Updated: October 15th, 2021

Where to start? Well, Goal setting is one of the first steps to becoming a runner. Think about it; you say to yourself ‘I want to run around the block 3 times today’ goal is set (and complete). Inevitably the parameters grow and before you know it, your on for a longer distance or quicker mile (or both!) The higher your goals, the more tremendous effort you will put into achieving them.

Runners have an array of goals as to why they started, and continue with the often gruelling training sessions, such as:

  • Winning the race
  • Getting a PB
  • Running with your friend in the local park-run
  • Sponsorship raising
  • Surviving a marathon distance
  • Getting to the finish line of an Ultra marathon (not crawling on your knees)

By setting these goals before embarking on a training session will keep you moving even when you feel like giving up. And dont worry we all want to give up at some point. Goal setting shows your commitment to yourself, to a cause, your health and so on. So the more personal attachment to your ultimate run goals, the morelikely you will be able to find the energy, focus, persist and listen to your body, despite any challenges that may occur.

Conduct a warmup. Yes, everytime.

The first thing you probably want to make sure you do right, is look after your body. For that, a warm-up is a must no matter how seasoned a runner you are, if you skip a warmup, your likely to fail at the first hurdle.

Failure to conduct warm-up exercises puts you at high risk for injuries. Warming up increases body temperature, focuses your mind, improves breathing rate, slowly increases heart rate and prepares your muscles and joints for the workout ahead, collectively reducing chances of you getting injuries.

Warming up helps in preparing your musculoskeletal system for exercise. More oxygen-rich blood is pumped to the working muscles, joints lubricate making movement smooth and comfortable. Also nervous system; increasing the firing rate from nerve to muscle stimulation (and you kind of need that for a high level workout). Ultimately, warming up before your workout session trains the heart and mind preparing them for extra workload coming up.
man stretching

Why is warming Up A Must?

  • It boosts your physical and mental stamina.
  • Its increases energy production.
  • It enhances energy efficiency.
  • It improves lung capacity.

Here are some warming up exercises that you can do:

Jogging

Jog at an incredibly easy state, remaining in constant motion for 5 – 10 minutes. This will slowly increase your heartbeat rate and raise your body temperature, preparing it for the actual run. A pace between a walk and a run is ideal, it should be very minimal effort and able to hold a full conversation or sing the lyrics to your favourite song.

Hurdler’s Stretch

While sitting on the ground, lay your left leg straight infront of you. Bend your right knee so the sole of your right foot is pressed against your left thigh. Keep your back straight, bend at the waist and try to touch the toes of your left foot. Stay in this position for about 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat this two times, interchanging your legs.

Heel-Toe Drill

Stretch your foot muscles and ankles by taking a step forward, landing on your front foot. Raise yourself on the toes of your feet using a rolling motion to transfer your weight from heel to the toes. Keep raising yourself for 5 seconds, then down for another 5 seconds. Do this for one minute.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges help in improving single leg balance for improved stability and coordination when you are running. It also helps in increasing the length of your stride, enabling you to run even faster.
woman lunging

How to Perform Walking Lunges

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a big step forward with one leg and lower your body and rear knee towards the floor. Make sure it doesn’t make contact. (90 degree angle is a strong visual reference for a lunge)
  • Keep your front knee over your ankle and your body to remain upright.
  • Push off your rear leg and step your front leg backwards to meet your hind leg.
  • Repeat alternating the legs.

There are other vital factors that will improve your overall performance, and terms you should start to become familiar with, such as:

  • VO2 Max
  • The Running Economy
  • Lactate Threshold

VO2 Max

VO2 Max is the maximal amount of oxygen consumption during a workout. Increasing the amount of oxygen that the body utilizes during training is essential to every runner since it helps measure your cardiorespiratory fitness.

  • Non-athlete male have a VO2 Max of 30 – 40 mL/kg/min
  • Non-athlete Females have roughly 27 – 30 mL/kg/min
  • A trained male athlete achieves about 90mL/kg/min
  • A trained female athlete can score between 77-80 mL/kg/min

As a Runner, a good goal for V02 Max is about 60mL/kg/min.

How Can You Increase Your VO2 Max?

As much as you are advised to increase your VO2, it will not immediately make you run faster. It is, however, the right direction to take.

Some of the common ways to quickly increasing your VO2 Max includes:

  • Attitude training
  • High-intensity training
  • Healthy balanced Diet
  • Sufficient Sleep
  • Steady-state cardio Training

altitude running
Whilst these are tremendous tools, the only way you are going to achieve your VO2 training is by being consistent. However, do not do your VO2 Max training back-to-back. Ensure that you out reserve resting days in between your sessions. As you get more fit, start increasing the number of intervals you undertake. You can find out more about rest day protocols here)*

The Running Economy

Running Economy (RE) refers to the physiological measure of the oxygen amount required for a runner to run at a specific pace. Most runners with an excellent running Economy will feel more comfortable running faster than one with a low running economy.

What are the Benefits of RE?

  • RE increases your endurance level.
  • RE lowers the perceived effort at your racing pace.
  • It increases your ability to run faster.

How do I train to increase running economy?

RE Training aims to strengthen your muscles for efficient use of oxygen during intensive moments.
Hill Running is one of the best ways to strengthen your muscle cells since fewer fibres are activated during normal runs, and so the oxygen demand is lowered on flatter routes.
When hill training is carried out in short intervals, your muscles are trained to use less oxygen and more efficiently. This helps you run faster with minimal effort over time.
Man running down a mountain

Lactate Threshold

During intensive workouts, the energy demand is raised. Glucose is broken down and oxidized to pyruvate, producing lactate.
Lactate threshold refers to the speed of lactate building up in the blood. When lactate level is high, you may experience pain in the muscles, affecting your running pace. We get what’s often called a ‘stitch’, a disabling cramping pain around your waist, when the lactate build up is higher than the amount of oxygen present within our system (its why we need to start walking and take deep breaths). Trained runners with a high lactate threshold will run faster, for longer since there is less lactate building up.

What are the Benefits or Lactate Threshold?

  • The lactate threshold improves your speed endurance.
  • It instils stamina and excellent finishing power.
  • It gives you endurance and speeds up your running pace during long-distance races.

What are the Training Tips for Lactate Threshold?

Long Interval Training

Plan a series of sessions that consists of intervals varying from 1 – 3 miles at a different speed. Repeat these sessions for a minimum of four weeks, with one week of elementary intervals to allow the muscles to recover, thus raising the lactate threshold. Intervals are periods of work followed by periods of rest, eg 2:1. So 1 mile work followed my 1/2 mile recovery repeated a minimum of 3 times

Tempo Running.

This involves running a specified distance or time, increasing your perceived effort and heart rate. for example 45 minute session, 5 minutes at low effort, next 5 is low-mid effort, and so on until high effort at 40 minutes. The final 5 is then a mid-low effort cool down. This will build your endurance and generate lactate build-up.
run start line

Conclusion

VO2 is best achieved by interval training.
Running Economy is best improved through strength training, hill running, and running short intervals.
Lactate threshold is achieved by running long intervals and a tempo running long intervals and tempo run. But none of this is possible, without first setting the goal of why your embarking on this training in the first place.

So, why are you running?

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