Running is a simple sport. Lace-up your shoes, or don’t if you are a barefoot runner, get your clothes on and hit the road. In theory, that’s all you ever do. However, with people constantly wanting to go faster and further than they have before, they need to dive into the complexities of running and set out a plan that involves some thought and different kinds of runs, which would eventually make them stronger, more efficient and faster.
The four different kinds of runs that you would need to focus on are easy runs, the long slow drag or LSD, VO2 Max runs and threshold runs. Each of these serves a different purpose and, in the end, makes you a stronger, faster and better runner overall, no matter what distance you might be gunning for.
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These are certainly the most important for your overall development as a runner. These are runs that you do at about 60-75% effort. If you measure effort by heart rate, it should be 60-75% of your max heart rate. “Easy runs are important as they help us build our endurance levels,” says Girish Bindra, a Mumbai-based running coach with an ACSM certification. “We can add longer distances without the stress of higher pace or speed in our workouts. They are excellent for building your aerobic fitness.” Kochi-based IT professional and a founder member of Soles of Kochi running club, Ramesh Kanjilimadhom, who has run the Boston Marathon multiple times and routinely runs sub-3 hour marathons, says easy runs should make up between 70 to 80% of any runner’s training plan. These help you get used to staying on your feet and running longer distances without overly exerting your heart or body.
VO2 Max runs
Vo2Max is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilise while working out or playing a sport. A higher VO2 max indicates higher lung capacity and better chances of performing at your limits. “VO2 max is important as it shows how we can improve our oxygenated blood supply flow to the muscles while in action. It helps us to measure our fitness and heart health improvement,” says Bindra. These short interval runs are performed at high speeds pushing your heart rate limits. Doing VO2Max interval runs such as Fartlek (alternating one-minute fast and slow runs) improves your VO2Max, which improves lung capacity and hence your ability to run at higher speeds over longer distances. The higher your VO2Max the better for you.
Tempo or threshold runs
These are longer runs performed at a higher pace where you hold the pace over longer distances. A tempo run is a continuous run with a buildup gradually to a higher pace, explains Tanvir Kazmi, founder of the 100 Days of Running challenge who has run several marathons and ultramarathons. “A typical tempo run of 30 to 40 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, accelerating to near 5K race pace for 10-20 minutes with a peak near the middle, then 5-10 minutes slowing down gradually toward the end for a cool down,” elaborates Kazmi. Threshold or tempo runs build your strength and endurance which help you go faster over your chosen race distances.
LSD or long slow drag
This one is perhaps the weekend staple of all middle- and long-distance runners. The long slow drag helps us strengthen our musculoskeletal and cardiovascular respiratory system, says Bindra. The long slow drag improves endurance and helps runners get used to staying on their feet for long periods of time. Ultimately, it is this run that will prepare you to go the distance of your chosen race. “The long slow runs enhance our fat-burning ability and make us mentally stronger. The distance for your long run depends on the kind of race you plan to run. For example, the long slow run distance for a 10k race ranges between 12km to 21km while for those aiming for a half marathon, it would be anything from 18km to 32km,” he explains.
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The longest distance for a 10 km race:
Intermediate runners: 15-18km
Advanced runners: 18-21km
For a half marathon:
Intermediate runners: 21-24km
Advanced runners: 26-32km
For a marathon:
Intermediate runners: 32-35km
Intermediate runners: 35-38km
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.