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Home . Polar Support . Training Articles . Resources and Workout Tips for Runners

Resources and Workout Tips for Runners

Endurance training can be divided into three areas:Basic, speed and anaerobic endurance.

Basic endurance training is for improving aerobic capacity and impact tolerance. Such runs occur at 60-75% maximal heart rate, depending on the runner's experience and level. At least one long basic endurance run should be included in your weekly schedule. They can also be shorter in duration. Such recovery runs last typically 30-45 minutes. Training should increase gradually throughout the basic endurance period (base 1 and base 2). At the transitional phase, general endurance training is reduced and once your main goal is in sight, reduce training even further. During taper time, basic endurance sessions are typically for recovery only.

Speed sessions are slightly faster than basic endurance training, and can either be even-paced or intervals. Heart rate levels during speed training should be around 75-85% maximum heart rate. Even-paced sessions last typically 20-60 minutes, while intervals are between 4 and 15 minutes (e.g. 4x8min/5min recovery, or in kilometers 4x2km/1km recovery). During speed training, breathing is accelerated, but only during anaerobic endurance training does breathing rhythm peak. Developing speed is important when training for a marathon, for example, since part of the marathon is actually run at speed training pace. Include 1 or 2 speed sessions in your weekly schedule.
Interval training is a good choice when you first start working on speed, since it's easier to keep up a good pace during short repeats and exertion levels are not too high. As you progress, you can add even-paced runs to your schedule. Long, even-paced intervals are recommended for marathon runners (e.g. 3x20min at 80% maximum heart rate, alternate with 10 min light jog at 60%). Cut back on speed training during transition and tapering, when you replace some of the hard sessions with actual racing.

Anaerobic endurance training is generally very hard interval work, aimed at maximizing racing performance and oxygen uptake capacity. To make sure lactic acid levels remain at a manageable level, run at just below full speed, in other words at 90-95% maximum heart rate. It's advisable to run at the higher end only during the last repeat. Aim to increase speed with every repeat. A session can comprise 5x3min with 5min recovery jog.
For a goal-oriented active runner, including anaerobic endurance training 2-3 times a month is advisable. Training should begin at base 2 and intensify gradually through transition and tapering. Some runs should be even-paced. When tapering, training includes anaerobic endurance and speed work, as well as basic endurance and recovery.
For an active runner, sprint training is fast-paced interval training at 90-100% maximum heart rate. Repeats last 45-90 seconds. Recover for around 5 minutes. Example: 8x60seconds 95% maximum heart rate + 5min recovery walk. Do sprint work during transition and tapering periods. Training frequency is at about 2 times/month.

Warm up
The aim of a proper warm-up is to prepare your body for the exertion to come. You should be running at a lower speed than the actual running phase, and you may even want to include some stretching. This could last for 5-10 minutes.Warming up is also important prior to speed training as a way of priming the muscles. Your body prepares gradually for the actual training session, and your muscles carry oxygen more readily. Your heart rate should rise to the training level at the end of a warm-up and actual training can then begin. Some recovery sessions may be somewhat short (30-45 min) at warm-up speed.

Exercise in Target Zone
Monitor the intensity level you are at while training to make sure the session is beneficial. Your heart rate should rise towards the end of a session and not the other way around. Keep in mind that increasing speed is easy, but you should learn the basics about the way your heart rate reacts at different running speeds first.
A running session can include for example a 30-minute even-paced run at 65-75% maximal heart rate, or intervals of 5x3min at 75-85%, alternating with recovery to bring your heart rate down to 60% before the next interval. Some recovery sessions may be somewhat short (30-45 min) at warm-up speed.

Cool Down
The purpose of a cool-down is to slowly bring the heart rate back to normal. This is especially important after strenuous activity which has produced lactic acid/lactate. Lactic acid is easily eliminated from the system during slow-paced running. A cool-down lasts 5-10 minutes depending on how hard you trained. The harder you train, the longer the cool-down should last. A cool-down can also affect your next training session. If you haven't cooled down properly, your body will still contain lactic acid and your next training session will suffer as a result.
For optimal fitness results, train within your target heart rate limits, even if you are able to push yourself beyond them most of the time. Improving your physical condition by running is easy, but it is important to pace your development and to avoid monotony by training in a varied fashion.

The most accurate way of determining individual maximum heart rate (HRmax) is to have it clinically measured, usually on a maximal treadmill or bicycle stress test supervised by a cardiologist or exercise physiologist. HRmax can also be estimated from the commonly used formula: 220 minus age. Research has shown that the formula is not very accurate, especially for people who have been fit for many years or for older people. The HRmax-p score, however, predicts individual maximum heart rate value more accurately. This feature is included in most Polar running computers.
If you have done some hard training in recent weeks and know that you can safely reach maximum heart rate, here is a simple test you can take.
You should consult your physician before undertaking this test. We also recommend you take the test together with a training partner.
Step 1: Warm up for 15 minutes on a flat surface, building to your usual training pace.
Step 2: Then choose a hill or stairwell that will take you more than 2 minutes to climb. Run up the hill/steps once, building to as hard a pace that you can hold for 20 min. Return to the base of the hill/steps.
Step 3: Run up the hill/steps again, building towards a pace you can just about hold for 3 km. Note your highest heart rate. Your maximum is approximately 10 beats higher than the noted value.
Step 4: Run back down the hill allowing your heart rate to drop 30 to 40 beats.
Step 5: Run up the hills/steps once again at a pace that you can only hold for 1 minute. Try to run half-way up the hills/steps. Note your highest heart rate. This brings you close to your maximum heart rate. Use this value as your maximum heart rate to set training zones.
Step 6: Make sure you get a good cool-down of a minimum of 10 minutes.

A successful training program is first and foremost systematic, and is guided by defined goals. It is divided into seasonal, monthly and weekly schedules, ending for many active runners in a targeted event like a marathon. Training is based on this target.

The importance of periodization in the program cannot be exaggerated, because the body will need to gradually prepare and adapt to an ever increasing workload. Training in four-week cycles is common practice. Intensity and volume increase steadily during the first three weeks, while the fourth is a recovery week. During base 1 and base 2, training volumes increase every four weeks, and decrease only once you reach the transition period. Correspondingly, intensity levels increase and decrease in four-week cycles. Two or three weeks before the main event, keeping your muscles primed on a daily basis is more important than sticking to your weekly targets.

When planning your training week, remember the delicate balance between training and recovery. Engage in fast-paced intensive training only once your body is well recovered and prepared. Also, leave long aerobic training for the end of the week, and make sure your energy reserves are well-stocked to make the most of the session.
Allow for sudden changes in your schedule. With proper follow-up, you will be able to ensure training success despite small variations.

For a personalized running training program, go to the web service. Here, you will find goal-oriented event programs (5 km, 10 km, 21 km and 42 km) as well as a fitness running program.
Programs are designed to improve fitness safely, and are based on your current fitness level. By answering a few questions you will be given a program that is suitable for your fitness level and goals. The optional questions about fitness level specifics like OwnIndex or VO2max will help create a program more accurately suited to your requirements.
The programs have been designed in cooperation with exercise physiologist and training consultant Brendon Downey. Brendon is a qualified triathlon coach with 13 years of experience working with beginners as well as elite-level athletes, including national champions and several ITU World Cup & Olympic competitors. He used to be a competitive cyclist and triathlete, competing at the World Championships in triathlon himself, and is a former New Zealand National Triathlon Champion. Having completed 6 Ironman Triathlons, he has a personal best of 8:59. Brendon has a bachelor’s degree in science and a postgraduate diploma in physiology.

Programs Based on Polar sport zones
Each program uses the Polar sport zones terminology and structure. In other words, all training is broken down into five sport zones and intensities. This helps clarify the requirements for every session. For additional information on Polar sport zones, consult the article “Polar sport zones”.
Program Structure The 5 km programs are 9 weeks, the 10 km programs are 10 weeks and the ½ Marathon and Marathon programs are 14 weeks in duration. Fitness running programs last 4 weeks.

Program Structure
The 5 km programs are 9 weeks, the 10 km programs are 10 weeks and the ½ Marathon and Marathon programs are 14 weeks in duration. Fitness running programs last 4 weeks.
General aerobic training in zone 2 is an efficient and safe way to build endurance; therefore, training plans are designed to ensure that plenty of aerobic fitness is built first. All programs at lower fitness levels are based on two main principles: week-to-week progression of total exercise volumes, and a long run in zones 1 or 2 that builds up towards the speed required to complete the event. The programs also include some easier “breather” weeks. This is to make sure you complete your event safely, and can eventually move on to longer event programs.
Intermediate programs include more aerobic work in zone 2, and, since participants will have some history in running, we have thrown in additional event-specific work in zones 3 and 4, as well as some hills to build strength. Doing structured amounts of higher intensity work will be a new experience for many runners, so zone 3 work will increase gradually, helping participants improve their training pace and time. Most programs will consist of a small amount of zone 4 work. This will also lead to an increase in event speed and make sure you can advance to more demanding programs safely, should you want to.
For the programs at higher levels, more emphasis is placed on creating an even more solid foundation (more total distance/time) through aerobic running and increased amounts of hill work in zones 3-4. Also, training at event speed in zones 3 and 4 increase at this level.
In all cases, we stick to the principle of progressive loading, and ensuring recovery before repeating. In all, these programs spell quality preparation for running events.

Gradual Progress
The programs are designed to help runners progress towards better fitness, longer distances and more challenging training programs. Generally, once you have completed a particular training program, you can either advance to the same distance at a higher intensity level or to a longer distance at the same intensity level. For example, after a 5 km program, you should be able to advance to 10 km. But to do that, your fitness level should have improved sufficiently. This is determined once you ‘re-profile’ yourself for a new program.
Generally, all programs follow the 10% rule, i.e. volume will increase by around 10% every week. Note that in some cases, some runs may increase more than 10%, so monitor given distances and times carefully, and if in any doubt, just do less.
Progress occurs throughout the program, also in terms of training intensity. At first, intensities are kept low (most training in zones 1-2), increasing gradually to durations and distances closer to event levels.

Periodicity and Sharpening
Each program has a base phase where the emphasis is on increasing volume/distance, or as for some advanced programs, relatively more volume with less intensity. This initial phase of the program will generally include more hills and less speed sessions. This is because doing hills is an ideal way to exercise in higher zones (3+) without the high risk associated with the running speeds required to reach these zones on the flat. Running hills also helps improve exercise economy and develop running-specific leg strength. These are all valuable ways to develop a solid foundation to build on.
In the latter part of most programs, faster work is included in a specific speed phase (zones 3-5). Even the marathon programs, while emphasizing distance/time, include training in zones 3 and 4, as this will help boost efficiency at racing speed on event day.
Since these programs are designed with working people in mind, they will include easier periods of training every other week. Generally, these easy weeks amount to around half the training of the previous week. This ensures good recovery and helps athletes benefit from the past two weeks of training before moving on.

As running creates a fair amount of muscle damage due to its weight-pounding nature, programs include a fair amount of taper. Advanced programs include more of a change in volume due to the greater need for recovery after heavier training loads. Taper periods are, therefore, generally longer. All programs include an adequate taper, which will still include some intense running (in zones 3 and 4) to make sure you maintain good leg speed and strength while still allowing for recovery.

Time Limitations
Note that the programs are limited with regards to total amount of training, so for runners looking to compete at regional level or above, the programs can only offer some guidance. Additional training may, therefore, be required. In fact, we strongly recommend you seek the services of a coach.

By Coach Brendon Downey from

For a long time, cyclists have enjoyed the ability to monitor cadence and use it to manipulate their training. Clearly, the same could be useful for runners, but until now there just hasn't been a good tool to do it. Step in the RS800.

So how can you use the Cadence (leg turnover) feature to improve your running? Let’s take the marathon as an example.

We know that top marathoners run with a cadence of around 90-96 (180-192 steps per minute), whereas most beginners will typically run at 78-82 (156-164 steps per minute). A lower cadence increases the risk that your legs run out of power before you reach the finish line. At any given pace a lower cadence means a longer stride. You need to generate closer to your best power each step and lift your body up further against gravity due to the longer required 'hang time'. So translating that to running a full marathon (typically 30000-40000 steps), a small change in cadence can make a HUGE difference. The longer stride is also going to increase your risk of injury.

My rule of thumb is for first time marathoners to be at 86+ cadence at race speed (often around their typical training pace), three-hour marathoners to be 90+ and for those under two hours 45min to be 92+. So go out and see what your cadence is going to be at your expected event pace and then refer to my quick start guide to set up your RS800.

Quick Guide to Suggested Cadence for a Given Marathon Pace and Athlete Height

Marathon Time 4 hrs 3 ½ hrs 3 hrs 2 ¾ hrs
Pace 5:42/km 5min/km 4:17/km 3:55/km
190 84-86 86-88 88-90 90-92
180 86-88 88-90 90-92 92-94
170 88-90 90-92 92-94 94-96
169 90-92 92-94 94-96 96-98

Drills that Increase Cadence

We know that for runners to go faster they have to increase their cadence and their stride length. But we also know that runners can learn to run with a faster cadence if they train specifically and focus on cadence.
In less experienced runners, a lower cadence is often caused by over striding, that is landing your feet too far ahead of yourself – this causes you to brake against your forward motion on each step, essentially working against yourself. The good news is that it’s an easy fix. Just have an experienced running coach take a look. A few simple drills can also help. Run some 50m strides and focus on leaning forward and landing on the middle of your foot (not on your heels). 5-6x50m strides after a warm up is a great way to set up a short run. Then during the remainder of your run focus on getting into the same body position and landing on your mid foot. Do this 2x per week for 6 weeks and you'll see huge changes.
Another great drill is what I call the 'Butt Kick'. Simply stride out and focus on “fast feet” by lifting your ankles towards your butt. Deliberately driving your elbows back at a faster tempo is a good way to increase your cadence generally.
When doing these drills keep your hips forward and avoid 'sinking' at the hips.

Monitor Cadence Regularly
If you are training for a marathon, choose a shorter event to test your cadence. A 10k run is ideal. Simply run with your RS800 on and see what your cadence is for each 2km/1mile segment (use the lap feature). Or if you have run a marathon before and you have a very good idea about your likely pace for your next one, do a shorter effort at your target race pace. By ensuring that your cadence is higher you will be increasing your chance of having the legs to bring home that last (hard) 8-10 km of the event. A higher cadence also lessens muscle damage in training and will enhance recovery.
By monitoring your cadence during your marathon build-up, you can track this as you go. It’s therefore not a bad idea to have some shorter pieces at race pace even as early as 4 months out (one 5min run at race pace will be enough early on).

Diversify Your Training
A key culprit for killing your cadence is the long run - yes they make you more aerobically fit but if they are done at a cadence of 80 (or less) and you don't include enough other training at 90+, then they simply kill your leg speed and add to the problem. One solution is to include some faster efforts during a longer run (i.e. 200m at 5km pace using a cadence of 90+ say every 30min, using a higher cadence “Fast Feet”). Another way is to 'split' some of your long runs, that is, run some of it in the morning and some of it in the evening. You'll find that your cadence is generally higher in the later run than in the second half of a continuous long run.
A treadmill run is also another great way to do this. You'll often find that you are less likely to over stride on a treadmill so you generally find yourself at a faster cadence especially if you use no gradient.

Work on Stride Length
Of course some more experienced runners already have good running cadence. In this case the key thing is to work on stride length by running more hills. I also like to alternate repetitions up steps and hill reps - it adds variety and forces you to run the steps two at a time. It’s also a good idea to use a shallower hill in preparation for flatter marathons. Typically for experienced runners it’s good to ensure that somewhere between 25-50% of total training time is focused on this. Ideally you do your greatest volume of specific strength work somewhere between 6-10 weeks out. If you have a naturally fast cadence then I think it’s okay to have the big weeks of this training closer to your event (6-8 weeks).

Another way to work on leg strength is to do faster training when tired. You need to be really careful when and how you do this, because obviously if you get it wrong it can leave you flat or injured. A good rule of thumb is to always do this type of training carefully and monitor for signs of overtraining or injury. A common way is to split a long run into a morning and evening run - in the evening include hills or hill reps (this is not recommended for people with less than 3 years of run training).

If you monitor your cadence while doing hills, make sure you are not killing your leg speed. If you find that you are, ensure that you do some work to counter that. I like to see runners do hill reps followed by 'fast feet' strides (see the example workout below).
I.e. 6-10x1min Uphill ending HR is around top of 80-90% HRmax (Zone 4).

Focus: Strong Leg Drive
Typically cadence will be 80 or so
Followed by 4x400m at 10k Pace
(again ending HR should be around the top of 80-90% HRmax (Zone 4)).
Focus: “Fast Feet”
Look for cadence to be ABOVE desired Race Cadence
To summarize, here is the quick guide to monitoring your cadence:
Monitor cadence with the RS800 specifically at expected/desired event pace
If it’s below ideal then work on increasing it by focusing on drills, speed work or “Fast Feet” running.
If it’s above, work on getting stronger by focusing on hills, hill reps or good form running when tired/fatigued.
Monitor during your actual event to save your legs for the last 8-10km
Analyze your cadence after events to see if you need to do more specific leg speed or leg strength work.
So just how fast are your feet when you run? Get out there and find out!
Happy running!
Coach Brendon's Quick Guide to setting up the RS800 for Cadence:
Firstly make sure that your Running Computer has detected your WearLink strap and that you've entered all your personal data.
Set up the S3 foot pod. For that you'll need to tell your RS800 that it should 'learn' a new S3 sensor, as follows:
Settings => Ok => Features => Ok => S Sensor => Ok => New Sensor => OK => Teach New Sensor? Yes. The RS800 should display “Completed”, if it doesn't, check that you have installed the battery in the S3 Pod and retry.
You should also tell the RS800 which sensor type you are using (it’s either Shoelace or Integrated).
Start => Settings => OK => Shoes 1 => Ok => Name of Shoe => Ok => Sensor type => Shoelace/Integrated (unless you are using the Adidas specific shoe it’s going to be the Shoelace setting).
Next you need to set up the display. My recommendation is to set the display so that there are the following three lines of information:

Upper: Cadence

Middle: Time or Lap Time, I suggest that you use lap time if you plan to run intervals.

Lower: Heart Rate/%HR or %HRR, whichever you prefer to use.

You do this as follows: Start/Ok => Settings => Ok => Display => Ok => Edit => OK => Select upper row information => CAD => OK => Select middle row information => OK => Stopwatch/Lap Time => Select lower row information => OK => Heart Rate .

Another useful variation is to use PACE on the lower line instead of HR. You can always go back and look at the HR data later using the Polar Software - this is particularly useful if you are aiming to run at a set pace (such as 4min/km or 8min/Mile) which is often what runners like to do in their final period leading into a marathon.
To change the heart rate view you need to do that separately, as follows:
Start => Settings => OK => HR View => OK => HR/HR%/HRR% => OK.

Personally I like the standard HR view – it’s easier to use and it’s what most of the athletes I coach relate to. But I understand that others relate better to the zones with HR% or HRR%. There is more on this in the Polar RS800 Manuals.

Polar sport zones spell a new level of effectiveness in heart rate-based training. Training is divided into five sport zones based on percentages of maximum heart rate. With sport zones, you can easily select and monitor training intensities and follow Polar's sport zones-based training programs.
TARGET ZONE Intensity % of HRmax EXAMPLE
5 MAXIMUM 90-100% 0-2 minutes Tones the neuromuscular system
4 HARD 80-90% 2-10 minutes Increases anaerobic tolerance
Improves high speed endurance
3 MODERATE 70-80% 10-40 minutes Enhances aerobic power
Improves blood circulation
2 LIGHT 60-70% 40-80 minutes Increases aerobic endurance
Strengthens body to tolerate higher intensity training
1 VERY LIGHT 50-60% 20-40 minutes Helps and speeds up recovery after heavier exercises

Running intensity in sport zone 1 is very low. The main training principle is that performance level improves during recovery, not during training. Sometimes, training has been so strenuous that you may not have recovered yet the next day, in which case, you can accelerate the recovery process with very light intensity training.
Endurance training occurs in sport zone 2, and features an easy aerobic run. Endurance training is an essential part of every runner's training program. In fact, endurance training is the base of any training. Making progress in endurance training requires persistence.
Aerobic power is enhanced in sport zone 3. Here, training intensity is higher than in sport zones 1 and 2 but is still mainly aerobic. Training in sport zone 3 can, for instance, consist of intervals followed by recovery. Running in this zone is especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles.

To compete at your top potential, you will need to do some training in sport zones 4 and 5. In these zones, you run anaerobically in intervals of up to 10 minutes: the shorter the interval, the higher the intensity. Sufficient recovery between intervals is very important. Training in zones 4 and 5 is designed to bring the runner to peak performance.
When running in a certain sport zone, the idea is to utilize the entire zone. The mid-zone is a good target, but you don’t need to keep your heart rate at that exact level all the time.
Heart rate will gradually adjust to training intensity. For instance, when graduating from sport zone 1 to sport zone 3, blood circulation and heart rate can adjust in 3-5 minutes.

The response time of heart rate to an exercise of certain intensity varies according to training, recovery, environmental and other factors. It is, therefore, important to pay attention to any signs of fatigue and to react accordingly.
Polar sport zones work best with your own maximum heart rate, aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. To determine your maximum heart rate, use the age formula (as a default in your running computer), predicted maximum heart rate (HRmax-p), or have the value measured in a laboratory. Use sport zones when you train for a specific running event or for specific benefits in each of your workouts.

By Coach Brendon Downey from

It’s obviously not always practical or possible to go to a fitness lab every week and be tested. So what can you do to get an indication of your fitness level and your current training state?
The Polar RS400 / RS800 have a couple of nifty built-in tests that you can utilize to see your own level of improvement and/or if you are overtraining/undertraining.

Fitness Test
First off there is the Polar Fitness Test and it works like this: Put on your Polar WearLink strap and shuffle onto a nice soft couch or bed, enter the test display and choose the fitness option, press start and relax. Wait 3min and it will give you a Fitness score, if you do this consistently you can monitor changes over time (obviously going up leading towards a key event would be nice).
The test works by taking the heart rate variability as well as the actual Resting Heart Rate into account - clever and very simple to use. A summary of the steps are:
Select Test > Fitness > Start > Follow Instructions!
You can also use the test to get a good safe estimate of your Maximum Heart Rate. Just make sure you've set HRmax-p to On (Maximum Predicted HR), as follows:
Select Test > Fitness > HRmax-p > On
You can also use the test to see if your training is having the desired effect on your fitness. A good way to do this is to monitor it on the same day each week. I like to use the morning after a rest day. That way week to week your lead in activity and stress is similar and you'll get a better indication of changes.
But, don't panic if your fitness score actually drops at the end of a hard block of training (say 2 or 3 weeks’ worth) - that’s to be expected. All it means is that you are simply tired - a good indication that you are ready for an easier week to regenerate and adapt to the training you've inflicted on yourself.

Fitness Trend feature is great for monitoring the ongoing changes in your fitness; you can quickly see this on the Running Computer too.
Select Test > Fitness > Trend

Obviously it would be nice to get a day-to-day picture of recovery and state of readiness for hard training, right? Are you ready to do that planned hard workout? Do you need another easy day before a planned hard race simulation?
Well, that’s where the OwnOptimizer test from Polar can help.
This test works by seeing what impact the 'combined effect' recent training load has had on the body by gauging the nervous system's control of the heart. It’s yet another clean and simple idea. The test checks to see how the nervous system controls the heart in response to different loads placed on it; in this case it’s lying down and standing up.
Select Test > Optimizer > Start > > Follow the Instructions!

OwnOptimizer advises you about what state you are CURRENTLY in. There are nine states ranging from Good Recovery to Parasympathetic overtraining, and with each state you can get an idea about what to consider for your upcoming training.
If I was training for a marathon and did the test the day after the first really big run, what I'd expect to see would be either 6-Hard Training or 7-overreaching. I'd then look at my plan and see that I have a light day of training planned (say a 35min Zone 1-2 Flat Run) and figure that this should be fine. If I then test again the next morning and I see 1-Good recovery then I know that I am ready for another good workout. If I still see a 6 or a 7, I know I haven't fully recovered and that I probably still need another easier day before I get going. I would then recheck the following day just to be sure. I would also look at the upcoming week and consider making changes to accommodate an extra easy day or two. Over time you'll learn to modify the weeks based on these changes. Of course this is what experienced runners and their coaches often do. They just are able to make these subjective calls based on years and years of training. Sometimes objective feedback like this can help you make the best decisions. Now, everyday runners can take advantage of these features in the RS400/800 and get quality objective feedback – it’s like having a coach on your wrist.

Doing intervals is the most important part of training speed. It requires good general fitness and foot strike. Keep focus on the aim of your interval training. A typical mistake is to run too fast during short repeats, since having strength enough is rarely a problem, and distances are relatively short. Training intensity should increase gradually to prepare the body for harder routines.

The central components of successful interval training are the right technique, mobility and speed. In the initial stages of your training schedule (base 1), intervals may be e.g. 6x5min at 85% maximum heart rate + 3min recovery at 60%. At this stage, repeats shouldn't be too long to make sure your speed remains adequate. As your endurance improves, repeats during speed work may be up to 20 minutes long (80-90% maximum heart rate). Maximum endurance is generally improved through interval training, as well, and is aimed specifically at enhancing performance. Running faster during the latter part of sessions is important during maximum endurance work (e.g. 5x3min at approx. 90% + 5 min recovery).

You learn to pace yourself during interval training, since you run faster doing intervals than you would during the targeted event, like a marathon. Increasing your speed reserve is also important to make sure your running technique remains comfortable. Moreover, interval work improves recovery time, important for running on uneven terrain.

Active runners aim to improve performance and usually train for a specific running event. Fitness tests can help gauge progress to make sure you are training correctly. Different methods are used for different tests. The important thing is to use them systematically. For example, perform tests at the end of similar training days. An Average Heart Rate Test taken on a treadmill or stationary bike determines general fitness level, as does Polar Fitness Test.

If you train to achieve better running results, or if running is otherwise your main method of training, the Performance Development Test is for you. This running test is performed on a even levelled track of a set distance, for example 5 km. Heart rate should always remain at the same level, for example 80% maximum heart rate. During the test, speed development is monitored at that heart rate. In fact, this is an Average Heart Rate Test, only in reverse, since for runners tracking running speed is of special importance. Terrain should be even and comfortable to make sure heart rate remains as stable as possible.

The warm-up prior to testing should always be the same to make sure the body is at exactly the same point of departure everytime you take the test. Taking the test every four weeks is advisable. If your performance is clearly lower than the last time you took the test, do not make changes to your training routine before repeating the test in a few days' time.
The Performance Development Test:
Once a month

To monitor training results, the Polar OwnOptimizer test is also important. Successful training requires temporary overloading: longer exercise duration, higher intensity or larger total volume. In order to avoid severe overtraining, overloading must always be followed by an adequate recovery period. Otherwise, you may experience a decrease instead of improved performance as a result of high training volumes.

The Polar OwnOptimizer is an easy and reliable way to determine whether your training program is optimally developing your performance. The OwnOptimizer helps you optimize your training load during a training program so that you experience an increase in performance and do not under train or overtrain in the long run. It is a perfect tool for everyone training regularly, i.e. at least three times a week.

Running on roads and level surfaces places a monotonous strain on your legs, and your musculoskeletal system will not develop as optimally as on uneven terrain.

Running on uneven terrain makes muscles develop more naturally, and the important oxygen uptake capacity is also developed. Uneven terrains are also gentler on the feet. Nowadays, terrain running is being replaced with hill training, with repeats up a hill alternating with recovery jogs or walks (e.g. 8x300meters (50-60 seconds) at 80-90% maximum heart rate). Hill repeats add strength and intensity to your training. Also, maximizing oxygen uptake is easier up a hill than on an even levelled track.

Good running technique is important during hill training. If you can run hard comfortably uphill, your running economy on an even levelled track will obviously improve greatly. It is important for an athlete running a specific event (e.g. a marathon) to prepare the body and muscles by training in racetrack conditions. By measuring distance and elevation, runners can design training sessions that develop specific characteristics in specific conditions.

Hill training improves general endurance and speed, but keep in mind that such training is always hard on the muscles. In other words, you should recover well, even when your heart rate remains in the general endurance area. It would be a good idea to do some hill training on rough terrain, for natural hill variety.

Hill training offers a perfect opportunity to improve running-specific muscle strength. When improving strength through hill work, it is important to keep repeats rather short, to avoid the high levels of lactic acid.

There are various ways to improve muscle strength, in fact varying the stimulation is very important. Try doing 20-50 meter repeats with a good combination of different ingredients, such as:
backward running, side-leaps or jumps. (very good for the buttocks and hamstrings)

Remember to start with small doses, since this kind of hill training will easily overexert your muscles and require long recovery time. Once you've done a few sessions, your body will adapt and training will become more beneficial.

Q: “What if I get sick and have to skip training?”.

A: If you have missed a few sessions because of not feeling well, a flu or fever, do not train. If once recovered, you are still unsure whether you should resume training or not, it is best you don’t. Consult a physician or an experienced coach instead.

In all cases, going for a very easy test run (less than 30 min in zones 1-2) is a good way to resume your training after a break.

Scenario 1: If you have only missed one of your shorter sessions, simply carry on with the program. You may not need to make any other alterations.

Scenario 2: If you miss a longer run, you may need to shorten the next few long runs to avoid the risk of injury or overtraining.

Scenario 3: If you miss a session that includes harder training (zones 3 or higher), then you may need to reduce some or all of your upcoming harder sessions.

Scenario 4: If you miss a longer run and several training sessions, seriously consider reducing all training sessions (both total distance/time and distance/time in zones 3 and 4) for the next week or two.

Zone 1 = 50-60% of HRmax
Zone 2 = 60-70% of HR max
Zone 3 = 70-80% of HR max
Zone 4 = 80-90% of HR max
Zone 5 = 90-100% of HR max

Q “What if an injury forces me to skip training?”.

A: Start by getting an accurate diagnosis by a physician or licensed physiotherapist and get their professional opinion on how long your break should be. As with sickness, start by taking a very short run to see in what shape you are. If you feel any pain or suspect that the test session is going to delay your return, stop and walk home. In fact, you should keep the run short (max 10 min) and close to your starting point, a small loop is a good idea. In all cases, when resuming training, make sure you run on softer surfaces. Also, consider consulting an experienced coach to guide you through the remaining training period.

Scenario 1: If you have only missed one of your shorter sessions, take a test run. If that goes well, simply carry on with the program - you may not need to make any other alterations. Pay attention to how you feel, nonetheless, you may still need to reduce the total distance/time during the next long run. Seek softer surfaces if impact is a likely factor in the injury. Also, use pain as your guide - any pain at all and you should stop immediately.

Scenario 2: If you miss a longer run, you may need to reduce the next few long runs to avoid the risk of injury or overtraining.

Scenario 3: If you miss a session that includes harder training (zones 3 or higher), follow the advice in Scenario 1 first. Then consider reducing upcoming harder sessions (zone 3 or higher).

Scenario 4: If you miss a longer run and several training sessions, seriously consider reducing all training sessions (both total distance/time and distance/time in zones 3&4). You may need to alter a week or more to gradually work yourself back to your previous shape.

Scenario 5: If you miss more than a week’s worth of sessions, ask your physician or physiotherapist if you may substitute running with some cross training activity and if so, which activity would be appropriate. For example, cycling or aqua-running may be a great way to maintain fitness yet allowing an injury to heal. Our recommendation is that cross training sessions are as long as the skipped running sessions, and not any longer. Also, remember to be very careful when going back to running, you may feel fit but your body may need to be reminded of all the pounding with a few short runs first!

In any case, you will probably need to redefine event goals or choose a different event altogether. This is the case particularly if you’ve skipped more than a week of training. Keep in mind that missing on training early in the program (with more than 7 weeks left) may not have much significance. Just follow the advice given here and make sure you listen to your body.

Zone 1 = 50-60% of HRmax
Zone 2 = 60-70% of HR max
Zone 3 = 70-80% of HR max
Zone 4 = 80-90% of HR max
Zone 5 = 90-100% of HR max

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