Speed and sprint training

Last post on the types of running outlined by Greg McMillan*, this time on the effects of speed training and sprint training. Speed training is a step up in pace, around a 3000m to 5km pace. Sprint training is as the name suggests, sprinting, or around 800m to 2500m pace (not that I could sprint for that long).

Speed maximises some of the physiological effects of stamina training:

  • better fuel extraction
  • coping with lactic acid more efficiently
  • improvements in fast twitch action
  • better extraction of oxygen from the blood
  • overall efficiency of movement and breathing

During sprint training there’s not much room for any physiological changes as things like breathing, heart rate, oxygen consumption, etc, are all at their maximum. There are two key benefits:

  • neuromuscular changes where groups of muscle fibres get in sync and start firing en masse; the body just gets better at moving your legs faster and faster
  • at this pace there’s lots of lactate acid so training at this speed trains the body to deal with it and remove it as efficiently as possible

On top of that there are more improvements to the feel of your run – it’s smoother and more efficient and employs more of the body (from the torso down) to generate more power.

* The information on the benefits of different types of running in this and a few other posts is cribbed from Greg McMillan’s Six-Step Training System, Step #2: The 4 Key Training Zones – Endurance, Stamina, Speed & Sprint. For others, see posts tagged Greg McMillan.

Stamina training

From a lot of the reading I’ve been doing, if I’m going to run a full marathon anytime soon I’m going to need a heart-rate monitor (so no more sneering from me at technophile-runners if I go that route). Stamina running is defined by Greg McMillan* as when you’re running “between 30K and 8K race pace… [and] your heart rate is between 83 and 92% of its maximum.” Well yeah, guess I’ll need a monitor sometime if I’m to work out when I’m in that kind of zone.

The skinny on this kind of training is what it does to your body’s ability to deal with lactate and hydrogen ions, which join together to make lactic acid (before splitting apart again for some reason that’s not too clear to me). Light exercise produces lactate in low levels. Your body deals with low levels by moving it around the body where it can be recycled as fuel (called “shuttling”).

There’s a maximum level at which the body can deal with lactate before it starts to accumulate in the muscles and cause fatigue and tiredness. That’s your lactate threshold. Stamina training works to make the body more efficient at processing and shuttling the lactate and thereby raises the lactate threshold.

A similar process is at play with that hydrogen ion, which again can only be precessed by the body to a certain point. Once reached, acid accumulates in the body and you find yourself feeling damn tired.

According to McMillan, “that the speed at your lactate threshold is the most important factor in distance running success (5K to marathon racing). Push your lactate threshold faster and you will race faster over all distances.”

Seems fairly important then!

*The information on the benefits of different types of running in this and a few other posts is cribbed from Greg McMillan’s Six-Step Training System, Step #2: The 4 Key Training Zones – Endurance, Stamina, Speed & Sprint. For others, see posts tagged Greg McMillan.

Endurance training

In my mind these are long slow runs. Greg McMillan* defines it as between 30 seconds to 2 minutes slower per mile than your average marathon pace. So go figure what that really means (I have no idea). Key benefits are:

  • Increases stroke volume (i.e., the amount of blood pumped by each heart beat) while in in the muscles there’s a increase in the number of capillaries that the deliver blood. The net result is more blood pumped and delivered to the muscles more efficiently.
  • The body also becomes more more efficient at using fat as a fuel source so there’s less reliance on limited carbohydrate stores (muscle glycogen). Conversely it stimulates the muscles to store more glycogen, which can then fuel long or high intensity workouts.
  • Changes to the nervous system include much more efficient use of slow-twitch muscle fibres (helps improve running economy) and some re-orienting of fast-twitch fibres which become more “endurance-like”.

*The information on the benefits of different types of running in this and forthcoming posts is cribbed from Greg McMillan’s Six-Step Training System, Step #2: The 4 Key Training Zones – Endurance, Stamina, Speed & Sprint.