From the July 2012 issue of Runner’s World
Workouts for experienced, intermediate and beginner runners
By Sam Murphy
You probably already know that the greatest distance runners have a high VO2 max (the maximum oxygen you can get to your muscles). So what’s the best way to nudge yours closer to Geb and Co?
“There’s been little scientific research on optimal training to enhance VO2 max, and what works for one athlete may not work for another,” says Dr Adrian Midgley from the University of Hull’s department of sport, health and exercise science. But one factor that appears to influence optimal intensity is how fit you are in the first place.
“Those who are fit need to train at a high relative intensity to their VO2 max in order to enhance it,” says Midgley. One of the leading researchers in this area, Veronique Billat, a professor of physiology at the University of Evry Val d’Essonne, France, has shown success with the following approaches.
Best for… very fit, experienced runners
Three-minute intervals at between 3K and 5K race pace with two-minute jog recoveries between efforts. The study participants, who were super fit and experienced distance runners, performed five three-minute efforts once a week. In four weeks, their pace at VO2 max (known as vVO2 max or ‘velocity at VO2 max’) had increased by three per cent.
Best for… intermediate runners
Alternate 30-second bouts of 100 per cent effort with 30 seconds of easy jogging until you can no longer sustain the pace. When moderately fit runners performed this session twice weekly for a total 10 weeks, they raised their VO2 max by an average of 10 per cent.
Create your own…
Don’t repeat the same session over and over. “Mixing up training sessions is good because it stresses psychological and metabolic systems differently,” explains Midgley. Reknowned running coach Jack Daniels advises doing intervals of 30 seconds to five minutes at 98–100 per cent of maximum heart-rate, with slightly shorter recoveries.
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