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Aug 20, 2018 - 08:43 AM  

Running Tips - The Basics

Running Tips - The Basics

Contents Basics Intervals Injury Other Factors RaceDay Internet Index Forums

VO˛max Anaerobic Threshold Aerobic Endurance Efficiency

Training consists of stressing a particular physiological system followed by rest to allow it to re-build itself stronger than before.  Both the stressing and the rest are important.  Often we forget the rest part when we first start running, or are keen to do well in some race.  You must also not just stress everything!  You just stress the particular factor that is important to the sport you are training for.  This is called exercise or training specificity.

Running well requires four major components to be trained.  These are VO2max, Anaerobic Threshold, Aerobic Endurance, and Efficiency.  There of course many other factors but the above four cover 80% of running related performance.  I will briefly describe what each factor means and then cover the types of training that stress that aspect of running performance.


This represents the maximum amount of oxygen per kilogram of weight that a person can use in converting fuel to energy.  As there is a direct correspondence between oxygen usage and energy consumed it represents the practical upper limit of energy available to an exercising muscle.  This upper limit is largely genetically determined but training can increase it by up to 20% of non-trained capacity.  To train this upper limit you will need to performing near it.  This means running quite fast.  Interval sessions with 'on' times up to a maximum of 5-8 minutes are the best mechanism for this.  If you run near your upper limit for some time then your body will make adaptations and try and increase it.   Running longer than about 8 minutes, you won't be running hard enough (close to your VO2max performance) so you won't stress this system.

Anaerobic Threshold (AT)

This is the point when the oxygen a muscle requires is not completely provided by the air that you breath.  At this point your muscles switch from purely aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen) operation.  Lactic acid starts to build up, you go into oxygen debt and if not corrected you stop producing energy and you stop running !  Pain is also usually involved.  This switch over point is normally expressed as a percentage of your VO2max.  The aim is to increase the percentage at which we start operating anaerobically.  It can vary from about 50-60% of VO2max for untrained people to 90% of VO2max for elite athletes.  This is the speed that most long distance racing is done at.  We try and juggle a race so as to go fast enough not to create too much lactic build up so we stop.  Training this system involves running right at this cross-over point, or at about 15k race pace.  The training run is called an AT run, threshold run, tempo run or time trial and involves race pace running for between 20 and 40 minutes.  Of course there should be a warmup before and a cool down after.

Aerobic Endurance

This has got to do with how well we utilise the fuel that we are provided with for running.  Without going into too much detail there are two main sources of fuel.  The most efficient is glycogen (sugar) and the longest lasting is fat.  We try and teach our bodies to conserve as much glycogen as possible whilst becoming more efficient at using fat for fuel.  Running fast uses almost exclusively glycogen as fuel whilst running longer than an hour must utilise some fat.  Hitting the wall in a marathon usually occurs when our glycogen stores are depleted.  In extreme cases, as our brains use glycogen for fuel, we can collapse, act delirious etc.  It pays to become better at using fat and learning how to conserve glycogen as much as possible.  This factor is trained by running for long periods of time (greater than an hour).  The body says 'gee I'm running out of glycogen and I don't like this I had better do two things- get better at using it and store some more of it.'  There is an optimum speed to stress this system and it can be worked out,  but the basic thing is to run for a long time, it doesn't matter how slow you go.


This has got to do with how many other muscles you are trying to provide energy to with the air that you breath.  The more wasteful you are in terms of extra muscle activity, movement etc the less oxygen is available for moving you forward faster.  All of you muscle activity should be focused on moving forward, not side to side, up and down, or keeping upper body tense etc etc.   If you look at a world class runners head you will find it doesn't bob.  Next time you are out on a training run look at your shadow on a wall !  Some other pointers are:- Keep the height of your feet above the ground only enough to move them forward.  Don't have exaggerated rear kicks.  Have the optimum stride length and frequency.  Relax your upper body.  Use you hands and arms to a purpose, don't just swing them wildly.  Don't bounce from side to side like a boxer.  There best way to improve this is to bring it into your conscious.  Start thinking about your running posture then focus on correcting one thing at a time.  Keep at it.  Bad habits are hard to break.  When you are correcting a habit make sure you run with the new habit in all runs until it becomes ingrained.  Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

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