Distance training – the forgotten training session

For running and endurance training in general, we recommend a mix of training methods. The most common methods which many runners are familiar with, are long runs and interval training. In this article we shall have a look at a method we call distance training, also called fast long runs.

Purpose of interval sessions and long runs

A well known rule of thumb for training is to have 20 % intense sessions and 80% easy sessions. The purpose of the training methods for the intense part is to challenge and develop the body’s performance ability for short durations of load, and have breaks in between. This shall be performed in a structured way, with a certain amount of repetitions of switching between intense parts and pauses. A common misunderstanding about this, is that the load shall be as hard as possible during the intense parts. Experience among runners (including myself) has demonstrated that the most efficient way is to have a load close to, and preferrably below, the threshold pulse. The threshold pulse should always be used as a reference. Do NOT use the speed as a reference. The pulse reveals the real cost of the training for the body. The speed is not a good indicator for the training load. The speed at a specific session may have numerous disturbances, such as climate conditions, surface, clothes, track profile, etc.

The purpose of the long runs is to improve the running effiency / running economy, increase the fat burning ability, and to make the body (heart and legs in particular) adapted to loads over long time periods. The long runs shall not be too fast, but also not too slow. In general, we can say that the long run shall not be too “expensive” for the body. The pulse shall be well below threshold limit. The longer the session, the lower the pulse should be in relation to the threshold pulse. We recommend 70 – 80% below threshold pulse.

Distance training

Assume that your goal is to run a 10 km. For the elite runner, the time for a 10 km is around 30 minutes, and for a casual runner/exerciser the time is maybe around 60 min. The pace is easy to measure for these examples. 3 min per km for the elite runner with the goal of 30 min, up to 4 min, 5 min and 6 min/km for those with the goal of 40, 50 and 60 min.

However, the training methods we have described above have some insufficiencies. The interval training has pauses, which you don’t get during a 10 km, and the long runs are going somewhat slow, or possibly too fast. There is a lack of training to keep the speed for a long time, like you do in races.

Distance training / fast long runs

A training method for keeping up the speed over some time is needed. We call it “distance training” or “fast long run”. In these sessions you shall run for longer periods with a higher pulse than during the normal long run. We recommend 84-95% of the threshold pulse. We can consider this method as a hybrid between interval training and a normal long run.

How long shall the distance training last? We recommend somewhere between 20 – 40 min.

NB! Use the threshold pulse, and NOT the max pulse as a reference. Most people don’t know their max pulse, and the rules of thumb that are used by some, are far too inaccurate. The reason for using the threshold pulse as a reference, is that a load over the threshold limit causes a big physiological change to occur in the body. It will cause accumulation of lactic acid, which is undesirable in training sessions.

Read more about interval training, long runs and training for running here:

Author: Ingrid Kristiansen

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