Frequency training for running

I am a fan of frequency training; my body seems to respond to it. The best gains I have main in strength have been when I lift heavy often and playing with the volume to make sure I am recovered enough for the next day. The best example of frequency training is squatting every day, working up to a heavy single each day but never pushing it too hard. 

Frequency is how often you train, for example, three times a week. Frequency is increased by training a greater number of times each week. Intensity is how hard you train, for example faster, heavier, less recovery.

Frequency training is challenging, and your legs are heavy every day. Often, you don’t know how you will feel until you warm up when your body just responds. The key to this high-intensity weight training is never to go too hard, never having to get excited to lift and stressing the nervous system too much. You just get in, warm-up, work up to a heavy single and then get out. It works with strength training, but does it work for running?

Middle distance runners such as milers in the preparation and races stages of the season seem to run hard every day. This is particularly true for intermediate runners at the high school and college level, where they run on the track most days of the week, making sure that they never push so hard that they can’t complete training the next day. Greats like Herb Elliot and Emil Zatopek ran hard each day and built world record pace. Emil Zatopek training famously focused around 200, and 400-meter repeats up to 40 times each but paced off feel and never all out.   

Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.

Emil Zatopek

I am going to do a block of running frequency training to get faster. I am taking the rough layout from an old Frank Horwill article of training for the mile.

The weekly layout will look like this:

  • Monday: 3k pace, 2 x (1 x 400m + 1 x 800m + 1 x 300m)
  • Tuesday: Tempo, half-marathon pace
  • Wednesday: 4x 400m at mile pace
  • Thursday: Intervals, 5k pace
  • Friday: Recovery
  • Saturday: maximal sprints, 1 x 350m, 1 x 300m, 1 x 250m, 1 x 200m, 1 x 150m, w/ 400m walking rests
  • Sunday: Tempo, marathon pace

The volume and intensity for each workout will be adjusted by feel using the weekly layout as a guide. If I am not doing so well, the training will be replaced by a 35-minute recovery jog or, if really bad, some light 200 and 400m strides to just get the legs moving.

I will let you know how it goes. 

The 100-Up Exercise

I have been searching for ways to increase the amount I move since I began working from home, and my walking reduced significantly. The best movement practices are short to fit between meetings or tasks, require little or no equipment, and can ideally be carried out without changing outfit. If the movement makes me faster at running or on the bike, then even better. 

The 100-Up exercise is a short movement practice that you can do daily to improve running form, strengthen muscles, including the heart and lungs, loosens the limbs, and increases your daily movement. It can be done anywhere and in regular clothes, making it perfect as a movement break while working from home.

Walter George created the exercise and published it in a short book in 1880. George was an English middle-distance runner born in 1858, a holder of the mile world record between 1880 and 1893, and with a personal best time mile time of 4 minutes and 12 seconds. He worked from 7 am to 9 pm each day with a one hour break for lunch, and needed a way to supplement his training and keep active whilest at work. He would regularly perform the movement throughout the day when he moved around his workplace, creating opportunities to do 20 to 40 repetitions. Walter George credited his speed and stride length to the daily practice of the 100-Up.

Percy Cerutty in ‘Athletics: How to become a champion‘ suggests that runners should ‘run on the spot at terrific speed’ as an indoor activity if it is not possible to get outside. Many articles and books about his athletes also comment on regular, if not daily, ‘running in place‘ for 10-15 minutes to improve form and stamina. It might be possible to create smoother running form and a longer stride length by merely adopting the 100-Up exercise as a supplementary daily activity.  

The 100-Up exercise

The 100-up has three stages; each stage needs to be perfected before moving on the next. The exercise’s primary focus is as a carryover to running, so perfect form is required; knee to hip height each time and return the feet to the line without moving forward or backwards. At any point, if this form breaks down; the exercise should be paused.

You will need two parallel lines for all three stages, eight inches apart and 18 inches long. My floorboards are a perfect width, but you could put some tape down, or find another marker if needed. Your feet start with the balls of your feet on each line pointing directly forward and each rep your knee should reach hip height. Arms should hang naturally and remain by your sides for the first two stages.

Stage 1: Preliminary

Start by slowly lifting one leg ten times, trying to control your balance while getting your knee to the required height and returning your foot to the starting position for each rep. Do all the reps on one leg and then repeat with the other—progress when you can perform 30 reps on each leg correctly.

Stage 2: Minor

Repeat the preliminary exercise but this time alternate the leg you raise each rep. Start with ten reps – five with each leg, and progress over time to twenty, thirty, forty, and eventually one hundred. Start slow and gradually get faster as your strength and balance improves—progress to stage three when you can perform 100-Ups correctly. 

Stage 3: Major – The exercise proper

The final stage is the full exercise. Start with your feet in the same position but raise your heels, so you are on the balls of your feet. raise your knees to hip high and alternate leg each rep but perform the movement with good pace. Use your arms to mimic the running form, with relaxed shoulders, lifting the opposite arm to the raised knee and brushing your rib with your hand with the lowered hand. Try 20-Ups the first time – ten for each leg and concentrate on your form. Steadily add more reps over time as your stamina improves until you reach 100-Ups.

A long term pursuit

Treat mastering this exercise as a long term pursuit and do at least one set every day. If you run and have a GPS watch, see if your stride length is improving over time along with your competency in this exercise. If you are not a runner, the 100-Up exercise is an excellent way to add extra movement into your day and possibly get you interested in starting running as you learn the correct movement from the comfort of your home.

Have a go at the 100-Ups progression and contact me on Twitter with your progress.

The greatest miler in history

I finished the biography The Golden Mile: The Herb Elliott Story today. His mental and physical training would best be described as character building. If you like to run, think that modern methods are a little tame and want to read about how the best athletes trained in the ultra-amateur era of athletics, this book is a must-read. Once you are finished with this book, pick up a copy of Why Die: The Extraordinary Percy Cerutty ‘Maker of Champions’ to learn more about the famous Portsea camp and Cerutty’s coaching methods. 

Camp activities followed a fairly regular pattern. A typical day went like this: 7 a.m.: A five mile run before breakfast in any direction our whim took us, followed by a dip in the ocean. 8 a.m.: Breakfast of uncooked rolled oats (without milk) sprinkled with wheat germ, walnuts, sultanas, raisins and sliced banana. Perhaps a few potato chips to follow. 9 a.m.: Swimming and surfing or outdoor chores like chopping wood, painting and carpentry. Noon: Training and lectures at Portsea Oval, followed by another swim. 2 p.m.: Lunch – fish and fresh fruit. 3 p.m.: Siesta. 4 p.m.: Weight lifting. 5 p.m.: Ten mile run along dirt roads ending once more at the beach. 7 p.m.: Tea and a general discussion led by Percy on a wide variety of subjects. 11 p.m.: Lights out.

Herb Elliott

Herb Elliott, the 1500m gold medalist at the 1960 Olympics, is regarded as one of the greatest middle-distance runners of all time. The Percy Cerutty athlete saw running as the ultimate expression of the human body and embraced his coaches methods of natural eating, long runs in the mountains, sprints up dunes, sea swims, and weightlifting to develop extreme levels of strength and conditioning. Besides his physical abilities, mentally Elliot was a highly intelligent savage who through reading philosophy and embracing suffering, cultivated both unwavering confidence in his running performance and a will to win that saw him unbeaten in the mile and 1500m in his short adult career.

Most athletes imagine themselves at the end of their tether before they’re even seventy-five per cent exhausted. I was so determined to avoid this pitfall that if at any time I thought I was surrendering too soon to superficial pain I’d deliberately try to hurt myself more. In apparent conflict with this self-inflicted scourging was Percy’s theory that running should be a free expression of the body; that my body in motion, in the words of the song, ought to be doing what comes naturally. I trusted that my intelligence and enthusiasm would produce a happy compromise between this theory and my striving for perfection through pain.

Herb Elliott

While reading this book, I found my mindset changing towards heavy training. I started to see my quality sessions as an opportunity to push hard and embrace the pain a little more, driving with my arms and lengthening my stride when it started to hurt. I have begun heavy deadlifting and overhead pressing again on the journey to a double bodyweight deadlift and bodyweight overhead press, the standard that Percy Cerutty set his runners. And I have picked up my old copies of Stoic philosophy books and started to listen to Classical music from time to time including Beethoven’s Tempest III Allegretto when I need some inspiration.