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Polarise your training for faster races in 2018

Nutrition Articles

So last week, we posted a blog about 'why traditional training plans are outdated and don't suit the current running population'. The focus of the blog was pretty much based on developing the skill of running quickly and spending the winter improving your 5k, before adding endurance. We discussed the 3 simple steps for those training for marathon events as outlined below:

1. Run technique - the ability run run quickly with little effort
2. The engine - Run intervals and hard workouts to develop your aerobic fitness
3. Durability, economy and mental resilience - run long for leg conditioning, efficient fuel usage and mental familarisation.

If you missed the blogs, then you can click the relevant link to read PART 1 and PART 2

Polarising your training

Polarised training is a term that has been doing the rounds for quite some time and whilst it sounds posh, it has quite a simple meaning. From my experience of coaching, people tend to do the hard stuff not hard enough and the easy stuff not easy enough. As a result, they fall into a middle ground where everything is done at a very similar intensity. Let's consider the 3 steps above and the example of a session which would be relevant:

1. Run technique - Fartlek training would be an example, running short intervals of 50-150m with large recoveries between. The purpose of this session is to develop a fast, smooth and efficient running form, speds should be up to maximal, distances short and recoveries long. It's NOT a fitness workout, it's all about technique.

2. The engine - Interval training would be an example, such as running 5 repetitions of 1km with a 2 minute jog between each. The purpose is to work at an intensity higher than your race pace and develop a high level of aerobic conditioning.

3. Durability and economy - Run 2 hours at an easy pace. The purpose is to toughen your legs (2 hours of repeatedly hitting the pavement) and to encourage your body to utilise fats and carbohydrates more effectively.

Here's how to do them wrong....

1. Run technique - Whilst Fartlek training you decide that the recoveries are far too long and your heart rate is dropping, so reduce the recoveries and take less rest. Running 50m seems far too short, so you increase distances to make the intervals longer. The reduced recoveries and longer intervals mean that you don't actually run at max pace and don't develop your form at speed, but never mind, you finished knackered so it must have been a good workout.

3. Durability and economy - The 2 hour run feels far too easy so you decide to run it harder, plus you're with your mates and you feel the need to show them you're the strongest. As a result, you get to 90 minutes and you're flagging, so you either cut short or struggle to the end. As you ran too hard, you never really gave the body a chance to utilise fat efficiently so you failed to develop metabolic efficiency (easy running encourages higher levels of fat usage, harder running more carbohydrates).

2. The engine - Your session is 5 x 1km with a 2 minute jog recovery and whilst you are working really hard, your output seems a little on the low side and your fancy watch is showing your run speed to be slower than you're capable of. It's no surprise to you as prior to starting this 'high quality' interval session (which you should be rested for), your legs were still sore and tired from the long run which you did at too fast a pace, but nevertheless struggled to the end to complete.

Does any of the above sound familiar?

Here's the key thing, you've pretty much managed to hit none of the objectives for each of the sessions, but you have managed to finish each session feeling as though you've worked really hard and had a great workout.

Going forwards into 2018, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are my weaknesses? What's my limiting factor to going faster?

2. Which sessions are the most important to me, to remove those limiting factors?

3. What PRECISELY are the key outcomes of those sessions and how should they be done correctly to maximise those outcomes.

If you found this useful, don't be selfish... share... it is Christmas after all. And if this kind of stuff really interests you, join our run coaching group on Facebook.

If you'd like some more structured guidance, we offer coaching packages for ULTRA RUNNING and TRIATHLON which cost only £40 per month, including regular sports science testing. Email for more information. If you have any questions on the article, post them on The Endurance Store FB page below the article and we'll answer them.

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