Blue Collar Legend—Dual Citizen Runner Steve Chu/ Part 3 Basic Training Cycle Components

Article, Pictures/ Steve Chu
Interview, Translate/ Bigfish

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My goal in writing this article is to introduce some basic training schedules and structures that I have tried or studied in the last few years. I don’t think it’s a good idea to blindly follow any of the schedules shown here, especially the two sample schedules that I followed prior to my 2:37 and 2:21 marathons. Rather, I hope the readers can reflect on the differences between the different types of schedule and see components of each type of schedule that can be incorporated into their own training. In later sections I will have a summary on the benefits of each type of schedule and how to slowly adapt some of them into your own training to experiment with.

Training Paces or “Zones” – 

  1. The 5 “training zones” by Jack Daniels

    Easy, Marathon Pace, Lactate Threshold, VO2max, Speed – This is what I loosely adapted from the one book that has the most influence on my own personal training philosophy – “Jack Daniels Running Formula”. He generally approaches 5K-Marathon training with 5 “training zones”

    Easy running (E)
    - Jack Daniels’ easy running paces are actually sometimes still too fast for me. I think anything that feels like running that’s not super strenuous counts as “easy”. I tend to keep my easy runs at 60-70% of my maximum heart rate effort. A general rule of thumb is that I can carry on a conversation with a running partner at this effort.

    Marathon Pace (MP/M)
    – This is the next level of intensity. For most people this will be about 80-85% of maximum heart rate.

    Lactate Threshold (LT/T)
    – This is most commonly defined as “the pace at which a runner can race for 1 hour”. For most experienced male runners and sub-elite females, this will be somewhere between your 15K and Half-Marathon race pace. This corresponds to about 85-90% of your maximum heart rate.VO2max (I) - This is loosely defined as a pace you can hold for about a 8-14 minute race. (or 3K-5K race pace). This corresponds to about 98-100% of your maximum heart rate.

    Speed (F) –
    800 to 1-mile race pace. These are mostly reserved for people training for 800m / 1500m races, or occasional workouts for 3000/5000 specialists to work on their turnover. 

  2. Additional Training Paces/Zones

    While the 5 training “zones” above seem to correspond to the most to scientific studies done by Jack Daniels and other exercise physiologists, there are some additional “zones” and 
    paces that are becoming more popular as well. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather just a few additional types of training paces I have seen, studied, and experimented with incorporating into my own training:

    1. “Strength” (S)

      This is a term used by the Hanson’s Training Group that produced some of United States top marathoners in the last 10 years, including 2008 Olympian Brian Sell (2:10) and 2012 Olympian Desiree Davila (2:22). This pace is defined as “10 seconds / mile faster than marathon pace”. While it is not 100% clear why this training zone was introduced, many people have speculated that this is because the Hanson’s traditionally run a high-mileage program (120-165 mpw, or even higher) that this workout zone is sufficient for achieving the benefits of a lactate threshold workout in other traditional / lower mileage programs.

    2. 80-90% of MP (xx% MP)

      This is generally the recommended pace for most long runs from most marathon training guides I have read (Hansons, Canova). It is the recommended pace “zone” which balances providing a training stimulus while without overtraining, so another quality session can be performed 2-3 days later.

    3. 90-95% of MP (xx% MP)

      This is something I saw when I first observed Canova’s training schedules for his athletes. The idea for this zone seems to be similar to the Hanson’s program’s “strength” workouts, but for marathon paced work. Canova’s runners run high mileage as well, and often times at altitude and on rough terrains, so perhaps the additional “buffet’ introduced by the slower paces is to adjust for those things. However, some runners have also speculated that this is to allow for the athletes to get a workout session of a longer duration than traditional marathon paced work by backing off the intensity of the workout a little bit.

  3. Training Phases – Generally a runner goes through these phases based on most training cycles I have seen. My brief description of each phase is below. I will also briefly talk about the main purpose of each phase and how the length of these phases will vary based on each runner’s experience and other factors such as recent races and injuries.
    1. The Base Phase

      This is the phase that almost every runner begins with. In most programs it consists almost entirely of easy runs, with some light workouts or long runs. The goal in this phase is to introduce the runner to the routine of running regularly and buildup mileage gradually. For a beginning runner, this cycle should take at least 2 months, and possibly the entirety of a training cycle for a beginner looking to just complete the half-marathon or marathon distance for the first time. For a more experienced runner, this phase may just be a 2-4 weeks phase for the runner to build mileage back up as well as getting used to the routine of training again. A runner who is coming back from injury and needs to build his mileage back up more slowly may also spend more time in this phase, whereas someone who has recently completed a successful training cycle and is in good shape with no injuries may only spend 2-3 weeks in this phase.

    2. Speed/Preparation Phase

      This phase usually introduces some faster running and higher quality work than the base phase. For most
      programs I have studied (Hanson’s, Jack Daniels, Pfitzinger, Canova) this phase usually includes interval training that incorporates pace faster than the runner’s goal race pace for his peak race, short intervals, and long recoveries. For example, a runner whose goal race at the end of his training cycle is a half-marathon or marathon will usually spend some time running 400, 800, mile intervals at 5K, 10K, or half marathon pace. Each program places a slightly different emphasis on the type and amount of quality running that is done during this phase. In the next section we will see some examples of the type of workouts that may be incorporated in some training programs, but the important part is experimenting with yourself to see what you respond best to, as each individual is different.

    3. Goal Pace Phase

      This is the most difficult session of the training
      cycle, because this is the phase with the highest volume of quality training. The pace for key workouts shift from slightly faster speeds to focusing more on speeds closer to goal race pace.  While workouts in general get slower than in the previous phase, the volume of quality running in workouts increases gradually throughout the phase.  In a lot of training programs, the “speed/preparation phase” and “goal pace phase” is often combined together into a general “training/workout” period. In these kind of training schedules the training phase often still start off with more emphasis on shorter/faster workouts and gradually shift to a stronger emphasis on workouts at goal race pace.

    4. Competition/Taper Phase

      For shorter races (such as 5K/10K) this phase will consist of light maintenance workouts and races. For longer races such as the half-marathon and marathon, this may include 1-2 tune-up races but the emphasis will be on tapering for the goal race as most runners can only run one race at 100% effort at the marathon distance before requiring a few weeks to recover. 

    5. Rest Phase

      his is the most overlooked phase. However, it is imperative that a runner take some time off after a training cycle to rest and recover a little bit. This is important physically and mentally, especially if the runner finished his goal race or the training cycle with an injury. It also helps to relax a little bit and not worry about having to stick to a strict diet or routine for a few weeks, as the mental break should help the runner be ready for the upcoming training cycle.