Running enables the body to improve the transport of blood and oxygen to the working muscles and brings about positive changes in the muscles' ability to produce energy. Running fits well into any physical training program because a training effect can be attained with only three 20-minute workouts per week.
Failure to allow recovery between hard bouts of running cannot only lead to overtraining, but can also be a major cause of injuries. A well-conditioned person can run five to six times a week. However, to do this safely, he should do two things: 1) gradually buildup to running that frequently; and, 2) vary the intensity and/or duration of the running sessions to allow recovery between them.
Interval training works the cardiorespiratory system. It is an advanced form of exercise training which helps a person significantly improve his fitness level in a relatively short time and increase his running speed.
In interval training, a person exercises by running at a pace that is slightly faster than his race pace for short periods of time. He does this repeatedly with periods of recovery placed between periods of fast running. In this way, the energy systems used are allowed to recover, and the exerciser can do more fast-paced running in a given workout than if he ran continuously without resting. This type of intermittent training can also be used with activities such as cycling, swimming, bicycling, and rowing.
Monitoring the heart-rate response during interval training is not as important as making sure that the work intervals are run at the proper speed. Because of the intense nature of interval training, during the work interval the heart rate will generally climb to 85 or 90 percent of HRR. During the recovery interval, the heart rate usually falls to around 120 to 140 beats per minute. Because the heart rate is not the major concern during interval training, monitoring THR and using it as a training guide is not necessary.
As the runner becomes more conditioned, his recovery is quicker. As a result, he should either shorten the recovery interval (jogging time) or run the interval a few seconds faster.
After a runner has reached a good CR fitness level using the THR method, he should be ready for interval training. As with any other new training method, interval training should be introduced into his training program gradually and progressively. At first, he should do it once a week. If he responds well, he may do it twice a week at the most, with at least one recovery day in between.
As with any workout, one should start interval workouts with a warm-up and end them with a cool-down.
In Fartlek training, another type of CR training sometimes called speed play, the runner varies the intensity (speed) of the running during the workout. Instead of running at a constant speed, he starts with very slow jogging. When ready, he runs hard for a few minutes until he feels the need to slow down. At this time he recovers by jogging at an easy pace. This process of alternating fast and recovery running (both of varying distances) gives the same results as interval training. However, neither the running nor recovery interval is timed, and the running is not done on a track. For these reasons, many runners prefer Fartlek training to interval training.
Cross-country running conditions the leg muscles and develops CR endurance. It consists of running a certain distance on a course laid out across fields, over hills, through woods, or on any other irregular terrain. The speed and distance can be increased gradually as one's conditioning improves. At first, the distance should be one mile or less, depending on the terrain and fitness level. It should then be gradually increased to four miles.
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