Train easy, run faster.
Written by Håvard Nordgård
Up to a given level, everyone can run faster by cutting out intervals and only running calmly and long distances. There is in no way anything wrong with running intervals as an exerciser or super exerciser, but most people can make equal or greater progress by prioritizing calm running and greater volume. At a time when most people are short on time for one reason or another, many choose time-efficient training solutions. Preferably short intervals. Don't get me wrong, there is no doubt that interval training is an effective form of exercise to increase fitness. The heart muscle is strengthened and the heart's ability to pump out more blood increases. The greater the intensity of the dragons, the greater the effect on the heart. But does it give the best effect for you who are going to run quickly over long distances from 5K up to the marathon?
According to the media, yes! The media is overflowing with good training advice, and interval training is most often the focus. Preferably short intervals. The harder the better, preferably uphill or on stairs. Time-efficient yes, but if you aim to run faster over longer distances, short intervals will have their clear limitations. Yes, short intervals give you better speed, but it is the average speed over a given distance that is decisive. It doesn't help to have a fantastic final sprint in 10 km if the others are at the finish line.
The average speed, the ability to maintain a good speed over time is mostly influenced by muscular endurance, running economy and your lactic acid threshold (anaerobic threshold). According to Olympiatoppen, a runner who improves by 60 seconds in 10 km will achieve a 52-55 second improvement from aerobic training, while only 5-8 seconds of improvement comes from anaerobic training. If you run quietly and for a long distance, you train your aerobic capacity, if you run short intervals with high intensity, it is the anaerobic energy system that kicks in, and it is unfortunately not very trainable. Anaerobic training involves the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles and gives a significantly longer recovery time. In addition, the risk of being injured will be far greater. Speed and high intensity are very often the cause of stress injuries in running.
How fast you can get with just leisurely running in what the Olympic Summit defines as intensity zone 1 (60-72% of maximum heart rate) and 2 (72-82% of maximum heart rate) depends on how much you run today and how much you have trained over a longer period. If you run 3-4 times a week and 40-50 km, you will make great progress by gradually increasing the volume and keeping the speed in intensity zone 1 and low zone 2.
To avoid stagnation, the body must gradually be affected by new stimuli. For most exercisers and super exercisers, gradually increasing the distance will provide good enough stimuli for progress. For active runners who run 120 km a week or more, the body needs to be challenged with intervals and distance sessions.
As a 47-year-old, the undersigned ran a marathon in 2.38.33 with only quiet training. After many years of delivering and picking up children at school and after-school care, I had the opportunity to run to and from work. It was important to gradually increase the number of km per week to avoid injuries, as well as to allow the body to recover and get used to the greater volume. It eventually made great progress, and 2.38 held the podium in the age group 45-49 in the Frankfurt Marathon.
Why more runners don't train according to the principle "train slowly, run faster" has been a mystery to me for many years. It is far more comfortable, it reduces the risk of injury and the vast majority of Norway's very best long-distance athletes train 80 - 90% of their training in intensity zones 1 and 2.