If you want to be a runner, go for a run. If you want to be a better runner, run more! This will suffice for a lot of athletes. Three days a week of 30 minutes easy running each week will, at the least, maintain your fitness level. This level will probably increase most people’s fitness level as the general population is seriously out of shape. To become a better runner, add another run or two each week or increase the distance of several of those three runs. You will get fitter doing so. However, if you want to maximize your potential and minimize the risk of injury, it takes a little more thought and effort.
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There are several phases to a training cycle and each phase will have differing amounts of training intensities levels. Here’s a simple breakdown of the different intensities:
Easy ¼ effort, 60-75% of maximum heart rate, conversation pace (talking in full sentences)
Medium ½ effort, 75-85% of maximum heart rate, talk in short phrases
Hard ¾ effort, 85-95% of maximum heart rate, single word grunts.
In the early stages of training, we need to build basic running fitness into our legs and lungs. This means putting in the miles. Basic easy running will get the body use to the demands of running. Gradually building up your distance over six or eight weeks conditions the muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the rigors of harder training. At this point, 75-80% of your runs should be at an easy, conversational pace. The remaining 20-25% can be considered medium effort but should remain aerobic in nature.
When you move into the base training phase, the easy runs comprise 60% of the week, 30% are medium runs, and the remaining 10% introduces some hard efforts into the mix. A number of coaches and programs keep this mix of efforts for the rest of the program and simply increase the amount of running to build towards the desired goal (10km plan, ½ marathon plan, etc.). The more experienced runner, however, can handle a more detailed training schedule as the goal event draws near. The key is figuring out how much of each training intensity to which any one runner will respond. Of course, that’s our job to work with you to develop the best program.