In the lead up to the Canberra Half Marathon I have had the honour and privilege of training some of Sydney’s most talented people. Before you ask who and then ‘google’ their running times, I’ll tell you that they are not runners. In fact, most are making their debut appearance over the 21km (13 mile) course. An academic, a former professional footballer, a finance guru and PR mogul are just a few of the very game charges that undertaken the Sean Bowes patented ‘simplified, hard’ training program in preparation for this great event.
Throughout the build up to the event I have been asked on several occasions the following question:
“Why do we do all this short fast running and not a long run since we are training for the Half Marathon?”
To me the answers seemed obvious.
- Long runs are still part of the program, but you can do them on your own. Nobody needs someone to push them for pace on a long run.
- Because shorter interval training with increase your lactate threshold and allow you to race faster.
- It makes you tough.
Last night I read a beautiful article about endurance training which summarised what I have been preaching for the last 3 months. It was written to the tune of the popularity of L.S.D. training (Long Slow Distance, not the other) among endurance athletes opposed to getting out on the track and really ‘giving it to yourself’ for a shorter period and benefitting from the larger fitness gains. To see what I mean, stand on the ring road at Centennial Park on a Saturday you will see a million cyclists going half pace for hours. All the gear and no idea.
Put simply most athletes (like most other people) – avoid the tough stuff.
Even people that are training for events that are won by at sub-threshold pace (i.e. Ironman or Marathon) held for a long period of time, need to gain the ability to have fast sub-threshold speed by training well above lactate threshold. There’s an old boxing saying that goes: “Titles are won in the gym,” well races are won on the training track. If you can’t put it on the line during the week, you will ultimately fail on race day.
Lactate Threshold training will increase the number and size of mitochondria that break down carbohydrate and fat into a usable energy source more quickly. When they can’t keep up the demand for energy your body will still produce energy but will also produce lactate. Greater capacity in your mitochondria will allow you to go faster before the point where accumulated lactate will force you to slow down (Lactate Threshold). Since mitochondria also re-integrate lactate into normal aerobic metabolism so it can be broken down into usable energy, more and bigger mitochondria means you can recover from hard, lactate accumulating efforts more quickly.
Put this into practical terms: you get better, fitter, faster in a shorter training time. Athletes that I coach, as I mentioned before, are real ‘shakers and movers,’ time is not a luxury they can afford. If you’ve only got a small window of spare time to train in don’t stuff around doing the same run you’ve been doing for the past 4 years or riding at Miss Daisy pace for half a day, and then wonder why you’re not getting any faster. Break your training up. Cut your distance into parts and run as fast as you can, rest and go again. It’s going to be tough but improvement will come.
I know that there has been moments at training when we have been deep into an interval workout that my athletes have probably hated the sound of my voice or wished they never met me. But throughout the preparation I have reminded them that it will all shine through in the race and their own performance, whether that means running a particular time or just finishing the damn thing. I know that when my guys reach the 14, 15, 16km mark and the others are looking sideways and back and scoping for the nearest aid station or ambulance, my team will be running strong and be just about ready to but some ‘butter on the roll.’
Titles are won in the gym my friends, the more you sweat the less you bleed.