Progressive Training

Any training programme must be progressive to be effective, otherwise an athlete will plateau, as he/she becomes accustomed to the work load. The progression has to be logical and methodical, otherwise, this could lead to injury.

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Running intervals

To begin with, you need to know your current fitness, say a time for 5km or 10km and the coach needs to know the distance you are training for.  Only then may a programme be built around this information, without a current time, it is impossible to build a programme.

Let us assume we have a runner who has a current time of 40mins for a 10km flat road race. When I build a programme, I build it around a Multi Tier paced programme of training, as the majority of runners today, follow a variation of the Multi Tier system. The system involves taking athletes through varied paces , over their training cycle. So over a period of say 10 to 14 days, a runner would train at a variety of paces, with rest days between. At the heart of this system of training is

  • Two sessions at shorter distance but faster than race pace
  • One session at race pace
  • Two sessions at longer distance but slower than race pace.

All we need to start is a current time from the athlete and the distance at which the athlete is competing, from this we may calculate the paces needed for the various session.

Intervals training for endurance athletes

The pace for intervals, depends upon a number of factors, including, time of year and race calendar. To change the pace of the training and intervals the athlete needs to have a time trial or race, say every 6 weeks. When we see an improvement, we can change the pace of the training accordingly. However it is not just the pace of the training but also the number of intervals and the rest periods, both of which are being looked at, with the athlete, on an ongoing basis.  Intervals are a little more complicated than a long run, which of course the athlete still needs.

Ok lets look at the programme below and see if we can make this progressive but keep it simple.

Day 123456
60min5km Paced Intervals90min3km Paced IntervalsRESTStart Again

5km Paced, intervals - 1000m with 2.5min rest. 3km Paced intervals 8 x 800m with 2min rest.

The pace of the long runs will be specific to the individual athlete, as are the intervals but as we can see these are at the athletes current 5km & 3km pace. Lets assume the long runs are done at 80% and look at changing the pace of the intervals as the athlete progresses over 6 weeks.

The athlete has a current time of 24min for 5km and so from this we can set the 5km and 3km paced intervals using a running calculator. 5km pace is 4.48/km and the 3km pace is 4.33/km or in this case, 3.38 for every 800m interval. We can only change the set times when the athletes performance changes and only know this with a time trial or race. An athlete needs to race or time trial every 6 weeks, form their new time for 5km, lets say it is now 23min50secs. The 5km and 3km times would be reduced accordingly, to  4.45 and 4.36, respectively.  Here we now have a progressive training schedule to work with.


Periodisation emphasises different aspects of training, in successive cycles over a period of weeks, as an athlete nears a specific goal

All athletes tend to adopt a periodised approach to their training, which was first introduced by Arthur Lydiard. Put simply, Lydiard said athletes need a training base of long runs, then moves onto a strength work for 4 to 6 weeks, ( hill running ), then moves to race paced sessions and Anaerobic sessions nearer the time of the race.

The Lydiard training system however has been challenged somewhat.  Now although we have periodisation, generally speaking, all aspects of training is evident within a programme all year and periodisation is just emphasising a specific element, such as speed or strength. All aspects of a training programme may be emphasised with a multi tier system of training, such as was introduced by Frank Horwill.   One of the best coaches the UK has ever seen, ( Founder of the, British Milers Club. BMC ) unfortunately Frank is not with us now but his running programmes can be found on the Serpentine running club or indeed on many other running web sites

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