Here’s 13.1 of our favourite running training sessions. You may recognise some of these workouts from Synergy Physiotherapy’s training plans – which are tailored specifically to get you across the Mercer Surrey Half Marathon finish line uninjured and in a fantastic time. Their 3 month training plan is available to download for free here.
1. Hill Training
We’re not hanging around – let’s get stuck in straight away and get out on those beautiful Surrey Hills! Although the Surrey Half course isn’t hilly (we promise), hill training is a great way to add resistance to your training. Set length should be worked out by your planned minute mile pace for the 1⁄2 marathon i.e. if you’re planning on a 2 hour half marathon your minute mile pace is 9:10 and so you will complete the set for this length of time. Hill should be of a good gradient to make the set hard work but not impossible. Warm up, 30 sec 80% max effort run up, jog/walk back. X3 with 4 min standing recoveries.
2. Downhill Running
What goes up must come down. If you do the above you deserve the reward! As you increase your fitness and experience running downhill, you can use downhill sections to make up time in a competition instead of using them to mentally ‘switch off’ and recover. Run 5 miles at marathon pace for the climbs and flats, but increase to 10k pace for the downhills. Don’t over-stride on the way down: try and land softly with your legs beneath you and look ahead, not down!
3. Speed Work/Track Session
An important fitness indicator is if we can control our heart rate by bringing it down to a lower zone after a high-intensity session—while still maintain a higher performance. 4×200 meters fast, followed by a float into 1000 meters at a controlled, 10K goal race pace. No rest after 200m, recover with a 400m jog/walk after the 1000s. The goal is to really unload on a 200m initially and then “settle in” or float into a strong 1K effort. Warm up/cool down as needed.
4. Tempo Runs
The tempo zone—which is at about 70–75 percent effort—is where you will take your first deep breath while running, and it should feel difficult to keep up conversation.Moderate your fast running so that you are able to recover while running steady, not easy. 4×10 minutes, 2 min recovery. GOOD LUCK!
5. 2-2-1 Over-Unders Run
It will take time for your HR to register for these shorter sets, so use your rate of perceived exertion for this run. If you train by pace, you can use comparable paces to substitute for HR. Warm up and then run 2 min at steady effort or marathon pace (aerobic; 80–90% of Lactate Threshold HR or 60% of Max HR. 2 min hard or 5K effort (threshold; 95–100% of LTHR or 75–80% max HR; or 95% of 5k pace). 1 min easy or recovery effort (recovery; +90 sec to 2 min per mile slower than marathon pace). Repeat 8 times.
6. Social Running
The power of running with a group can often be underestimated! Running with a companion will help keep you motivated and offer some enjoyment to your session (hopefully!). Group running may expose you to a totally new kind of training session. You’ll be running alongside others in any race, so it’s good to get used to finding your own space within a pack. Sweatshop in Woking run a timed 5km every Thursday at 6:30pm which, like parkrun, is a great way to see your progress and meet fellow runners. Fitstuff Guildford have a vibrant running group which sets off every Wednesday at 6:30pm – each week is a rolling rotation so you only have to run hills once per month.
7. Running Technique
One of the most important things we took away from Synergy’s #TrainingTuesday sessions was the advice given about our individual running technique. We were taught what ‘proper’ technique should look like, and were then encouraged to instruct the rest of the group. Ultimately you should run in a way that is comfortable for you, but we’d recommend going on a run with someone who will watch you run and can give you tips about your technique. Then focus on improving upon those points for a mile on/mile off. Some key things to watch for is picking up your heels to create a cyclic motion, and swinging your arms forward instead of across your body.
This session is all about variety. As well as varying the pacing, also consider running along different terrains. If you only run on the road then you won’t be giving your legs a break from the hard impact; running along uneven ground and trails will also exercise your mind as you’ll quickly be determining where to place your feet (and which direction to take) to maintain pace but not fall over!
A fartlek session basically consists of fast, medium and slow running over a variety of distances.After a steady warm-up, simply pick a landmark – for example a tree, lamp-post, or phone box – and run to it hard, then jog until you’ve recovered. Then pick another landmark, run hard to that, recover and so on.There doesn’t need to be a set structure to the run. For your first quick burst you might choose a target that’s just 100m away and sprint to it flat out. Then for the next hard run you’ll see something 800m away and stride towards it at your 5K race pace. Fartlek doesn’t require you to set a distance to run, or a time to recover. A watch isn’t necessary (although in the absence of landmarks you can use one to pick different times for your hard sections), as you listen to your body to determine your recoveries. After a hard spurt, jog until you’ve got your breath back, the lactic acid has drained from your legs, and your heart’s stopped thumping. Then go again. If you want to add a bit of specificity, short, fast bursts will help you sharpen your pure speed, which is most important for races like 5Ks and 10Ks. Longer periods of speed help to raise your anaerobic threshold, which improves your speed endurance – ideal for 10-milers and half-marathons. In reality, though, both of these components contribute to good race performances at any distance from the mile to the marathon, so it’s best to mix and match the length of the bursts.
9. Race Pace Interval
Nail your pacing! Run 5km at your half marathon pace, rest, and repeat. If possible, ask someone to time you. Failing this, try and look at your watch as little as possible so that your body is made to understand and remember the feeling of the pace. With this in mind, if you are planning on using a watch during the race make sure you do get plenty of practise using it and set up the functions in a way that suits you!
10. Threshold Efforts
For many, this is more of a mental game than it is a physical one as you do have to apply some mental restraint! If you’ve ever felt great during a workout so started running faster and then regretted it later, or performed really well in training but then crashed and burned in the race: this workout could be the one for you. It can be tempting to use your goal half marathon pace (which may be ignoring your physiological reality) as a pace to train at, but this alone will only work to improve how well you run through with jelly legs! This workout will teach your body to burn fat efficiently and thus improve ability to run longer rather and delay the point your legs turn to jelly. One of the best pieces of advice we were given by Andy at Synergy was “Time is not the factor that prevents us from running further – it’s the pace.” Run at your current half marathon pace and try and increase the distance you run each time. If it feels like an ‘easy run’, don’t be tempted to dash off – you’re doing it right!
11. Threshold Efforts 2.0
This workout combines your pacing knowledge and your understanding of your lactate threshold – your lactate threshold being where you’re producing lactic acid faster than you can clear it away. Do 1 mile repeats at varying race race paces starting at 5km race pace and gradually reducing to 1/2 marathon race pace practice. This workout is designed to get you used to creating lactic acid and clearing it faster. They are designed to get runners used to running at fast paces and maintaining them for extended periods.
Does your back ever ache during or after running? You may be using your back muscles to support an underused core. Go to an ab-based gym class or start doing the plank to get it re-engaged!
13. Strength deficits plyometrics
Your legs are subjected to a large amount of impact force (among other forces) over the time it takes you to run 13.1 miles. Running alone will help you prepare for the event, but mix up your workouts and incorporate some strength work. Squatting, lunging and jumping based exercises will all prove beneficial and help improve stability too. Try some forward and side lunges (2x 8 reps each Leg), Jumping forwards/back and side/side (20 reps x 3), Hopping forward/back and side/side (10 each way x 2 each leg) and Jump Squats (8 reps each side x2).
Think we’re copping out on this last point? WRONG. It’s bad enough us putting this in here as .1! Rest is often undermined or not considered in a training plan but it’s so important. Without rest, your body won’t repair and you won’t perform your best. Learn to listen to your body: if you’re not feeling it, don’t feel guilty: chill out! This is supposed to be fun after all…