The best way to optimise your training is to take a long term approach. Plan your training over a 12 – 24 month period, with each training cycle building on the last. Each cycle should focus on improving a particular aspect of your fitness, whilst keeping the overall goal in mind. Be it marathon training, half marathon training or training for the shorter 5k and 10k events, your training will be more effective if you take time to make a long term training plan.
Each race distance requires your training to focus on a specific set of physiological demands. There is significant overlap between these demands across the race distances, but focusing on a specific distance in different phases of your training cycle will help to improve your times over your preferred distance.
(and Half Marathon training, depending on your pace)
For distances of more than a couple of hours duration, the training focus should be on:
- developing your aerobic threshold (the fastest pace you can run by staying aerobic)
- improving muscular endurance (how long you can keep your legs turning over before they turn to mush)
- fuel efficiency (how well your body burns fat instead of carbs while running at your goal pace)
5k and 10k Training
For the shorter distances, training should be focused on
- increasing your VO2 max which will improve your speed endurance, ie your ability to maintain a faster pace for the entire race
- running efficiency – your body’s ability to recruit a larger number of muscle fibres each stride, without increasing effort
Why should a marathoner train like a 5k’er (and vice versa)?
In short, to get better at any distance running event, you need to train all your energy systems. This will help you not only physiologically, but will also freshen you up mentally.
If you are a marathoner, and pass on training for shorter distances for a year or two, you pass on improving your VO2 max and running efficiency. Eventually, this will limit your ability to improve your times over the longer distances somewhere down the track.
Conversly, if you prefer the shorter distances you should still set aside on or two periods a year when you build your mileage, which will help your body to clear lactic acid, and ultimately to run faster over the shorter distances.
How do you plan a long term training cycle?
A yearly training cycle for the 5k/10k, for a reasonably experienced runner, should look something like this:
- 2-3 months to build mileage
- 2-3 months when you increase your speed workouts and include 5k or 10k specific workouts
- 3-4 months of 5k or 10k racing
- 2-3 weeks of recovery and maintenance
- 2 months of increasing your mileage
- 1-2 months of 5k or 10k racing or speedwork training
A yearly training cycle for the half marathon should look something like this:
- approx 12 weeks of building mileage and specific half marathon training, including longer efforts in interval training, and racing (depending on your experience)
- 4 weeks recovery period
- 8-12 weeks intense speed work and 5k and 10k racing
- 12-16 weeks of half marathon training, leading up to your goal race for the year
- 4 weeks recovery
- 8-12 weeks of base training or speed training (whichever you need most)
A long term marathon training cycle should look something like:
- approx 2 months recovery if you have run a marathon or half marathon – general fitness, some running, hill sprints, resistance training, having some fun to freshen up
- 6-10 week speed training phase. Race a few 5ks. Shorter speed oriented workouts, and slowly begin to build mileage
- 12 weeks half marathon training, including half marathon racing for experienced runners, 10k racing for less experienced runners
- 4-6 weeks speed training. Race a few 5k ro 10k races.
- 16-20 weeks marathon specific training
Mixing up your training, and including recovery periods will help you to get heaps of enjoyment out of your running, by preventing burnout and over training, and by seeing your times improve year on year.
Need some help?
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