‘Tis the season of the fun run with loads of races being held during the (allegedly) warmer, brighter and lighter days. But if you are tempted to try your first ever race, or perhaps you want to try a more challenging distance, how do you build up the power to last the mileage?
The logical answer is to start running longer and longer distances each time you run, but this should not be done in isolation. If your aim is a 5K, then perhaps building up to running this distance two or three times a week will be fine, but if you are aiming for a half marathon, running over 10 miles more than once a week will just be exhausting and it won’t really benefit your stamina or speed.
So, what’s the answer? As with everything in life, variety is the key. Mixing in some shorter, faster runs that test your cardio capabilities and your muscle strength can do wonders for your ability to complete a longer run in a faster time.
Here are some super exercises to try. Attempt to do one or two during the week as well as a longer, slower run. You will soon be race ready in no time!
1. Interval training/Fartlek training
Interval or Fartlek training can easily strike fear into your heart, but after I started adding in one or two sessions a week, I noticed such a difference in my endurance that I just grit my teeth and bear the pain.
To make this type of training more fun/appealing, try to do it outside. I’ve tried to do it on a treadmill, and it becomes dull very quickly.
Both of these types of training consist of short bursts of high intensity activity, followed by a period of recovery. Fartlek training is usually less structured than interval training, but it has the same benefits.
If you run outside, use markers such as a park bench or a road sign to measure out a sprinting distance, and then pick another marker to jog or walk to for your recovery.
2. Hill running
I have expounded the benefits of hill running before, but it really is a killer workout that won’t take hours to complete.
Short bursts of running uphill will really test your fitness and will build up your endurance so that running a long distance won’t tire you out. If you have no hills near you, the treadmill is the next best thing, but as always, running outside means that you won’t be tempted to sneakily lower the gradient when the going gets tough.
Try to work a hill into a small circuit, if possible, and then do as many laps as you can manage. As you get stronger, you can add other hills or gradients into your circuit. You will soon notice the difference!
3. Pyramid training
Pyramid training consists of steadily building up speed, time, or distance, and then working back down again. This is really good for endurance as it will help you gain an idea of pace and it will also prepare you for bursts of speed needed to overtake people in a race.
Pyramid training is great because you can really mix it up and it is a fun, interesting session to mix into your running schedule.
You can get some ideas for pyramid training here.