Everyone knows that in order to improve in this sport, you need to push yourself in training. But what about the easy days? Are they simply for recovery purposes? Or do they provide benefits to make you run faster? In this blog we’re going to explore this and find out how you can elevate your performance...
”No one is going to burn out doing aerobic running” ~ Arthur Lydiard
Aerobic Running is often related to easy / steady running. “Aerobic“ means “with oxygen”, “anaerobic“ means “without oxygen”. From distances 5k and upwards, over 85% of our energy contribution comes from the aerobic energy system, for the marathon, 99%! A huge amount!
When we do speed sessions in training, we are developing our anaerobic system, sessions including 30s sprints are perfect examples of this. Now while speedwork is very important, we often neglect the aerobic pathway, which as the science (and history for that matter) shows, isn’t good for our performance.
So, what are the benefits of developing the aerobic system?
- Increase in heart & lung capacity, resulting in more oxygen reaching the exercising muscles.
- Increased capillarisation, allowing more blood to circulate around the body.
- Increased mitochondria in the muscle, improving your aerobic capacity and ultimately your performance.
- Development of greater efficiency in metabolic & enzymatic pathways, concerting more oxygen into energy.
Arthur Lydiard is widely considered as one of the greatest long distance running coaches in history, guiding countless Olympic medalists to their extraordinary achievements. Lydiard’s main focus in any training plan was aerobic development, often stating that greater aerobic strength (endurance) results in faster performances in any distance with a large aerobic contribution; anything from 800m up to the marathon (and beyond).
So how do you train the aerobic system?
Steady running. Mo Farah, multiple Olympic Champion and 2:05 marathoner races at a mind-blowing 4mins46sec per mile over the 26.2 mile distance. And yet, at least 70% of his weekly training is done at 6mins per mile, over a minute slower per mile! Why is this? You guessed it...
So how do you include this approach into your training? Gradually. Running steady allows you to run further, but increasing your mileage too quickly can cause problems. You need to be really careful, and always always always be specific to you and build up your training as you need to, don’t copy other people. With NewEra athletes, we tend to follow the following weekly approach:
1 x interval session per week - the focus is upper end aerobic development and working at, or quicker than race pace. These sessions includes some anaerobic running and is essentially our speed work.
1 x long run - gradually increasing the distance, this session is probably the most important in our athletes’ schedule.
1 x Tempo - this is run @ either HM race pace or Marathon race pace (depending on your goals) and allows you to prepare your body for race pace, whilst being a great way of developing the upper-end aerobic pathway.
All other runs during the week, including warm up & cool down is done at a steady, or easy pace. The trick is knowing when to include which session, how many reps to run, what recovery to take, how long to run in your long run, how easy to run on which day, and how different plans suit different athletes. All of which a running coach can help you with. As we always say, if you hit your easy days too hard, you can’t hit your hard days as hard. Easy days easy, hard days hard.
Train your aerobic system and watch your performances boom, strength is speed.
Discover your potential,