Run, Forrest, Run – A Complete Guide to Running and Structuring your Training.
Now if there’s one thing I have noticed since moving to Norway, it’s that Norwegians love to run. If the sun is out, you can bet the parks and forests will be packed with groups of people running. I believe this is great and the more time we spend outdoors and in nature, whether it be training or just relaxing, the better.
It has also led to an easy transition to training during lockdowns, with many dusting off the old jogging shoes and taking the training outdoors.
However during times like these, we can easily see a correlation between increases in running volume and overuse injuries. With the first few weeks leaving us feeling amazing and the next few leaving us feeling tired, sore and in pain.
Does this mean you should stop running altogether out of fear of injury?
In the words of Jenny Curran “Run Forrest Run”.
However unlike my good friend Mr Forrest Gump, we can’t just set off on a running tour of the country and expect our bodies to be fine. So whilst you shouldn’t stop running, you should put some thought into structuring your running throughout the week and the volume of running you do from week to week.
“Okay Morgan, now I know I have to record some runs and maybe think about things, but what does that actually mean?”.
Well have no fear, over the next 10 mins and this blog post, I will help you break down how to set up your own running program and manage your training properly.
Step 1: Track your Training
First and foremost, if we want to get where we are going, we want to look back at where we have been. So get yourself a way to track your training.
Now there are a million ways of doing this and keeping it nice and simple. A training watch such as a Garmin or Apple Watch is an amazing investment if you will be running a lot and training regularly, these will give you stats on both Distance and Heart Rate, which will be key for tracking and improving.
If you don’t have a watch and aren’t ready to get one just yet, no worries at all. There are plenty of great and FREE apps for your phone that do almost exactly the same.
A few of my favourites are as follows:
Nike Run Club
Step 2: Understanding your running zones and varying your running.
Now that you’re tracking what you’re doing, you want to start to set up a holistic running program or schedule, this will help you to constantly vary what you’re doing, cover all bases and reduce your risk of injury.
You may have noticed that when you keep running the same route a few times a week, you improve endlessly over the first few weeks, but then suddenly you hit a slump and don’t seem to get better anymore. Well here we are going to help you past it.
Now generally we have 3 types of running sessions or “intervals” we can perform when getting out for a session. These are as follows:
Each of these will target a different type of energy system or muscle fibre, each with its own health, training and performance benefits. So for this reason, it’s important we include each type on a regular basis.
The following is a table is a breakdown of what each of these intervals looks like
So to summarise a continuous work session will consist of intervals of upwards of 20 min, this will then give sufficient time for the Aerobic System to work and adapt.
During this session you will look to run at an intensity that is 75 – 85% of your maximum HR (your watch or app should do all the work calculating for you here!), if your watch or app doesn’t take HR, I want you to look to maintain a difficulty that is a 7-7.5 / 10 or “Pretty Hard”.
A Long Interval Session will consist of intervals of 1 – 5 mins. Your intensity will be 85 – 92% of your maximum HR, 8-9/10 difficulty or “Really, Really Hard”. When it comes to your work to rest ratio, you will always rest ⅓ of the duration of the work, so if you run for 3 mins, rest for 1 min and then run again.
These shorter duration and higher intensity intervals will utilise a different energy system to your continuous work sessions, allowing you to sustain higher intensities for longer. So we want you to push hard and get the HR up.
Now these are the icing on the cake, the short, high intensity work that gets the endorphins kicking. These will also utilise your Anaerobic energy system, developing your bodies ability to quickly convert carbohydrates to energy and flush out metabolic waste Products (such as Lactic Acid).
Here we want you to work on short duration, max intensity intervals, essentially work that is similar to what people commonly perform as “hill sprints”. Here you will perform 10 – 30 seconds sprints, 100% intensity with a W:R ratio of 1:5, so if you sprint for 10 seconds, rest for 50 seconds. This is to allow your Anaerobic system time to recover, allowing you to perform again at 100%. Your key here is to get that long rest in so you can keep the intensity high.
Step 3: Fitting it all into a week.
So you might be sitting here overloaded with information, thinking “awesome but how do I fit all this into a week?”.
Well the following here is an example of how you may structure your training week.
I want you to check it out and note the following points:
Rest: You will notice that no two days are scheduled one after the other, this is to allow the body to recover between sessions and reduce the risk of “overload injuries”.
Accessory Work: One of the sessions here includes some accessory strength work, this is incredibly important to improving your running and reducing your injury risk. So try to perform this at least 1 – 2 times per week.
Warm-up: Make sure to warm up. Don’t be a fool, warming up is cool.
Step 4: Monitor your running volume
Now we all know that to improve, we need to overload and challenge the body to do more than it has previously done. However if we challenge it too much and too quickly, it will begin to break down.
So lastly I want you to use your app or watch to track the total distance you run from week to week. I want you to be mindful of any sharp increases in the total distance, if it suddenly increases, I want you to allow it to decrease the next week.
When watching the distance increase I want you to follow the Golden Rules:
10% Increase per week.
Every 5th week, lower the volume and take a deload week.
An example of this may be as follows:
Week 1: 20km
Week 2: 22km
Week 3: 24km
Week 4: 26km
Week 5: 13km
Week 6: 24km
Instead of always increasing difficulty through increasing distance, think outside the box and find other ways to increase the difficulty., maybe run up an incline, run in the forest or decrease the rest by a few seconds!.
So there it is, the basic principles to structure your running and consistently improve whilst massively reducing your risk of injury!
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