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Renato Canova’s “Special Block” Explained

Renato Canova’s “Special Block” Explained

For the best development, Canova believes that athletes must increase the “modulation” or day- to-day variation in distance and intensity, introducing greater stresses with proportionally greater recovery. To this end, every 3-4 weeks during the special and specific periods, he includes what he calls a “special block” (during the special period) or a “specific block” (during the specific period). These “blocks” are days on which the athlete does two workouts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Runners must take special care to arrive at a special block well-rested and to recover well afterwards. A special block can focus solely on endurance, solely on speed, or can mix both. Canova gives the following examples of each.

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Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 3)

Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 3)

If you were to explore the training diaries of your favourite elite distance athletes, you would notice that virtually all of them include some kind of plyometric training in their routine. It could be a simple set of box jumps or bounding up hills.

Or if you’re Eliud Kipchoge – 1 hour of ‘rhythmic dancing’ and jumping on steppers, performed thrice weekly with your Kenyan comrades. But you may also wonder – exactly how relevant is it for distance runners to be interested in improving their jumping ability? After all, isn’t efficient running all about minimising vertical oscillation and maximising the conversion of energy into forward motion? 

The authors of Better Training for Distance Runners, Dr David Martin (exercise physiologist) and Peter Coe (Seb Coe’s coach), argue that a modest amount of plyometric training will add a beneficial power component that would not be acquired through the more traditional isotonic training techniques (i.e. lifting weights or wall sits). Such power would be relevant for sudden pace changes and reducing your risk of injury. In this article we outline the key points from Martin & Coe’s bestselling classic on plyometric training.

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Are You Overtrained? Everything You Need To Know About Overtraining

Are You Overtrained? Everything You Need To Know About Overtraining

The overtrained runner may maintain speed but with poorer form and with greater expenditure of energy. David Costill, PhD of Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, cited one other runner who, early in his training, could run 3:45/km pace at only 60% of his aerobic capacity. Later, when he became overtrained, the same runner had to use 80% of his capacity to maintain that same pace.

As athletes enlist all available muscle fibres in an attempt to maintain their training pace, they invariably exhaust their fast-twitch muscle fibres than their slow-twitch muscles. This is one reason runners lose speed: their fast-twitch muscles have become exhausted through intensive training.

But glycogen depletion is not the only problem. Another is microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, which tear, fray and lose their resilience, like a rubber band that has been snapped too often.

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5 Speed Workouts for 5km/10km Runners (Canova Style)

5 Speed Workouts for 5km/10km Runners (Canova Style)

Renato Canova is one of the world’s most successful long distance running coaches, having coached over 50 athletes to Olympic/World Championship medals over the 5000m through to the Marathon distance. Canova favours prescribing training sessions for distance runners at their target race pace to have them best prepared come race day.

Below you will find 5 interval training sessions for 5km and 10km runners that Canova has prescribed his elite athletes:

#1: 2km + 1600m + 1200m + 800m + (4x400m) with 200m jog recovery between all repetitions (approximately 1-1.5 minutes)
Begin at your 10km goal pace in the 2km repetition and slowly increase your speed to be at your 5km goal pace by the 800m (4th) repetition. The final 4x400m intervals should be at your 5km pace or faster. Between each interval, jog 200m at around your usual warm up/cool down pace, perhaps slightly slower. For most runners targeting a 5km in around 14-16mins or a 10km in 30-34mins, this should be around 1min to 1.5min jog recovery.

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The Importance Of “The Long Run”

The Importance Of “The Long Run”

What is the perfect long run training distance for marathoners?

There is no “perfect” distance. 32km (20 miles) is the peak distance used in most training programs, however many elite runners will run 35km or longer on 3 or 4 occasions leading into a marathon. Most coaches feel that once you reach 25km (16 miles)  you’re in long run territory. That’s the point where the psychological changes Vaughan mentioned kick in. But a few coaches prefer talking “time” rather than distance, “hours” rather than kilometres/miles.

Running much further than 35km in training increases the risk of injury, especially for those new to running. Many experienced coaches argue that running further than 40km for seasoned and elite runners is not necessary and again, increases the chances of injury.

It’s well known in the elite running world that some Japanese runners do 5+ hour runs when building up for a marathon. Former world record holder Robert de Castella and Steve Monaghetti from Australia would peak with a 48km (30 miles) run 5 weeks before the marathon, but that’s after steady diet of 35-40km runs nearly every weekend leading in. Most runners would self destruct on that much mileage.

Marathon World Record holder Eliud Kipchoge completes his long runs on Thursdays and alternates 30km one week with 40km the next and does 12 weeks of this 2 week cycle before a marathon, meaning he will complete 6 40km runs before a marathon.

Mo Farah is similar – peaking at 40km runs 4-8 weeks before the targeted marathon.

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Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 2)

Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 2)

In this article, we will explore the different types of resistance training that runners have used over the years. This is a summary of the key ideas from Chapter 6 of Better Training For Distance Runners written by David Martin & Peter Coe. 

Static Resistance Training: Isometrics

What is it? This is when we push against an object that is immovable. Our skeletal muscles generate tension but does not lead to movement. As such, muscle length stays constant throughout the exercise (at least externally; there are some changes which also occur microscopically).

Where’s the evidence? While there are many variables involved, the current status of studies suggest a weekly improvement in muscle strength by 2-5% when static resistance training is used. While the initial gains are sizable, they plateau rather quickly after about 5 weeks.

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Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 1)

Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 1)

Virtually all elite runners incorporate some kind of strength and conditioning work into their training routine. There are various reasons – to enhance muscle strength and endurance, as well as minimise risk of injury. But what kinds of exercises should we do? How often should we do this? How lean is too lean? Should we use weights? In this series, we will share the principles and practicalities on how runners should approach this minefield. This is a summary from Chapter 6 of Better Training For Distance Runners written by David Martin & Peter Coe.

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The Benefits Of High Mileage

The Benefits Of High Mileage

Will running very high mileage actually make you a better runner? It can – but the main reason why it can isn’t what you’d expect. It won’t necessarily improve your aerobic or anaerobic threshold, VO2 Max or general fitness, but it will improve your ability to use fat as an energy source and this is key for racing a marathon.

The late physiologist Al Claremont claimed that high mileage helps you better utilise glycogen, the starchlike substance stored in the liver and muscles that changes into a simple sugar as the body needs it. Carbohydrates in our diet are our main source of glycogen – one reason spaghetti is such a popular pre race meal for marathoners. Glycogen is the preferred fuel for running, but your levels can become depleted within 60 to 90 minutes. Thereafter, your source of fuel is fat, which is metabolised less efficiently.

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Renato Canova – Elite 10km Training Plan (1 Month)

Renato Canova – Elite 10km Training Plan (1 Month)

This is a schedule Renato Canova designed for a hypothetical elite 10km runner to illustrate his training principles.

Week 1 – Monday: Long Easy Run (75-90min) + 5-10 Short Hill Sprints

Week 1 – Tuesday: Long Fast Run (25-30km) at 85% of 10km Pace

Week 1 – Wednesday: 2 Easy Runs Totalling 30km (Easy/Regeneration) 

Week 1 – Thursday: 2 Moderate Runs Totalling 30km 

Week 1 – Friday: 10-15km Tempo Run at 90-95% of 10km Pace

Week 1 – Saturday: 2 Easy Runs Totalling 30km (Easy/Regeneration) 

Week 1 – Sunday: Long Run (90-120mins) at Moderate Effort

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Seb Coe’s Middle Distance Training – Part 6

Seb Coe’s Middle Distance Training – Part 6

It is well accepted that specialisation in a particular distance requires an athlete to train at both faster and slower speeds in order to bring proper consolidation of overall skill. (‘Multi-Pace Training’ is essentially the fancy term coined by Martin & Coe to recognise this principle.) For example, the training program for a 10000m specialist would likely prescribe sessions involving repetitions at 5000m and half-marathon race pace.
 
But on what basis should you determine these so-called equivalent multiple-event paces for an athlete? The authors offer one such mechanism that may serve as a useful starting point for determining these speeds (at least initially). From there adjustments would of course be made.
 
As you can see in the tables below, these equivalent race times are calculated based on mathematical formulas. This is specific, simple and objective, in contrast to simply ‘guestimating’ what we think our times should be.

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Training With Tokai University – Ekiden Winning Team

Training With Tokai University – Ekiden Winning Team

The athletes strip down to singlets and shorts. Next% adorn the feet of all but a few athletes, and we follow the fluorescent queue of feet out onto the track. There are a number of students at the infield next to the start line, wearing Tokai tracksuits but evidently not running. Noriaki says they’re the team assistants. The half dozen assistants are gathered around a cooler box and a small whiteboard. The athletes join them and form a circle leaving a gap for the two coaches to make their address. After attentively listening to both coaches speak, a collective bow by the students indicates the session is about to start. Five by one-mile, repeats followed by five two-hundreds. Jogging a lap between each rep. Noriaki explains that he and Moro asked the athletes to keep it very steady, make sure pace was constant.

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More Tempo Running – A Key Ingredient To The Kenyan Success

More Tempo Running – A Key Ingredient To The Kenyan Success

For reference, the Kenyan athletes were completing about 60% of their total kilometres as easy runs, 25% as tempo runs, just under 10% as short intervals, just under 5% as long intervals and around 1% as tests/competitions. For comparison the national level athletes completed close to 70% of their total kilometres as easy runs, 10% as tempo runs, around 6% as short intervals, 12% as long intervals and 2% as tests/competitions. 

When considering the application of this for either your own or another athlete’s training it is obviously extremely important to consider the goals, strengths and weaknesses of that specific case however the comparison between athletic levels presented in this study is definitely interesting. If working in a similar time period (10 weeks from major competition) and you’re doing a lot of longer intervals, it may be worth switching some intervals for tempo runs, and hey, Wilson Kipsang does it. 

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VO2Max – What is it and Does it Matter?

VO2Max – What is it and Does it Matter?

So why does all this science matter and what does it mean for you? First of all, VO2max is the strongest independent predictor of future life expectancy so everyone out there should be at the very least slightly interested in their own value, athlete or not. Additionally VO2max  becomes especially useful once we consider its impact on athletic performance. 

In order to walk, run or move at all, our body needs to produce energy; we can either produce this energy without oxygen (anaerobic) or with oxygen (aerobic). Any exercise will require energy production from both aerobic and anaerobic systems however their relative contribution is determined by the duration and intensity of the effort. As anaerobic energy production is only possible for a very short period of time, our bodies will always try to meet the energy demands aerobically. In trained individuals it has been shown that during a maximal effort the switch to predominantly aerobic energy systems occurs somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds into exercise as by this point we have “run out” of anaerobic fuel. The rate of work, power output or running pace that an individual can maintain aerobically is determined largely by their VO2max. 

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Specific Marathon Training: Hidden Hills 21-Miler (Boston Simulation)

Specific Marathon Training: Hidden Hills 21-Miler (Boston Simulation)

Durden would complete his preparations for the Boston Marathon with a long run that started with a five mile (~8km) warm up to the track at Stone Mountain High School in Georgia. Then the real workout would begin. Durden would run 1km hard – in around 2:50, followed by a 200m jog, followed by a 2km in around 5:50-5:55 (2:55-2:57/km). He would repeat this 3 times through, finishing with a 2km interval which would mean completing the 10km in around 29:00-29:30. But that’s not all…

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The Importance Of Consuming Carbs During A Marathon

The Importance Of Consuming Carbs During A Marathon

Due to circulating levels of glucose and the storage capacity of the body, taking in nutrition during events shorter than an hour or so is generally accepted to be unnecessary, although interestingly Geoffry Kamworor consumed some Maurten on his way to smashing the half marathon world record (58:01) in Copenhagen earlier this year. Is this merely for publicity for the company (of which there is no shortage given it has been used by the vast majority of major marathon winners in recent years, as well as by Eliud Kipchoge in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge), or is there more to the story? 

Replenishing the calories that are being burnt during exercise is clearly important to maintain consistent output, but how much do we need to be putting in? Running at a reasonably high intensity (such as the pace in a marathon or half marathon, or competing in a longer event such as an Ironman or ultra) will burn through upwards of 1000 calories per hour, which equates to roughly 250 grams of carbohydrate – or 15 bananas!

Fat oxidation will also be contributing to energy production, the proportion of energy substrate which fat supplies is inversely proportional to exercise intensity. As intensity increases more glucose is used in the place of fat, a proxy measurement for this is the respiratory exchange ratio, which is a ratio of the volume of carbon dioxide released to the amount of oxygen used during exercise. Sitting at slightly below threshold pace fat oxidation will be providing roughly 50% of substrate. However, that still means that, ignoring glycogen stores, you want to be taking in 125 grams of carbohydrate per hour just to replace what is being used. Importantly, endurance training prior to an event increases the mitochondria content in adipose tissue, essentially allowing greater energy production from fat sources over carbs. Efficacy of fat oxidation can further be enhanced through training in a fasted state. Ketogenic diets rely almost completely on fat oxidation for energy production, however we will save rabbit hole for another day. Needless to say, none of the top marathon athletes are adhering to such dietary regimes, but I digress.

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Darya Mykhaylova – Training (32:27 10km, 71:36 Half Marathon, 2:28 Marathon)

Darya Mykhaylova – Training (32:27 10km, 71:36 Half Marathon, 2:28 Marathon)

The training volume from Darya differs throughout the season. When she prepares for 10k or half marathons she trains around 130 to 150 kilometres per week. In race season from April to July she covers only 70 to 90 kilometres to be fresh for the competitions and recently she covered 180 to 200 kilometres to prepare for the upcoming marathon. After this high-volume block in Kenya, at 2400m altitude from 16.07 to 29.08 she ran her personal best in 10 kilometres (32.31) on the road and half marathon (71:36). Darya trains with a heart rate monitor and the intensities are controlled in different heart rate zones. For her example the different heart rate zones are: until 142 HR (L1), 144-156 (L2), 156 – 162 (L3), 162 – 172 (L4) in her case. These values are individual and are usually based on the maximum heart rate of the given athlete.

As it should be for a professional runner, the training program needs to be well balanced and that’s also the case for Darya. She usually doubles (two running sessions per day) 5 days per week and one day per week is only one short run, which is her recovery day. Her coach says, if you rest one day per week fully, you lose 52 days of training per year. The following described training log of a full week, was done in Iten, at high altitude and on a dirt track or hilly rough roads:

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