4 Simple Truths About Running

And the different kinds of runs you can incorporate into your training

“Fitness has to be fun. If it is not play, there will be no fitness. Play, you see, is the process. Fitness is merely the product.” — George A. Sheehan

First, welcome to the new subscribers who’ve just joined us! Every Tuesday we devote to a training topic, written most weeks by Hollie Sick, an accomplished runner who has completed more than 50 half marathons and works in a running retail store.

For this week, I asked Hollie to write about each of the main types of running that any runner can incorporate into their training, how it works, and the benefits each brings for your goal race.

Ask away in the comments if you have any questions, or simply reply back to this email. If you have a request for a topic, please don’t hesitate to ask — we’ll plan future issues around the questions you’d like to have answered.

Your friend,

— Terrell

4 simple truths about running

By Hollie Sick

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One of the most essential parts of running is understanding your body and how it responds to the sport. Some people can run 100 miles per week and never get hurt. Others (like me), are injury prone and cannot withstand that mileage. It’s important to understand what your body needs to stay both physically and mentally healthy.

Here are a few simple truths about running:

There is no ‘right’ form

Many years ago, research showed perfect form was mid-foot striking. The conclusion showed that, “all runners must mid-foot strike to get better.” However, new research since then has shown that how you run is how you run.

Those who run further on their toes might be more susceptible to injuring their metatarsals whereas those who heel strike might be more likely to injure their knees and shins. If you are running healthy, there is no need to try and change your form. When you try and change your form too quickly, you set yourself up for an injury.

Minimalism is not for everyone

A decade ago, people were into the Born To Run trend, which led many of us to believe that everyone would benefit from a minimalist running shoe. (It’s important to note, a decade ago running shoes were much heavier and bulkier than they are today.) Now shoes are lighter all together, and many running brands have lowered the drop of their shoe.

That being said, barefoot running is not for everyone. For many, you are more likely to get injured when going into a “barefoot” shoe. Like most of the sport, it's best to do what works for you.

If you are thinking about running barefoot, try a few 100-meter strides in a grassy field at the end of the run. Instead of running barefoot all of the time, think of it as a drill to help improve. If you feel pain, then don’t do it.  

Most runs should be easy runs

When you first start running, you might believe you need to run faster and further all of the time, I know I did. Trying to break “training records” every day will only end in an injury or burn out.

Research shows, however, that 80 percent (or more) of running should be easy. That is what the elites do. What does easy mean? You can hold a full conversation and don’t feel stressed when running. You are just moving and logging the miles.  

Don’t neglect your upper body

As a distance runner, we get in the same thought process of focusing on the lower body, but your upper body is just as important. Your arms should mimic your legs, and they help to move you forward. If you don’t believe me, try running with your arms at your side. It’s much more challenging! If you want to improve, it’s important to strength both your core and arms.

One of the beauties of running is that it is as simple or complicated as you make it. It’s one of the simplest sports out there, and you don’t need a lot to get out the door.  As long as you are healthy, there is no right or wrong way to run.

The different kinds of runs

As a new runner, you'll likely improve by just running more. As you gain years of experience, it is going to take a variety of runs to keep you progressing.

You might invest in a coach or a training plan that gives workout terminology that is new to you. As you progress with running, you’ll learn there is much more to it, than just running. Not every run should be fast or the same length but over time you will learn new runs and how they benefit your goals.

‘Easy’ runs

The easy run is what you’ll do for most of your runs. It is conversational and is usually a short or medium length run. It’s not meant to challenge you, but get miles on your feet. While it might seem odd, easy runs are the bulk of your mileage. The easy run is what builds a strong base to keep you healthy for races and workouts.

Recovery runs

Recovery runs are slightly different than easy runs. They are usually the day after a hard race or workout. A recovery run is typically short and provides a means to shake lactic acid out of your legs. These runs are meant to be very easy where the pace is irrelevant.

In fact, for most of my recovery runs, I rarely wear a watch. There is no point! Professionals running under 6-minute miles for the marathon have said they run 9 to 10 minute miles for recovery pace. Never worry about the speed.

Fartlek workouts

A fartlek is the most basic of speed work. It’s fairly simple and unplanned. It’s the best way to start adding speed without a formal “speed day.”

Fartleks are incorporated at the beginning of a training cycle. It’s a great way to develop speed and get the body ready for harder workouts that come later in the training cycle. They are the least structured of any speed workout and can be as simple as sprint to the post and then jog back.

Long runs

Long runs vary for each athlete. Veteran athletes may include a workout in their long runs, where newer athletes may try a long slow distance run. Not every long run needs or should be fast. Either way, the long run will leave the body fatigued due to the length. These are what get the body ready for half or full marathons.

Progression runs

A progression run is one that starts at a comfortable pace and finishes at the 10K or faster speed. These are my favorite because they challenge you to work hard when your body is tired. Depending on your training plan, they might be incorporated into a long run or a separate run themselves.

Hill workouts

Legendary runner Frank Shorter once said, “hill workouts are speed work in disguise,” and it’s true. Hill workouts fatigue the body more than a flatter workout as well as build running-specific strength. Adding a hill workout day is the easiest way to introduce a harder effort day without a specific workout. 

Tempo runs

The tempo run is the bread and butter of any training plan. Typically a tempo run is run at the highest sustained effort for anywhere from 20 minutes to 60 minutes. 

Early in the season, you might start at 20 minutes and each week add 5 to 10 minutes, until suddenly you are at 60 minutes. Tempo runs increase your speed over time, like in the half or full marathon. Some plans include a long run with a tempo run inside.

Track workouts and intervals

Track workouts and intervals are shorter hard efforts followed by rest. The rest could be standing or a very slow jog in between. By resting, you allow your body to run faster than you are usually able to. Many times these workouts are done on a track where you can easily measure the distance.

The race

Racing isn’t necessary for any runner, but it builds a sense of community by gathering with several other runners and pushing yourself as hard as it can go.

Not every race has to be “all out” and running for fun can be equally rewarding for runners. Racing can be the ultimate test to see how your training is going. It can also be the conclusion of months of training.

A song to run to today

Walk Me Home” from the album Hurts2BHuman by Pink.

Listen to our full playlist on Spotify here.

Photos by Filip Mroz and Abigail Keenan on Unsplash.