Continuous Running

After our previous analysis of the anaerobic threshold (see HERE), VO2 Max (see HERE) and tempo running (see HERE), we round out our in depth analysis of the aerobic training zones by looking into the specifics of continuous running. Whilst this may seem like trivial topic to be discussing, as continuous running (think warm ups, cool downs, recovery, steady and long runs) make up the vast majority of most runners weekly training volume, executing these runs is crucial to ensuring risk of injury via training errors is lowered and performance in subsequent training sessions and racing is optimal. Continuous running encompasses the lower aerobic training zones, number 2 (steady endurance) and 1 (recovery endurance). As per our previous aerobic training zone analysis, continuous running paces can be defined and implemented into a runners program with great effect. By the end of this blog, we hope you have an understanding as to how you would implement this into your training and why it’s so important.

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What do we mean by Continuous Running?

As the name suggests, continuous running simply refers to any run that is to be completed during your training week that does not fall under the “session” banner.

Examples include warm up and cool down runs before and after sessions, steady state runs, long runs or recovery/easy runs.

 

Defining your Continuous Run paces

Now we know what continuous running is, we need to know how to train at this intensity. The gold standard for zone testing is a lactate threshold test. This test is typically performed on a treadmill and involves gradually increasing your running pace to find the point at which the AT occurs. Once we know where the AT occurs, we can then accurately estimate your continuous running zones through pace and HR prescription. For information on Lactate Threshold testing, see HERE

 Accurate estimates can also be made of zones 1 & 2 through a practical running session. At Front Runner Sports, we will often perform what’s known as a Critical Velocity (Vcr) test to assist runners in finding their aerobic pace zones. The test is simply a time trial for 30min, where the runner aims to cover as much distance as possible in the allocated time. The resulting average pace that you sustained for this 30min is known as your Vcr.

To derive your “steady pace” (zone 2) pace from the Vcr testing, we recommend taking 85% of the pace you were able to run for the 30min. For example if your Vcr pace = 4min/km = 15km/h, then your steady pace = 15 x 0.85 = 12.75km/h = 4.42min/km.

To derive your “recovery” (zone 1) pace from the Vcr testing, we recommend taking 70% of the pace you were able to run for the 30min. For example if your Vcr pace = 4min/km = 15km/h, then your steady pace = 15 x 0.7 = 10.5km/h = 5.43min/km.

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Why should you perform Continuous Running in training?

Running at our lower aerobic zones (1 & 2) is of benefit to all runners. As running is a weight bearing activity of high repetition, the risk of injury due to training errors (too much, too soon) is very high with a 60-80% casual rate. So for runners looking to increase or maintain their training volume in a sustainable way, the most effective method to do this is to perform the vast majority of their weekly km’s at these lower aerobic zones. As the speed of movement is lower at these zones, the forces the body deals with are much lower. This is explained by the equation summarizing Newton’s 2nd law of motion (F = ma), where acceleration is proportional to force. This simply means that the faster we run, the more force we will deal with each time the foot contacts the ground (~600 x per km).

As our continuous runs are performed at an intensity that sits below our aerobic threshold (~2mMol/L), we have a large “oxygen (O2) reserve” to draw upon if we needed it. The small numbers of Hydrogen Ions (H+) that are produced in the working muscles are easily cleared into the bloodstream at a rate that is sustainable and therefore does not lead to accumulation. This ensures the pace itself is not enough to fatigue your body from the aerobic stimulus itself, meaning the primary aim of these runs is to develop the strength and endurance of the muscular system – crucial in a weight bearing activity such as distance running.

 

Training at your Steady and Recovery zones.

Once you have your zone 1 and 2 aerobic paces, we can set about training to enhance your weekly volume! As your continuous run paces are a set percentage of your Vcr, we don’t want to actually improve the pace at which we perform these runs, but rather see an improvement in the duration (volume) at which we can spend at this zone. If you were to re-test and subsequently improve your Vcr, then your continuous run paces will increase.

As an increasing volume is the aim for most continuous runs, how you feel on that particular training day should determine the precise pacing you use, however for some common example paces we recommend, please see below:

  • Warm Up and Cool Down runs: These should be performed anywhere within the range of zone 1 (lower limit) and zone 2 (upper limit).
  • Steady State runs: These are common for marathon specific runners to maximize volume for minimal fatigue and are best performed right on our steady zone.
  • Long runs: As the primary aim of a long run is to increase the time on your feet, using a range of paces between zone 1 & 2 is recommend to ensure you don’t force a pace that is too quick and may prevent you from completing the distance you’re after. However, for runners who are well conditioned to their long run distances, we recommend taking 80% of your Vcr pace to quantify your long run pace.
  • Easy/Recovery Runs: Runs that are designed to assist your recovery should be performed at the lowest required pace to achieve aerobic and muscular adaptations – zone 1. If you feel that sustaining this pace is not achievable, than a complete rest day is recommend, as it is likely your body is still recovering from a previous training stress or illness.

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We trust you now have a greater understanding as to how the use of our lower aerobic zones can help improve your running. If you wish to know more about this topic, or anything to do with your running training, please get in touch with our expert coaching team who are ready to assist you towards your next running goal! Please email coach@frontrunnersports.com.au or see our website: www.frontrunnersports.com.au

 

Running Regards,

Team Front Runner