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Your 3 Crucial weekly training sessions and how they’ll help you succeed

Waterford Viking Marathon has teamed up with the Department of Health, Sport & Exercise Science in the Waterford Institute of Technology to provide expert training information in the run up to this year’s event. This week we’ll have a look at 3 types of fundamental training sessions and the reason why they are crucial for success.

1. The Long Run

The Long Run is the staple part of any endurance race training plan. Whether you are signed up for the quarter, half or full marathon you will need to gradually build up your capacity to run greater distances - this is achieved through the long run. A few reasons the long run is so important to your success are:

  • It will help develop your aerobic threshold. This is the training intensity you can sustain for a prolonged period of time without excessive fatigue – think of it as your marathon race pace.
  • It will improve your body’s ability to use fat as an energy source. During your long runs, you will gradually deplete your carbohydrate (glycogen) stores and rely more on fat for fuel. Your body will adapt by becoming more efficient at burning fat to fuel your running, which should improve endurance performance.
  • Depleting your glycogen stores causes your body to increase its ability to store glycogen in the future. This adaptation is crucial for many aspects of endurance performance. A good example is if you to finish fast; you’ll need the glycogen reserve to fuel this effort.

Long runs should be built up gradually and it is advisable to program in “back off” weeks where you reduce the distance covered to allow steady progression while minimising injury risk. There are weekly group long runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings, check out the training page for more details.

2. The Tempo Run

Put simply, the Tempo Run is a short run at a relatively fast pace, typically lasting about 20mins (although can be longer). It is a sustained effort at a higher intensity than your long run, typically performed at or around your anaerobic threshold. This is the training intensity at which lactic acid begins to accumulate within your muscles. This build-up of lactic acid will cause that familiar burning sensation in your muscles when you exercise hard. Build up beyond a certain point will limit your ability to continue exercising. Training at your anaerobic threshold will improve your body’s ability to tolerate the build-up of lactic acid and also to become more efficient at clearing it away. This is crucial for improving running speed in endurance events. The pace of a tempo run is often described as “comfortably hard” – you should:

Add 30-40 seconds to your current 5km pace

Add 15-20 seconds to your current 10km pace

Aim for about 85-90% of your max heart rate

Feel like you are working at 8 on a scale of 1 (easy) -10 (very hard)

Not be able to hold a conversation during a tempo run

3. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) consists of short bouts of high intensity exercise, followed by lower intensity active recovery. It is a very effective method of training, with many performance benefits coming from a relatively short training session. One of the key features of HIIT is that it will cause adaptations in your type 2 muscle fibres, which aren’t usually challenged during longer, slower runs. Improved recruitment and activation of these will improve your running efficiency and performance over longer distances.

There are no hard and fast rules to designing a HIIT session. Intervals can be long or short, with longer intervals (3-5mins) targeting speed endurance, whereas short intervals (20-180seconds) target power. All HIIT, long or short, should feel very fast compared to your normal running pace. Recovery time (walking / jogging) should be in or around equal to the work interval, sufficient to allow you to complete the remaining intervals. Beginners should aim for about 15mins of HIIT, broken down into 3-5reps (e.g. 3 x 2mins work & 2mins recovery). Sessions progress by manipulating the interval: recovery ratio and the number of repetitions performed. To take the thinking out of it, you could join Declan and Jacinta for beginner interval sessions at 7.30 on Monday nights at the track, or Swaby Sessions at 6.00pm on Tuesdays for intermediate to advanced runners.

All sessions, particularly tempo runs and HIIT should have a thorough warm up and cool down built in to reduce the risk of injury.

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