Training 101: Understand Your Plan's Workouts
It’s January, you set your New Year’s resolutions, maybe you got all caught up in the excitement and now you find yourself registered for a half or for a full marathon. It’s time to start with the training, looking at your plan (if you haven’t chosen one yet, take a look at our review of half marathon training options) makes you feel overwhelmed: fartlek, tempo run, intervals, regular run, AYF run, progression run, long run, pseudo-long run … Don’t panic! Take some time to understand your training plan and find a way to make it work with your work-life balance.
Here are some types of workouts that you may see in your training plan:
Easy runs are considered a light activity. You should run at a pace that you can maintain for hours. During these runs, you can breathe and keep a conversation easily. Despite their name, they are a crucial component of a training plan because they help you recover after intense or long training sessions.
Regular runs are more challenging than easy run, and are considered a moderate activity. You are still within your comfort zone and your pace should be conversational, but you breathe heavily and might not be able to chat for long.
As You Feel runs (“AYF”) are probably the most enjoyable workouts of your training plan. On these days you simply go out and … run! Don’t think about your pace, but run on a route that you know so you still know how many miles you ran.
Long runs are probably the most important workouts of your week, the ones you should never skip. They are the foundation of your training. Long runs build your confidence, increase your endurance and help you understand how your body reacts to different types of fueling. Sometimes your long run will be at an easy pace and sometimes it will include some progressions or portions ran at a faster pace. Planning is the key for a successful long run. Don’t forget to use your long run as a test for race day!
Pseudo-long runs are workouts that are approached in the same way as long runs, but they are usually shorter in terms of mileage. Your plan may have them at the beginning and at the end of your training.
Tempo runs (also called Threshold runs) are perfect to build your confidence. You have to run your tempo runs at a sustained effort so you can increase the ability to keep a challenging pace over a longer time frame.
Intervals help your body understand what race pace feels like. Shorter intervals like 200, 400, and 800 meters are ideally run on a track, while longer intervals such as 1000, 1200, and 1600 meters can easily be ran on other terrains. Interval workouts will include either passive recovery (walking) or active recovery (jogging, running at an easy pace) between the running segments. Each interval must be run at a strong effort. Try to keep the pace provided by your plan.
Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish, and it is probably the most enjoyable speed workout. It consists of segments of fast running (“ON segments”) mixed with segments of slower running (“OFF segments”). There is no passive recovery between intervals, but they are continuous runs with different segments run at different paces.
Hills workouts make you a stronger runner. These training runs are particularly important if your upcoming race is on a hilly course and are generally incorporated in interval training.
Flex days allow you to recover from hard or long workouts. You can take the day off, go for a short easy run or do some cross training.
Cross training is any aerobic activity that raises your heart rate for a prolonged period of time. You have a variety of options: cycling, spinning, walking, elliptical, rowing, aerobic classes, aqua running, swimming, hiking, etc. The main goal of cross training is to maintain your fitness level without overstressing your legs, it should be a moderate-intensity activity.
Strength training is a fundamental element of any fitness plan. Strength training will help you prevent injury, and will also make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner. Though it might not be mentioned in your plan, it has to be a core part of your training routine, at least once a week.
Here are some general tips to prepare for your training:
Planning is the key of a successful training. Scheduling your workouts in advance will help you adapt your running schedule to your busy life. Don’t forget to check the weather, choose your route, look for a running buddy or group (you can join our weekend long run!) and prepare everything need for your run, from the running gear to nutrition and hydration. Make sure that your smart watch, headphones and mobile are fully charged.
Use your long runs as tests for race day. These are the right times to try those new energy gels you wanted to taste, wear the new pair of tights you just bought, and see if you can actually drink and run at the same time (trust me, it’s not that easy!). Remember one fundamental rule: nothing new on race day!
Find a way to enjoy your workout as much as possible: make your own music or podcast playlist or simply chat with your running buddies. Most of your runs should be at “conversational pace”, so it’s good to actually have someone to talk with!
Stick to the plan. Don’t skip rest days and don’t train more than necessary. If you follow a Virtual Training plan and you realize it’s too easy or too hard, you can always write to the technical support to adjust the plan to your current fitness level.
Take some time to recover after your workouts. Eat, drink and stretch as much as you need!
We hope you find this helpful. If there is anything in your training plan that we have not covered, don't hesitate to contact us!