Continuation from yesterday's posting on my suggested training schedule/routine, I am sharing another trick to help you tweak your workout a bit more - Sprinting for distance runners.
This might sound cliche, but why do distance runner need to "sprint"? The majority of distance runners I know concentrate mostly on distance (via long slow distance or LSD) and are often contented with a "good run".
Instead, why not make it a GREAT run?
Sprinting should not be mistaken as just a "faster paced" workout. Essentially, it is a "mini workout" by itself. Ever want to improve that 10km or 21km timing? Read on.
The Good of Sprint Training
I can very much vouch for what this "mini workout" has done for me for distance up to 21km. I dare not verify this for my 42km as I've not tried a 42km after realising the benefits of the sprint training. From what I experienced myself, sprinting while performing a run provided a few benefits.
A sudden spike in heart rate, coupled with increased coordination (breathing, arms swings, leg strides) activated a lot of smaller supporting muscle fibers and raises up your metabolism after the workout. As out load increases, the body will get accustomed to the workout, making weight control or weight loss to plateau. Throwing in a sprint (or three) will guarantee a good burn to the workout.
Ever wondered when you start running faster, everything around you moves slower? You are more aware of each movement as you grow more aware of the changes in motion, thus lending more efficiency to your run. try sprinting at sub 4:00 pace and suddenly you felt "slow" running a 5:00 tempo. Speed, as they say, is addictive.
Potential Injury Prevention
Sprinting aid in injury prevention by building and activating the supporting muscles in your legs. The body is a highly adaptive machine where it will reacts to physiological and physical changes. By constantly putting the body to an "uncertain" load, you will grow stronger and a stronger set of muscles would almost prevent you from injuring yourself. There are some literature pointing to injury prevention and exercises and suffice to say that as long as the injury/ies is/are not related to accident, it can be prevented or healing/recovery will be faster.
How To Do It
As it is a mini-workout, you can place these sprinting exercise into your run training. Apart from making the typical run good, it might just make it better.
Towards the end of your run, say the final 500m, mentally divide 5x100m sprint. Start at moderate pace and sprint halfway through holding it for about 30meters and walk the last 20meters. Repeat.
Instead of doing it at the end of the workout like stride-work, do this halfway. Mid-run surges involves running at maximum effort for up to 30seconds and continue to run at your workout pace and repeat up to 5 sets. A sample of it would be a tempo run at 5:00 and a quick sprint up to 4:00 pace for 30 seconds before slowing down to the 5:00 pace for a minute before bursting out again at maximal effort. Awesome.
Enough said, it is my favorite. I make my hill circuit part of my hill sprint workout as well. Find the steepest hill and sprint up for up to 8 seconds. Be prepared to have a few saliva-dripping moment as you feel your heart starting to jump out of it's cavity. Repeat up to 5 sets (5sprint x 8seconds). Walk/run slowly for a minute and repeat. I increase the sets and durations every week and currently I am at 10sets x 10 seconds. The hill I run is 1km long and provide good opportunity to break it down with 1 set at 500m each. The 10seconds allow me to cover no more than 60meter on a 10degree gradient hill. I know, I am a wuss.
Injecting sprint into your run will allow you to break away from the monotonous run that many of us fall victim to. The repeated same motion at same pace over the same route will not help with performance improvement and would likely to create some injury due to repetitive pounding. Changing the pace a little by adding in faster speed (such as sprinting) will help to break the monotony and in the longer run, help you finish the run much faster.
As with all exercises, please know your current health condition or get professional opinion to know your own limits before starting. Bear in mind that what I share here is good for me at my current fitness level. My training pace is 4:35min/km, which you can use it to benchmark against your own ability. Stay injury free!