Here is a quick overview of the different types of sessions we run on a Monday and Thursday evening, and what each of them is aimed at achieving.
Recovery Run: A slower paced run following race days or high intensity session days that enhances recovery and allows for the benefit of training to take effect. The exact pace depends on the individual but as a target should be no more than 60% of maximum heartrate. Without enough recovery runs placed at the right point in our training schedule we won’t reap the long-term benefits of all the other sessions.
Long Run: Whilst primarily aimed at developing endurance this session also develops the body both physiologically (the heart/lungs and fuel system) as well as biomechanically (muscular and neuro-muscular) for long-distance running events. The other reason we all do long-runs in the build up to our endurance events is to give us confidence in completing the distance and practicing our race-day strategies (i.e. fuelling, hydration & kit).
Easy/Steady Run: These sessions provide all-important mileage in an endurance runners’ training plan, keeping the body stressed but at a level that minimises injury risks and the chance of over-training. There are many benefits to the easy run, but the key one is keeping the body ticking-over so that the other sessions can be run at the higher intensities intended to help progressions towards training goals.
Tempo Run: A single long effort at a given intensity that should feel ‘uncomfortably difficult’ but sustainable for the set time or distance (80-85% max HR, or just able to say a sentence or two out loud). The aim of these sessions is to increase the pace one can sustain for a prolonged period and/or increase the time one can sustain a relatively fast pace. Whilst the main training focus is on running economy at target race-pace, they are also a great way of helping to establish if you are on target for our target race time.
Threshold Session: These are interval sessions where each effort is run right at the threshold between our aerobic (using oxygen) and anaerobic (not using oxygen) energy systems. This means they should feel relatively easy compared to our speed-based interval sessions (85-90% of max HR, or able to say no more than three words out loud). The aim here is to improve your body’s ability to clear blood lactate and increase your lactate threshold – or in other words, increase the speed you can run before your body starts to feel the burn. So, for those runners looking to chase a PB these sessions should form a core part of your training programme each week.
Hill intervals: Hill sessions are great for leg-strength conditioning as well as reinforcing good running form, both of which should translate into faster runner speeds on the flat. The act of efforting up-hill force the runner to recruit a greater number of muscle fibres to generate the greater force required, but also increase knee lift and triple extension to overcome the gradient. Longer/steeper hills efforts put the focus on building endurance whilst shorter/flatter hills put the emphasis on developing speed – but any hill interval session will do both.
Kenyan Hills: Kenyan Hills sessions are a blend of the tempo run and the hill session. By running a circular route with ups and downs at a fixed intensity/effort level (80-85% of max HR) the athlete is forced to take the hills with a controlled attack but maintain effort by speeding up on the downhill sections. These sessions work on the same basis as the tempo run to build endurance, whilst also introducing the leg-strength (up-hill) benefit of hill intervals and the speed (down-hill) benefit of faster interval work.
VO2 Max: The aim of this session is to enable the athlete to get used to withstanding speeds greater than those they would do in a race situation and start maintaining this pace for a relatively longer periods of time. The focus (as the name suggests) it to develop and maintain the athletes’ VO2 max (i.e. your upper aerobic endurance), or at least improve the speed you can run at your VO2 max.
Intervals: These sessions allow you to train with either a higher volume or a higher intensity at a specific pace than you would in a single continuous session such as a tempo run. This is achieved through multiple sets of shorter distances with recovery periods in-between. As well as physically developing the aerobic threshold, muscle fibres and running economy, these sessions get us mentally used to running at faster speeds than we are used to.