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Improve Your Race Time

Posted by: on June, 21 2012

RunningTimes.com and written by Joe Rubio


What if you could add a single training element to your routine once every seven to 14 days that has proven to significantly increase your potential for faster racing times at any distance? What if it took as little as 10 to 15 minutes each session to see results? Sound too good to be true? Such a training method does exist and has been providing impressive results for decades.

Unfortunately, this type of training is widely misunderstood and, consequently, is shunned by many. Although this training method is most closely linked to the training that a miler would do frequently, most of the best long-distance runners since the 1960s have used this type of training consistently with incredible success.

What is this magic elixir for improved race times? Short intervals. Specifically, high-quality runs of 200 to 400m, repeated a fair number of times at a pace faster than your current 5K race pace.

Wait a minute — isn’t this speed work? Yes, that’s what some call it, but the main reason distance runners looking to improve should consider adding it consistently to their routine has a more specific purpose that has little to do with improved leg speed (although that’s a nice byproduct). Short, high-quality intervals significantly improve the heart’s ability to move blood throughout the body, resulting in greater potential for improvement, and that’s the main reason you should do them, regardless of your target race distance.

A Miler’s Menu

“Miler training” involves doing shorter repeats of 200 to 400m (lasting approximately 30 to 90 seconds) repeatedly with a recovery jog of half to all of the repeat. The pace is your current 1500m/3K race pace (15 to 40 seconds per mile faster than 5K race pace). So while these repeats are fast, they are not all-out sprints. That is, they should feel quick but controlled, not hands-on-the-knees hard. As we’ll see later, the
main workouts of this sort equal 1 to 3 miles total volume of faster running, depending on the speed.

There are three primary physiological benefits from doing these types of workouts consistently; the last is the most significant for most runners.

01. Increased ability to tolerate higher levels of lactic acid through increased buffering capacity.

02. Improved speed, form and running efficiency through improved functional leg strength and improved neuromuscular recruitment.

03. Increased cardiac output through an increase in stroke volume.

The third benefit, an increased cardiac output, is the adaptation every distance runner should take particular interest in since it has a significant impact on improving performance regardless of race distance.

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