challenge is to maintain the same rhythm in all the series or even improve it as we advance in the training. It’s very common to think about giving everything in the first 100 and breaking down for the following: here, more than ever, we have to remember that “running head first” thing.
They are very beneficial when it comes to increasing our speed and also to improve our maximum consumption of oxygen or VO2max, one of the most important parameters when assessing our general physical condition.
The race series are always an entertaining workout (rather than a long run, as a general rule), but the pyramid series are, within this category, perhaps one of the workouts that runners like the most.
The pyramid series combine short and long series in the same training.
The pyramid series combine short and long series that are combined in the form of (oh, surprise) pyramid. For example, we can do a training of 200-400-800-1000-1500-1000-800-400-200 in which we will have previously marked the rhythm that we must take in each of the series (faster in the shortest series and a little slower, but always at the rhythm of series, in the longest).
Trying to maintain the right pace in each series without breaking into the first is a challenge when we do this type of training. And knowing that once you have reached the longest series and you only have to “go down” gives you a lot of encouragement to keep running.
As you can see, there are a large number of series trainings that we can carry out. The ascending series (generally in mileage) are another of the trainings that we can include in our planning, especially for long distances such as marathon.
The training of ascending series forces us to maintain our rhythm of series (a little higher than our race rhythm) during longer and longer distances. As in other training sessions, the key here is not to overestimate ourselves in the first series and to know how to reserve energies for the work that lies ahead: a very important lesson in the longest distances if you want to reach the finish line.
Just as there are ascending series, there are also descending series, both in mileage and time. The most common are the descending series in mileage: there are usually five or six series in which we are reducing the distance we travel while we are slightly increasing the rate at which we run.
The descending series are becoming shorter in kilometers, but much faster.
This is a demanding training that we should not abuse, but it can work very well both for medium distances (such as the half-marathon) and to improve our times in shorter distances (such as 10 kilometers). Especially important in this training is to do the series with the head (without breaking at the beginning, as we will have to increase the speed with the passage of time) and controlling well the pulsations and rhythms with the help of a heart rate monitor.
Series in slope
Does the race you are preparing for have an altimetry that is not entirely favourable for the rider? Do you have to face slides and a rather “leg-breaking” race? In that case, the downhill series should be part of your training if you want to be well prepared for “D-day”.
I remember that, while I was preparing for the Madrid Marathon, the series of hill training sessions were probably the most numerous during all the planning. Any preparation is not enough to face the steep slopes of the capital.
The series in slope are, generally, of short duration or distance, to rhythm a little slower than the one of the short series, and they are capable of putting to tone our buttocks and twins. It’s a tough workout, but it’s worth it to prepare for unfavourable terrain.
Fartlek training or rhythm changes
In addition to series training, another type of training session that is similar but not the same that we want to include in our routine is fartlek training. We’ve talked about the differences between series and fartlek before, but the main difference is that fartlek is governed more by our personal sensations when running rather than by the rhythm set by the heart rate monitor.
In fartlek training we are guided by our own sensations instead of using the heart rate monitor.
In fartlek training the breaks between work periods are usually active, keeping us at the trot while we lower the pulsations. Once we are ready to face the next series (always guided by our sensations), we continue with the training.
How do I combine the different types of race training?
Now that we know the different types of career training we can do, the next question is how do I combine it to get the best out of my planning and to get well prepared for the day of the race?
To answer this question we have to take into account different factors: what is our initial form state at the beginning of the planning, what is our objective on the day of the race (if it is only to finish -which is already a triumph- or if it is to make a certain time), how much time we have to train, how many days a week we plan to do it …
In general, during the week a long run day, a short run day, and one or two series or fartlek are combined, making combinations between the latter and the different types of series we have talked about.
Of course, we should not overlook at least one day of strength training in which we would include a full body or full body routine, either with our own body weight or with external loads, and a day of running technique.
As you can see, race training is a demanding training that doesn’t just consist of putting on your shoes and going out on the street to burn your sole, if we are running with a specific goal. What is your favorite training?