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This is quite a complex subject, I handed this over to a far more experienced runner than myself to answer this question. Phil Kilgannon has represented the Irish Masters Cross Country Team and has ten year’s running experience. Running as with any other training will display a predictable improvement curve, particularly as you increase from little or no training to sustained effort over a period of time. Usually people will do a charity 5 or 10k as a target/dare to start off with. After ‘catching the bug’ and when running becomes a daily endeavour, significant chunks of time will naturally be taken off race times next time around.
Frequency and time running will achieve a basic fitness level and prepare the body for more demanding training. The way in which you train will then determine how much and how fast you progress. If you just meet up with mates and go for a run a couple of times a week, you’re unlikely to progress that much. If you engage in structured training sessions/plans however, then considerable gains are to be made. There are a variety of training sessions to increase an athlete’s aerobic capacity and push their threshold of endurance. The main ones are:
For long distance runners these would generally range from sets of 400’s/800’s/K’s or miles. There will be a set time for each repetition and recovery for each rep. At the start of a training block the intervals will be longer for recovery and no. of reps less. The same session may not be repeated for a few weeks, but at this point either the interval or expected time of rep will be reduced to toughen the workout and sharpen the athlete.
Continuous run with a mix of steady running and speed bursts at intervals over a sustained period. This exercise prepares the athlete for a race situation, where they have to switch gears from steady to fast when challenged or when trying to hang onto or pull in a runner or group ahead. Acceleration in a race needs to be controlled and gradual, unless at the end. Otherwise the athlete over pushes and drops back as they cannot sustain the burst or return to steady pace.
This is a fast constant run. It isn’t race pace, but 80-90%. This simulates a race and pushes the aerobic threshold of the athlete. This is a staple run and really meshes the other training together. It is generally done on a week where the athlete isn’t racing, as a race would replace it.
Mix of long and short speed endurance