Short, Sharp and Effective
Derek Parker shows how you can benefit from half-hour training sessions
With time at a premium for many people who have so many work, family and social commitments to attend to, it's sometimes difficult to maintain an effective training schedule. A shortage of time in which to train makes it all too easy to skip sessions or simply go out for an easy run instead of putting in a hard and more productive work-out.
While missing the occasional day or doing something lighter and easier have their place in a balanced schedule, it is more advantageous to use what little time you have at your disposal for a more strenuous and race-specific work-out whenever and wherever possible.
This article explains how you can tackle some good sessions in just 30 minutes and how intelligent time management can help you to achieve your training and racing goals. But, before you get on your running gear and hit the roads or trails for some of the sessions, make sure you have a nutritious carbohydrate snack about two hours or so before the session and that you are well-hydrated, especially in warm or humid weather. Remember, too, to have a quick carbo snack and isotonic drink as soon as possible after your work-out, preferably within 20 minutes after the session. This replenishes depleted glycogen (i.e. carbohydrate stored in the muscles and liver) and minerals like potassium, magnesium, sodium and electrolytes which are necessary for the efficient functioning of the human body. Protein, too, is essential to help rebuild microscopic muscle tears sustained during exercise. Many top distance athletes pushed for time find chocolate-flavoured milk to be a useful post-training beverage because it is fluidic and contains carbohydrate and protein. But always remember to find something which you personally find palatable.
LACTATE THRESHOLD RUNNING
This session develops your lactic acid tolerance and enables you to run further and faster without running into oxygen debt: that's when you experience that heavy-legged feeling which lets you know you have gone off too fast and that your oxygen intake is inadequate for the intensity of your efforts.
Lactate threshold is the point where any further increase in pace will bring about significant amounts of lactic acid and hydrogen ions, which will cause you to progressively slow down and maybe even force you to stop running altogether.
By training once a week at threshold pace you'll find that within a month or so you'll be able to run the same distances at a faster tempo before lactic acid becomes a limiting factor. The fitter you become the higher the percentage of VO2 Max (maximal oxygen uptake) you will be able to run at before hitting your lactate threshold. Top-class distance runners can reach around 90 percent of VO2 Max before reaching lactate threshold.
An ideal threshold session would be a fast-ish, steady 20-minute run preceded and followed by 10 minutes of easier running. As a rule of thumb you should run the 20-minute section slower than 5K pace but faster than 10K pace.
If you want to be more scientific about your own individual lactate threshold you can visit a gym or fitness club where you can obtain the required information using sophisticated equipment with the assistance of qualified instructors. They will tell you the precise pace per mile or kilometre at which you should run to achieve your lactate threshold, but be prepared to pay for the information.
As a guide – and based on well-researched information given to me by top UK coach Frank Horwill – lactate threshold pace for runners who run 3K in nine minutes exactly would be 5 minutes 13 seconds mile pace for around 20 minutes. The table below shows lactate threshold pace based on your current 3K time.
3K Time Lactate Threshold Pace(minutes/Mile)
Obviously, you will need a watch and a course with mile markers if you want to be as precise as this. But, if you're not a stickler for exactitude, just keep to the slower than 5K pace and faster than 10K pace formula and you'll be close enough.