For a lot of distance runners, the main focus of a training program is overall distance.  They focus only on how many miles they log each week.  There is nothing wrong with setting a mileage goal, however this shouldn’t be the only concern.  Runners should focus as much on the quality of their running, as they do the quantity of their running.

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 4.30.37 PMWhat I mean by this is that varied workouts and types of runs should be implemented into a successful training program. Sometimes it is better to break up your training into different methods.  This will improve your quality of training, and thus, your performance. I have included some suggested methods below.

Speed Training – I look at speed training as kind of the hybrid between distance and sprint work.  Typically this is going to involve running a shorter distance than your normal run, but at a much faster pace.  The benefit here is that you will train your muscles to work harder for longer periods of time.  Here is an example of what speed training looks like:  Instead of running 10 miles at an 8:30 per mile pace, run 4-5 miles at an 8:00 or below pace.

Incline Training – Although I wish they were, not every race is going to be on flat ground.  In order to adapt to hilly terrain, we have to train for it.  First and foremost, incline training will build leg strength to help physically handle the hills.  Almost as important, however, is the mental edge you will gain.  You’ve conquered the hills in your training, so you can conquer the next one up on the race course, too!  To see an example of one of my typical incline workouts, check out one of my favorite hill workouts.

Interval Training – Interval training consists of a alternating periods of very high and low intensity running.  I am a huge fan of this method of training, primarily because I love pushing myself to my limits.  Also, by pushing yourself to the limit, your muscles have the ability to make some major gains here.  You have to work hard to see any type of results, and that’s what interval training allows you to do.  For more details on interval training, see my previous post Train Less. Perform Better.

Fitness woman

Strength Training – Most runners ignore strength training, because somewhere along the line somebody made up the lie that it isn’t important.  Unfortunately, though, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Sure, you may get by without it.  But, more importantly you will see major improvements with it.  It’s a really simple concept if you think about it. Stronger muscles result in more force production, and generally for a longer period of time.  More force production translates into faster running.  If you’re okay with “just getting by” when it comes to running, then sure, you can skip the weights.  But, if you really want to succeed, get into the weight room a couple of days a week and get after it!

Now I’m not here to say that you need to forget about your distance training altogether.  Just because I am a big fan of speed and interval training doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize the huge importance of long distance running.  But, in order to get the best results, you want to have an all-encompassing training program.  Different stimuli will improve your performance in different ways, which will ultimately make you a more well-rounded runner.

To help you out, I’ll leave you with a sample Two-Week Training Program that will implement all aspects of training:

Week 1

  • Monday – Interval + Weight Training
  • Tuesday – Speed
  • Wednesday – Distance
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Hills + Weight Training
  • Saturday – Distance
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 2

  • Monday – Hills + Weight Training
  • Tuesday – Interval
  • Wednesday – Distance
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Speed + Weight Training
  • Saturday – Distance
  • Sunday – Rest

What are your thoughts on adding multiple types of training into your overall program?  Leave a comment below!

Post contributed by Brock Jones.  Brock is Co-Owner and Head Trainer with BodyFIT, Inc. in Lexington, KY. He holds a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  You can read more of Brock’s posts about fitness and exercise on the BodyFIT Punch Blog.