The more you understand the “why” in a training programme, the more you can be in control of your training. Why are the sessions structured that way? Why are most of them long and slow, and few are short and fast? Why are there not many rest days? Why are the rest days placed when they are? The more you understand, the less reliance you have on your coach and the fewer questions you might need to ask. The more you understand, the more confident and certain you can be. You won’t have to think twice about missing or changing a session for whatever reason, because you’ll better understand the reason for that session and where it sits on the hierarchy of priority at that stage of the season.
Today is a lesson in exercise physiology.
In the interests of keeping things simple, let’s say that a coach can apply overload using two main variables: 1) volume, and 2) intensity. Volume is basically the amount of training you do, and can be measured in minutes per training session as well as training sessions per week. Intensity is how hard you work during those minutes and sessions, and can be measured in a vast array of different ways. Heart rate, perceived rate of exertion and breathing rate are all methods for measuring the intensity of a workout. This is where aerobic training comes into the picture.
Aerobic training is relatively low intensity training that can be – and is best to be – carried out at high volumes. Using heart rate as an example, aerobic training is that which is done at <70% of your maximum heart rate. In terms of perceived exertion, it is an exercise intensity at which you could have a conversation of phrases punctuated by the breaths you take to maintain that pace. Often, someone new to a well-designed programme will actually try to run too hard, too often. Really, you should be able to maintain this intensity for up to two hours – though this will vary depending on baseline fitness levels.
Aerobic training is the foundation required for anyone to run fast or strong. Quite simply, if you do not have a sound base of aerobic fitness, you will not have any stamina or “staying power”, nor will you recover very well from session to session. This is because aerobic training builds up your body’s capacity to use oxygen as efficiently as possible. Some of the many benefits of aerobic training include:
- Improving the capacity and function of your lungs, allowing you to take in more oxygen per minute and to use it more effectively.
- Increasing your number of red blood cells and the protein on them that carries oxygen (haemoglobin)
- Stimulating the growth of new microscopic blood vessels that carry oxygen to more and more or your muscular tissues.
- Improving your capacity to flush out the toxins of hard training that can accumulate in the muscles.
These benefits (and plenty more), coupled with aerobic training being relatively easy on the body compared with running at higher intensity mean that aerobic training can be utilised quite frequently. This is why most training programmes will be built around a high percentage of aerobic training. If you’ve ever had anything to do with a James Kuegler Coaching, you’ll know that this is the certainly the case. Consistent yet achievable kilometres, day in and day out, are the building blocks to success in distance running. An athlete training at high volume and high intensity all of the time will undoubtedly burn out; I see it all too often. The trick to building top end speed and achieving fast times over any distance is knowing when, where, and how often to place harder, faster sessions in a programme. It’s an art of precision timing. The bottom line, however, is that if you don’t have the aerobic mileage then the high intensity stuff is rather futile.
If you’d like some help getting your programme right, get in touch with me today, or check out the range of coaching options.