With summertime right around the corner, you have probably been doing some form of cardio in preparation for pool season. Let me guess…do you jog aimlessly around your neighborhood or park a few days a week? If so, that is great, but you could do much better. Doing nothing but your standard, monotonous pace, neighborhood runs may help you work up a good sweat and burn some calories, but long term that style of running will do little to improve your overall conditioning. The goal of any conditioning plan should be to get leaner/lose body fat, improve your muscular endurance, build your aerobic capacity, AND to get stronger - both physically and mentally. By regularly incorporating sprint into your routine you can accomplish all of these things. I love running, but I run hard enough that I am miserable during the run, and feel great once it is finished. One of my favorite sayings is you must “get comfortable being uncomfortable” in order to improve. Nowhere is that saying more true than during sprint work. Today I am going to share with you ,my conditioning plan that I not only follow myself, but also use as a framework for clients ranging from soccer moms to elite athletes.
Here are the three types of runs I incorporate:
1. SPRINT WORK
A. Hill or Stadium step runs.
These are best done with a group or partner. I recommend doing a minimum of 10 all -out sprints that last anywhere from 20-30 seconds, with a few minutes of recovery between each. Like any sprint work, the key is giving maximum effort on every sprint. I regularly take groups of athletes to run steps at Hoover Dam just outside of Columbus or we go to the upper level (C-Deck) of the fabled Horseshoe on the campus of The Ohio State University. At either location, we partner up and race to the top. Once at the top, we take 1 minute to recover then slowly make our way back to the bottom. I like to alternate each race - every step, every other, or every third step. Get creative with it.
B. Track Run - ideally with a partner
400m x 1 warm up (all others must be MAX EFFORT)
-dynamic stretch warm up, same as lifting day
200m x 2 (WALK 200M BETWEEN EACH FOR RECOVERY)
100m x 4 (walk 100m between each)
50m x 4 (walk 50m between each)
C. Mailbox/Telephone Pole Sprints
Start by running 1/2-1 mile to warm up, then stretch. Next do sprint intervals for 1/2 mile. Use mailboxes, telephone poles or other landmarks for the intervals, which will vary in length. Walk from one mailbox to the next, then line up and sprint to the next one, then repeat for the entire 1/2 mile. Short Sprints are best with at least 1 partner and must be max effort.
D. Airdyne, Upper Body Ergometer (iso-strength setting), or Rower
-set for 8 minutes-
2 minutes of 10 seconds easy/20 second sprint
1 minute rest
2 minutes of 10 seconds easy/10 sprint
1 minute rest
1 minute of 10 sprint/10 easy
1 minute MAX EFFORT
I like to utilize an ergometer for sprint work either as my second sprint day of the week or as my primary on a week where my legs are feeling drained. Running is high impact, particularly on the knees, so regular road work is going to put some wear and tear on the joints. Shin splints can also be problem. This 8 minute sprint pattern is one of my favorite conditioning workouts - fast, brutally effective, and as a bonus you also get a killer upper body pump.
2. MIDDLE DISTANCE- This is not going for a 1 or 2 mile relaxing run, the idea is to learn to push your body for an extended period of time. The key is being able to push physically even when you feel tired - or weak - mentally. If you don’t almost “break” during a 1 mile run, you’re not running hard enough. Always empty the tank towards the close of the run.
A. 1 mile MAX EFFORT.
Track your times each week. This run is short but will have the greatest impact on improving your overall conditioning. Many runners make the mistake of running short and longer runs at close to the same pace. Training for a marathon? If your goal is to be able to run 26 miles at an 8 minute mile pace, get your single mile time down in the 5:00 -5:30 range and those 8 minute miles will be a breeze. I have also personally felt as long or longer lasting metabolic effect from a max effort mile as I have from sprint work. Basically after one of these runs my metabolism will be on fire the rest of the day.
B. 2 mile interval
For this run you will alternate each 1/4 mile between jogging and running as hard as possible for 1/4 mile. The slow 1/4 miles need to be just that for recovery - slow, at least at the beginning. Once you feel like you have caught your breath, speed back up to your normal jog pace for the remainder of the 1/4 mile until its time to crank it up again.
3. DISTANCE/AEROBIC WORK
This is going to be your standard long easy runs - the type that most people are familiar with. Boring and repetitive…but aerobic conditioning has it’s place in any good training plan.
A. 2 x 20 minutes on either Bike or UBE or combo of both, with a 3 minute break between each 20 minute go. This can be done up to 3 x per week as weight maintenance.
B. 4-5 mile run at an easy pace. No more than once per week. The goal here is to run at a “comfortable” pace that you could maintain for longer if needed. I typically run a single mile in the 5:30 - 6 minute range, so a good target for me is to run 7:30 miles, equaling 4 miles in 30 minutes.
Beginner running schedule:
Day 1: Sprint work - Stair sprints or Track Sprints
Day 2 - off
Day 3 - middle distance - Max Effort Mile
Day 4-5 - off
Day 6 - 4 mile jog
Day 7 - off
Day 1: Sprint work - Stair sprints, Mailbox or Track Sprints
Day 2 - off
Day 3 - middle distance - Max Effort Mile
Day 4 - Sprint work - Airdyne or Rower 8 minute sprint workout
Day 5 - 2 x 20 minutes bike, or 2 mile interval run
Day 6 - off
Day 7 - 4 mile jog
Something to keep in mind is that you will also need to plan accordingly and perhaps move your weight training schedule around accordingly. You wouldn’t want to do a heavy deadlift immediately after a max effort mile run, so it may take you a few days to figure out exactly how to incorporate this running schedule into your programming. Feel free to add some lower threshold runs or biking onto the off days as active recovery. Stick to this plan and I guarantee you will get the results you are looking for from a conditioning program - faster, leaner, and meaner!
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