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.

Creating a running training programme

At the start of the year, I aimed to get serious about my running. I have been running on and off for around five years, but I have never done anything more than 30+ miles in a training week and never followed a programme or put in any consistent volume. I completed several big races including the 69 mile Rat Race Wall in northern England, the 66km long, 4,400m of accent, Pirin Skyrun in Bulgaria, and the 49km long, 3,600m of accent Matterhorn Ultraks with my relaxed approach. Still, the aim has always been to finish rather than to race.

I decided in December 2019, with the help of a Percy Ceritty book, that if I was going to invest time and energy into doing long mountainous races, then I need to respect them by preparing correctly. I chose the Tromso Skyrun, a beautiful and remote event on the edge of my current ability as my target race and set about getting serious. I set an annual target of 2000 miles and got the five times winner of the event to coach me for the six months leading up to the event (The organisers cancelled it in the end). Jon Albon helped me build a strong running foundation, so after the six months under his coaching ended, I wanted to create my plan for the rest of the year.

Creating a training plan

In the book ‘Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon: How to be your own best coach‘, Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald suggest eight steps to creating your training plan:

  1. Choose a peak race and a race goal
  2. Pick a start date and plan duration
  3. Decide on appropriate running volume, frequency and weekly workout structure.
  4. Divide your plan into introductory, fundamental, and sharpening periods
  5. Plan your peak training week
  6. Schedule tune-up races and recovery weeks
  7. Schedule progressions for intervals workouts, threshold workouts, and long runs
  8. Fill the rest of the schedule

For most people, picking a race and a goal for it in step one is going to be based on an event that gets them excited, but if you are looking for inspiration, check my post from Sunday last week on the progression of a distance runner.

If you want to get faster at running and do not have a coach, you should pick up a copy of Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald’s book. The book is full of useful advice, training plans, and more importantly, guidance on how to adapt a plan for your context and how you react to the training load on a day to day basis.

Contact me on Twitter if you have any questions or want to discuss ideas creating your own running training plan. 

A distance runner’s progression

This year is the first year I have taken running seriously. In previous years, I have done some significant challenges, including Sky runs, ultramarathons, and 70.3 Ironman triathlons. I am not a naturally fast runner, I have done ok at the longer events, but I have not been fast, and not fully committed to the training so I never got near to seeing how good I could be. 

This year I committed to becoming a better runner. I signed up for the Tromso Skyrun and several warm-up events, I convinced the five-time Tromso winner and OCR world champion Jon Albon to coach me, and set an annual distance target of 2000 miles (over twice the total I had done in the year before).   

For the first month of the year, I built up to 40 miles per week and then ran a local half marathon event in early February, setting a slow 1:50 minutes, and a 48 minute 10K time trial solo on local roads. With these benchmarks set, I began working with Jon to build intensity in 2-3 runs per week and then slow down the rest of my running to comfortable distance pace. Events had been cancelled, but I managed to get my Half-marathon time down to 1:37 in a solo time-trial before my time with Jon ended. 

The lack of events got me thinking about the progression of a distance runner. What benchmarks should I target at each stage of my training to keep it interesting? I started to look through books and read online about some targets to direct my training towards achieving.

The progression of a distance runner

The term distance running tends to cover events from 5km to Marathon. traditionally younger competative runners would start at the shorter distances, get fast, and then work up to the marathon later in thier career but as I am in my 30s already I can be a bit more created with my running progression. Run Britain have programmes for the following distances and target times. On their website, they list the events by distance, but I wanted to order them based on difficulty to create a ladder of events to target. I have listed these distance and time benchmarks in order of difficulty according to the equivalent race time tool of the Jack Daniels calculator:

  1. 10k in under 60 minutes
  2. Marathon in under 4 hours
  3. 5k in under 24 minutes
  4. 10k in under 50 minutes
  5. Half-marathon in under 95 minutes
  6. 10k in under 40 minutes
  7. Marathon in under 3 hours
  8. Half-marathon in under 85 minutes
  9. 5k in under 18 minutes

On the 20th December, I am going to time trial a half marathon to get under the 1:35 time. I had planned to do this in an event, but this has cancelled too. I have been following a Half marathon programme from Brad Hudson’s ‘Run Faster’ and can highly recommend this book and its included programmes.

Contact me on Twitter if you have an alternative set of targets that make training more exciting or to share your running progress. I am back to work tomorrow after a week off so the next few days will be focused on Learning Design. I will keep Sundays for running-related blogs.