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Altitude Training – Why, When And How To Get High (Part 1)

Altitude Training – Why, When And How To Get High (Part 1)

The effects of training at altitude on athletic performance have undergone much scrutiny in recent decades. Many athletes who have dominated the domain of long distance running have spent their lives living and training at altitude – notably the East Africans in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda who almost exclusively come from high elevations. And since the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, which took place at 2200 metres above sea level, the vast majority of medallists at major championships have either lived or trained at altitude. Here we will look at the effects of altitude training on the body, why athletes incorporate it into their training regimes, and how you should go about trying it out for yourself. Nowadays, altitude training is a component of virtually all elite running programs. Many elites are flocking to elevated hubs such as Flagstaff, Boulder, and lesser known spots in Kenya, Ethiopia and Mexico. But what is it about running at altitude that can give such a boost to athletic performance?

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Threshold Training – Finding Your Correct Threshold Pace

Threshold Training – Finding Your Correct Threshold Pace

Threshold, or T-pace, running is one of the most productive types of training that distance runners can do. Training at this pace helps runners avoid overtraining and yields more satisfying workouts and better consistency.

The two types of threshold training that I discuss in Daniels’ Running Formula are tempo runs and cruise intervals. Tempo runs—steady, moderately prolonged runs—have been around for some time, but runners and coaches define them differently. Cruise intervals are a series of repeated runs with a brief recovery between runs. In my book, I address the differences and similarities between tempo and cruise-interval workouts. Here, I’ll stick to tempo runs, including new information on extended tempo runs.

Some runners and coaches use tempo runs for the broader purpose of just going for a fairly prolonged, steady, solid run—often, more for the psychological benefits (which can be considerable) than the physiological. With threshold-intensity running, the physiological benefit is to improve endurance: the ability to endure a greater and greater intensity of effort for a longer and longer period of time. You might perform some (longer) tempo runs at an intensity slightly below threshold intensity, which offers a good opportunity to boost psychological endurance. Longer tempo runs that begin in the less intense area of the zone and progress to the higher end of the zone are accomplishing both the benefits of a longer tempo run and the benefits of true T-pace running.

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Running Twice A Day  – What’s The Point?

Running Twice A Day – What’s The Point?

“Cumulative mileage matters–no matter how you do it,” says Brad Hudson of Hudson Elite Marathon Performance in Boulder, Colorado. You can boost your total miles by doubling once a week–and still keep a rest day. Four to 10 hours after a key workout like an interval session or a tempo run, go for an easy 20- to 45-minute run, and don’t fret about pace. This will boost mileage and aid recovery from the first workout by increasing blood flow to the muscles and flushing out lactic acid and other metabolic waste products. The result? Fresher legs for your next run.

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Diet of Ethiopian Athletes

Diet of Ethiopian Athletes

Interestingly, meat consumption seemed to have a positive correlation with the stature of the athlete. For athletes who were not under management and hadn’t won many races, meat was an expensive luxury, and they ate a diet much more grounded in vegetables and grains. Whereas athletes who had been more successful and had a higher income, much higher levels of meat were consumed. Eating whole plates of goat meat was a status symbol and eating the finest cuts of raw steak was reserved for celebrations: Kenenisa Bekele’s coach treated us, along with some of his other athletes, to raw meat on Ethiopian Christmas Day.

So, what is it that they are mainly eating? There are several staples which most meals seem to revolve around….

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Why Are The Kenyans So Good?

Why Are The Kenyans So Good?

In 2016, 427 Kenyan runners achieved the Olympic qualifying criteria for the marathon.

The top rankings list of the 5,000m, 10,000m, Half Marathon and Marathon is over 75% African athletes and over 60% Kenyan runners.

Ever since the late 1990’s when the African’s began to dominate the distance running world, athletes from across the globe have asked “Why are the Kenyans so good?”

Thousands of runners have even ventured to Kenya themselves to join in with Kenyan running squads to observe how they train, what they eat and how they live to produce such fascinating results.

There have been several theories as to why the Kenyans have dominated distance running events. Ranging from advantageous genetics, to the perfect training environment (dirt, rolling hills at the ideal altitude) or their upbringing and lifestyle, the list goes on.

Of course the reality will be that the country’s athletic prowess can be attributed to a combination of all these reasons and more.

The focus of this article is on one especially interesting aspect of the Kenyan running puzzle, the diet of the Kenyan runners.

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Mo Farah’s Diet

Mo Farah’s Diet

The Sweat Elite team spent a month in Suluta, the running hub of Ethiopia at the same time Mo Farah was preparing for the London Marathon 2019.
When discussing diet with Mo Farah, he mentioned that he tends to eat a relatively large breakfast before training, as he commences his morning training session at around 9am. Farah mentioned that his stomach is able to process food quite quickly, so he usually eats breakfast around 30-40 minutes before training, which usually consists of 2 pieces of toast (multi grain bread) with jam and butter as well as a small bowl of porridge and a cup of coffee. Post training, it’s a protein shake and carbohydrate drink and did express how important it is for him to consume this within the “25 minute window” post finishing his training session.

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Mo Farah – Technique Transformation Analysis

Mo Farah – Technique Transformation Analysis

Dr Jessica Leitch, founder of Run 3D and a visiting fellow at the department of engineering science at the University of Oxford, identified nine key elements of his gait that are fundamental to Farah’s success.

Foot Strike

Many long distance runners strike the ground first with their heels, which causes a large impact force to run up their leg to their knees and hips. Farah, however, strikes the ground with the ball of his foot, known as mid-foot striking.

He then lowers his heel before going back up onto the ball of his foot and then pushing away with his toes. He essentially becomes lighter on his feet.

Dr Leitch said: “By adopting a mid-foot strike running style, the impact on the ground is reduced and the forces acting at the hip and knee joints are lower, which decreases the chances of Mo developing an injury at these joints.

“It also helps him optimise where his foot strikes the ground and the rate of his stride.”

Foot Position

The position where Farah’s feet strike the ground in relation to his body is also highly efficient. His foot lands only slightly in front of his centre of gravity, his knee is bent and his lower leg is almost vertical.

“Many distance runners overstride, which means that they plant their feet well ahead of their centres of gravity and land with an extended knee,” said Dr Leitch.

“This can cause an inefficient up and down motion as well as a relatively long energy absorption or braking phase as the body has to travel over the foot in order to be ready to push off.”

By keeping his centre of gravity over his feet, the force of Farah’s feet pushing off the ground is transferred up through his leg into the upper body to propel him forward. Up and down movements are minimised.

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Craig Mottram (12:55 5000m) Race Preparation Workout – 4 x 1600m Alternating Pace

Craig Mottram (12:55 5000m) Race Preparation Workout – 4 x 1600m Alternating Pace

4 x 1600m, with laps in 64, 64, 59, 64.
1600m goal time: 4:13, with the 3rd lap being well quicker than race pace.
Recovery: 1 lap jog (around 2mins)

Mottram would complete this session at St Mary’s college in Teddington and usually have 2 pacers, running with him to 800m (Fox usually did this) and 1200m (13:10 5000m runner from New Zealand, Adrian Blincoe was a name mentioned that helped a few times).

The times above were Mottram’s goal times and usually he could hit these times.

It’s a clever workout, instructed by MTC coach Nic Bideau, as the first 2 laps and the final lap are at around the pace the 5000m will be at the championships in the earlier to mid stages of the race: around 13:20 5000m pace.

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10,000m – 5 Race Indication Workouts

10,000m – 5 Race Indication Workouts

Example #5: Interval Session: 2 x 3km, 2 x 2km, 2 x 1km with 1 minute recovery between reps and 2 minutes recovery between sets. Ideally the 3km reps are at just slower than 10km goal race pace, the 2km reps at 10km goal race and then 1km reps at just faster than 10km race pace.

Perhaps a more interesting interval session to complete for those not wanting to stare 5 x 2km, 10 x 1km or 12 x 800m reps at the same grinding pace in the face. However this workout is a a little longer in duration than the others.

To be clear on the recovery times, the interval session goes like this: 3km, 1 minute recovery, 3km, 2 minutes recovery, 2km, 1 minute recovery, 2km, 2 minutes recovery, 1km, 1 minute recovery, 1km. Finished!

As stated in the header, try to do the 3km reps at just slower than your goal 10km race pace, perhaps 5-10sec/km slower. Then hit the 2km reps at your goal 10km race pace and the 1km reps at 5-10sec/km faster than your 10km goal race pace. At the end of all of this, you may need a calculator to work out your average pace across all reps to work out your 10km prediction.

Let’s say that you feel that you can run 35:00 for 10km and you want to test your fitness. Your predicted 10km pace is 3:30/km. In this interval session, you would want to try to run the 3km reps in around 10:45-11:00, just slower than your 10km pace. The 2km reps should be in 7:00, right on your goal 10km pace and your 1km reps should be in 3:20-3:25, just quicker than your goal 10km pace. Whatever your total average pace here is, is your 10km predicted race pace.

Let’s say that you feel that you can run 31:00 for 10km. This is right around 3:05/km (this speed actually equates to 30:50, but for ease of use we’ll use this pace). Your 3km reps should be in around 9:30-9:40, your 2km reps in 6:10 and your 1km reps in 2:55-3:00.

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Steve Scott (137 Sub 4min Miles) – 5 Technical Running Tips

Steve Scott (137 Sub 4min Miles) – 5 Technical Running Tips

2. Do your drills. Work on running mechanics, even if you think they’re boring. Creating bad running technique habits when you’re young can stay with you forever. Scott would do drills 2-3 times per week, before interval/tempo sessions and never skip them. Butt kicks, power skips, A-skips (skips with high knees), B-skips (knee extensions) were common in his routine…

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Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 5)

Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 5)

In this article we discuss number 2 – that is, Seb Coe’s Heavy Weight routine. Coe along with his Loughborough teammates would commence heavy weight training straight up in October (start of macrocycle) and are taken right through to the end of August (1 month before end of macrocycle).

Seb Coe’s Number 1 Heavy Weight Exercise: The Full SquatThis works the four quadricep muscles and the gluteus maximus, an exercise which certainly played an integral role in developing Coe’s superior leg propulsion, knee lift, foot contact and leg extension.

Start with fewer repetitions and lighter weights. Then build up to 2-3 sets of 6 reps @ 1.5 times body weight for men, or 1.25 times for women.The movement should be precisely controlled and proper technique is key. Feet should be shoulder width apart, pointing slightly outwards, knees pointing in the same direction. The Quads will initiate the movement, and at a particular angle or range of motion, the gluteus maximus will be recruited to bring the athlete into an upright position. When descending towards the ground, avoid bouncing at the bottom of the movement but also try not to pause.Interestingly, when Coe managed to build up to 3 sets, Gandy said that a ‘ceiling’ had perhaps been reached at this point in Coe’s strength development.

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Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 4)

Seb Coe’s Running Strength Program (Part 4)

In 1979, Coe did something extraordinary in the history of middle distance running. In just 41 days, he set three world records: 800m (1:42:33), 1500m (3:32:03) and the mile (3:48:95). Coe attributed much of the credit to George Gandy, the mastermind behind his strength and conditioning workouts during these crucial years.
 
As Coe recalls, “When I arrived at Loughborough [University] in the late 1970s some of the conditioning work this guy gave me provided the basis for much of what I achieved. It was revolutionary stuff.”
“George Gandy taught me that running on its own was not enough to graduate into the ranks of an Olympian. Supreme core strength and physical conditioning went hand in hand.”

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Renato Canova – Marathon Training (Mileage)

Renato Canova – Marathon Training (Mileage)

Traditionally, it has been thought that a marathoner must always run prodigiously high volumes—upwards of 20 miles a day for the top athletes. In contrast, James Kwambi and Duncan Kibet only run 80-90 miles a week, often only running once per day. However, other elite marathoners like Martin Lel and Robert Cheruiyot maintain 135-150 miles per week.

Whereas low-mileage marathoners run 60% (50 miles a week) of their mileage near marathon pace, higher-volume runners do less than 37 miles per week near marathon pace, and the proportion is much smaller—only 25-30% of the weekly volume. Why is high mileage not necessary for Kibet and Kwambi to run 2:04 marathons? To answer this, we have to return to Canova’s thesis—all non-specific training exists only to support the body’s ability to do race-specific training.

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Renato Canova’s “Special Period” Example Training Sessions

Renato Canova’s “Special Period” Example Training Sessions

Half-Marathon (59:47 PR)
– 7 x 2000m at 100-102% RP, 400m recovery in 2min
– 5 x 3000m at 101% RP, 1000m recovery at 85-87% RP
– 3 x 5000m at 99% RP, 1000m recovery at 85% RP
– 15 km long run at 102 % RP
– 25 km long run at 97% RP

Marathon (2:05 PR)
– 6 x 4000m at 102% RP, 1000m recovery at 89% RP
– 5 x 5000m at 101% RP, 1000m recovery at 89% RP
– 4 x 6000m at 101% RP, 1000m recovery at 89% RP
– 4 x 7000m at 99% RP, 1000m recovery at 91% RP
– 5 x 2000m at 105% RP during a 35km (22mi) long run at 91% RP
– 25 km (15.5mi) long run at 102% RP
– 30 km (18.5mi) long run at RP
– 35 km (22mi) long run at 97% RP
– 40 km (25mi) long run at 92% RP

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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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