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The hows of endurance running

By Tan Chin Chin 

 

"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience life, run a marathon."

Emil Zatopek

(The only person to win the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the marathon in a single Olympics.)

 

To understand the intricaies of mastering the art of endurance running, we must first understand that like all things in life, we should start slowly, be patient and will slowly but surely reap the benefits of our training. We must also understand that rest is also integral part of training. Since each person is built differently, therefore improvement, performance and training plans will vary.

Good shoes are essesntial to running and to select the most suitable running show, we must first know what sort of foot type we have. To determine our foot type, we can do the "wet foot" test. Begin by slightly damping your feet and making an imprint of them on pieces of paper. Please refer to the image below to determing your foot type and what shoes will be best for you. 

 

 

After we have the right shoes, we must then ensure that we are dressed for the occasion. Wear good, comfortable clothes made of synthetic fabric that will help wick sweat away from your body. Women should wear a pair of good supportive sports bra. If you plan to run in the sun, be sure to wear sunblock and sunglasses/cap.

Now that we have the right gear and clothing, let us discuss the types of training we need to adopt. There are three key types of run workouts that will help you in endurance running. 

The first is the Long Slow Distance or LSD. This type of run is continuous running performed at a constant pace. In this type of run, a person should be able to manage a conversation throughout the entire duration of the run. The LSD adapts your joints and muscles to give them endurance for a longer period. It also improves your cardiovascular system, strengthen your heart and increase blood supply to the muscles. 

Next up is the tempo run, which is also known as Lactate Threshold run. Lactate acid builds up in the muscles when your muscles get fatigue. Thus tempo runs are a comfortably hard pace that enhances the muscles' resistance to lactate acide build up. It will teach the body to go harder for a longer time. 

Last but not least is the interval runs which are a series of low-to-high intensity runs with rest periods. The high intensity periods are typically close to anaerobic exercise. Intervals are normally a set of repeats of a fixed distance, for example 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meteres, 1 kilometer or 1 mile. Rest time is normally half the time of the intervals. Fartlek or Swedish for "speed play" is more informal form of interval training with no set distance for speed or rest.

It is important to note that eighty percent of our total training must be spend doing LSDs and only the remaining 20% doing tempos or intervals. To know what is our weekly mileage that we need to achieve to excel in the chosen race distance, please refer to the table below. 

    Miles per week    
Runner 5k 10k Half marathon Marathon
Elite 70-80 80-100 100-110 100-140
Mortal 20-25 25-30 30-40 30-50

*1 mile == 1. 6 kilometers

Use your training to practice your hydration and nutrition strategy as well as to test out the gear and clothing you intend to use for an upcoming race. If possible, it will be helpful to train at the hours in which the race will take place. 

Build your mileage gradually by using the 10% rule of only increasing your longest run or total weekly mileage by 10% every week. Listen to your body and rest when you feel too sore. Do not forget the strength training as well as stretching is as important as the training itself. It is now common to own a foam roller for self-massaging purposes. 

As you progress with your training, you should be on the alert and aware for the signs of overtraining. It will manifest itself in feeling consistently tired all day long, excessive weight or appetite loss, elevated resting heart rate and falling ill. If you have been overtraining, even an easy session will feel difficult. Despite the increased effort in training, your performance degrades.

To determine how much you will need to drink. You can do a quick test of weighing yourself naked before a run, do an hour of running then towelling yourself off before weighing yourself naked again (after the run). The difference in weight is the amount of water lost during an hour. For example, if you lost 1 kilogram, you will need to drink 1 litre of water per hour of the run. Do remember that when conducting this experiment, you should not drink during the run and be aware that the weather may affect your results.

Our body can typically only store glycogen (fuel in the muscles) for up until 2 hours. Hence, if you intend to run a race that would take more than 2 hours, you will need to carry some form of nutrition on you to replace what the body has burnt. Common forms of nutrition for ruuners are  energy gels, energy/isotonic drinks, energy bars, bananas, candy, dried fruit and salt tables. It is best if you wish to consume any form of nutrition that is made up of simple sugars so it can be digested quickly!

It is recommended that you drink before you feel thirsty and eat before you feel hungry. 

There is nothing to endurance running success but training and hard work. Be realistic in setting your goals, be it just to finish within the cut off time or to finish with a time goal in mind. Once you have your goal in mind, you can set your training program to work towards that goal. 

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."

Beverly Sills