One-hour run sessions

Much can be achieved in 60 minutes, says Paul Larkins. Here, he plots your course for a new PB in 2012


Much can be achieved in 60 minutes, says Paul Larkins. Here, he plots your course for a new PB in 2010.

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An hour highlighting goals, evaluating strengths and weaknesses, and plotting your course for  2010 can be hugely beneficial to your overall run performance.

And right around now, give or take a few weeks depending on how the racing calendar is looking, the best triathletes are all doing it, either with a coach or on their own with a piece of paper and a pen. Of course, this is just one hour; there are many more to fill and certainly there are many things you need to think about. 

As an age-grouper you might believe success is difficult given time constraints, but there are plenty of sensational performers out there who do little more than an hour in training. As with all things, it’s how you use that hour that makes all the difference.

Clearly there are an infinite number of activities and combination of activities you can include in your 60mins. But given the time of year, we’re going to think about endurance and how to effectively improve that aspect of your run training, while at the same time providing a much-needed break from the intensity of your summer.

But it’s not a case of training hard from day one; training is about progression. The toughest part for many of us is how to ease back from the fitness we’ve achieved and start it all again. 

What is endurance? Put simply, a runner with great endurance is someone who can run fast when tired; the stronger you become, the easier it is for you to maintain a good pace. Certainly this is a great time of year to start thinking about working on your endurance as much of it involves low-speed, relaxed, long running. 

In that coffee-sipping hour you should have also thought about what type of runner you are at present – weak, mid-packer or advanced? We’ve worked roughly to these categories, thinking of how best to utilise your hour of training, and prescribing three one-hour sessions for each ability, giving them a header that befits their content.

But of course, feel free to try them all, as they’ll work just fine whatever your running background.  

Weak runner

Planning session Any run coach will tell you that the autumn is the perfect time to log miles, which, of course, it is. But it also gets you into a mindset for the year. Plan no more than three one-hour runs a week. These will equal big miles and establish a training routine that includes plenty of running. Never underestimate the power of routine!

Benefits It’s important not to get carried away at the start; setting a relatively easy goal and sticking to it over a huge period of time will see better results than short, irregular periods of hard training. 

Stength session If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, run for an hour over sand. Devise a route that involves about four or five minutes of running, including a short climb, and repeat that four or five times.Benefits This is a great time to build strength without worrying about the watch.

Working in a different location, over different surfaces, is the perfect way to do this and is very popular with running clubs the length and breadth of the country; a low-key way to get yourself in the mindset to work hard later on. 

Pacing Session Warm up for 10mins and then go through a variety of drills – for example, run short, sharp steps over 20m, twice, concentrating on high knees, and do a few strides where you extend your hamstring out in front, in a pawing/clawing action. The core of the workout is a few easy runs over 100m focusing on form.

Set yourself a target of eight of these workouts before Christmas – you’ll be a more efficient runner, and therefore faster, come January.Benefits Running at pace is technical in terms of maintaining form. But learning the basics at the start of the off season will do wonders for your run ability. 

Mid-pack runner

Speed Session A weekly workout mixing different distances (not worrying about exact times) is perfect. A favourite is 1 x 600m (or 2mins), 2 x 500m (or 2 x 1:45mins), 3 x 400m (3 x 75secs), 4 x 300m (4 x 1min), 5 x 200m (5 x 30secs). Jog recover what you’ve run and you’ll have covered 10km at a nice pace.

Benefits It keeps you in touch with speed while working endurance at the same time, but without the worry of exact times and distances. Ignoring ‘speed’ at this time of year can mean it’s more difficult to revisit it later in your training. 

Relax session This is an important time to be relaxed about what you do. Experiment with various courses and surfaces, and find a new 1hr route each week for a month, preferably off-road. This also prevents you from constantly comparing times.Benefits Sports psychologists will tell you it’s important to reduce stress at key times of the year. This is such a time! 

Pacing sessions Work out a two-mile off-road route that includes parkland, some forest trails and a few hills. Warm up as normal, then run the route three times, running medium speed for 800m, jog for 400m, hard again for 400m, flat out for 100m, then steady for the rest. Basically, you want to be mixing up paces over a set distance, so change the speed points for each rep. Take a 1min recovery between each repetition.Benefits Sets you up wonderfully for the differing speeds a race will provide. 

Advanced runner

Strength session Try a six- or eight-week event-focused regime leading up to a late autumn 10km. All sessions will work around an hour, including your long run. Every other week, run the middle three miles (in an eight- or 10-miler) at race pace.

Benefits Keeps you on top of your game. 

Pacing session Run 3 x 1 mile in 6:15mins with a 3min recovery, and work gradually through the winter and spring, leading up to 5 x 1 mile in 5:45mins with 90secs rest. Start with an ‘easy’ mile time and develop gradually.Benefits Racing a successful 10km run is about pacing so confidence in pace maintenance is paramount. 

Group session An hour at the weekend devoted to hilly, off-road efforts, preferably in a group, is hugely beneficial for run form. The combination of efforts are limitless, but at this time of year you might include 6-8 x 3mins on rolling grass or woodland with 2mins rest; or 8 x 2mins with 3mins rest; or 5 x 5mins with 3mins rest.

Benefits It’s more the concept of training in a group rather than the actual session itself that is key here, as it works fantastically well in terms of endurance building. But hilly, off-road work has the added advantage of not only helping you run faster, but you’ll also be gaining in strength, particularly in your ankles, quads and general core. 

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Paul Larkins is a former 1,500m international athlete. He raced the 2007 Ironman 70.3 Worlds and is the former editor of Running Fitness.