This week, our special guest bloggers, Lilah Al-Masri, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and Simon Bartlett, PhD, CSCS, ATC, authors of 100 Questions and Answers about Sports Nutrition & Exercise, offer expert tips on preparing for a 10-mile race.
Lisa, a 30 year-old recreational athlete, regularly runs 4 miles four times per week. She runs 4 miles in 32 minutes, which is an 8-minute per mile pace. Lisa’s goal is to run a 7.5 minute per mile pace for an upcoming 10-mile race. The race is 12 weeks away and to successfully prepare, Lisa will need to develop a sound, scientifically-based training plan that incorporates the following training principals:
Exercise Specificity – it is necessary to train for the specific requirements of the sport. Specific training ensures that positive adaptations are made for performance improvement such as the recruitment of specific muscles, body mechanics, and energy systems. Lisa would derive no training benefit by substituting her running for biking, swimming, or elliptical training. Only running improves running capacity.
Exercise Frequency – refers to the number of training sessions per week. Lisa is currently training four times per week for a total distance of 16 miles. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a minimum of three times per week to a maximum of sjx times per week is necessary to increase aerobic capacity. During the next 12 weeks, Lisa will be training six times per week for longer distances and varying intensities to achieve her goal.
Exercise Intensity – is the most important variable for increasing aerobic capacity. Intensity refers to how hard the athlete trains. Done correctly, higher intensity training can increase cardiovascular and respiratory function and improve oxygen delivery to the working muscles. Lisa’s program design will incorporate varying training intensities throughout the weeks, maximizing her aerobic capacity and helping prevent the pitfalls of overtraining and injury. In Lisa’s program, intensity will be based upon training below, at and above her current 8-minute per mile pace.
Exercise Duration – denotes the length of time of each training session. In Lisa’s case, her training durations will vary between 25 to 60 minutes or more, which will help her prepare for the longer distance and faster race pace. Balancing training duration with intensity is critical, and must be carefully implemented to optimize recovery and help avoid overtraining. In the athletic community, it is well understood that there is an inverse relationship between duration and intensity. As intensity increases, duration must decrease and vice versa. Lisa’s program will incorporate varying levels of intensity and duration ensuring her success on the day of her race.
Exercise progression – is the gradual increase in duration and intensity of training over the weeks. Lisa’s training program will incorporate specific overload, allowing her body to positively adapt to the increasing training stimulus. A typical progression used in preparing runners such as Lisa, is understood to be 2-3 % per week.
Exercise Recovery – recovery can be active or passive. Active recovery requires an athlete to participate in activities other than their chosen sport especially during the off-season. For example, a runner may choose swimming, leisurely biking or playing tennis to aid their recovery. On the other hand, passive recovery allows the athlete to cease all activities and completely relax. In either case, recovery is essential to helping restore muscle glycogen and promoting muscle repair. Lisa’s program has active and passive recovery, which will specifically improve her running performance.
The following weekly training schedule is an example of one week (approximately week 10-prior to taper) of a typical 10-mile running program. Note that this representation is a general overview and is not specific enough to meet the requirements of all athletes. Athletes wanting to compete or train would be advised to have a specific, individualized program designed to meet their needs by a professionally qualified exercise physiologist, coach or trainer. Look for qualifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
More information can be found in 100 Questions and Answers About Sports Nutrition and Exercise by Lilah Al-Masri, MS, RD, CSSD, LD and Simon Bartlett, PhD, CSCS, ATC.
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