Three crucial training sessions and how they’ll help you succeed

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Performance Physiologist Bruce Wardrop examines the three types of fundamental training sessions and the reasons why they are crucial for success

For 2017, Waterford Viking Marathon has teamed up with the Department of Health, Sport & Exercise Science (DHSES) in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to provide expert training information in the run up to the event. In this article, Bruce Wardrop (Performance Physiologist) examines 3 types of fundamental training sessions and the reason why they are crucial for success.

1. The Long Run

The Long Run is will be 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. Here’s a few reasons why the long run is so important to your success:

  • 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 programme in “back off” weeks where you reduce the distance covered. This should help to allow steady progression while minimising injury risk.


2. Tempo Run

Put simply, the Tempo Run is a relatively short run at a relatively fast pace, typically lasting about 20mins (although can be longer). The tempo run is a sustained effort at a higher intensity than your long run, typically performed at or around you 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. If lactic acid builds up beyond a certain concentration, it 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)

HIT 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 “fast” muscle fibres, which aren’t usually challenged during longer, slower runs. Improved recruitment and activation of these fast fibres 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. The longer the interval, the slower your pace will be, however all HIIT should feel very fast compared to your normal running pace.

Recovery time (walking / jogging) should be equal to or slightly longer than the work interval, and should be 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 & 3mins recovery). Sessions can be progressed by manipulating the interval: recovery ratio and the number of repetitions performed.

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

Related Courses

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Sports Coaching & Performance
Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Sport & Exercise Science
Master of Science in  Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology
Bachelor of Business in  Recreation & Sport Management
Bachelor of Business (Honours) in  Recreation & Sport Management

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