Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

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Sandilandsrunner
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Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by Sandilandsrunner » Sun Dec 18, 2016 12:13 pm

When it comes to Specific Endurance training for any race (5k-Marathon) one method that interests me is alternation workouts.

example for 5k the following progression :

4mi of alternating 200m at 5k pace w/ 1400m at steady pace.
4mi of alternating 400 at 5k pace w/ 1200m at steady pace
4mi of alternating 600 at 5k pace w/ 1000m at steady pace
4mi of alternating 800 at 5k pace w/ 800m at steady pace

i was wondering if anyone had tried these and what they thought? Or had enjoyed using these in conjunction with more traditional repeats: eg extending the length of reps at goal race pace.

:)

(NOTE: these workouts are not my own - i took them from a well known coach)

dilluh
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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by dilluh » Mon Dec 19, 2016 12:31 pm

My personal experience is that, while the 5k feels significantly different (in terms of effort) from the 10k, my best 5k times came after maximizing my 10k training, running a good 10k race, and then running the 5k frequently after that. The first 5k was ok, the second was better and then the third was far better. 5k racing lends itself to familiarity with the effort and there's no better way to understand how hard a 5k effort is than to race it.

There was a thread here about 6 months ago where a runner was doing under-distance time trials 3-4 days out from their races and having good success with that. I think this is not too dissimilar of philosophy: it's good to feel how hard that effort is in a race-like situation, get the legs turning over, etc. Any way you cut it, I think a 5k-specific workout or 5k race needs to be done on at least a bi-weekly basis to really maximize the effort for that distance.

I've played around with VO2max or long-ish 5k-paced reps on the track as a way to train more specifically for the 5k. They work, sort of, but they always leave my legs feeling pretty trashed and if done for significant lengths of time, lead to inconsistent racing. Something that has worked better for me is to hybridize my CV workout on the two weeks preceding a 5k race. Say the workout is 5 x 1000 CV w/ 200m jog recovery. I'd run the first 3 at CV pace and then the last two at 5k pace (not VO2max). This leaves my legs feeling fine and I think is a good way to get some 5k specificity into what is a pretty standard stamina workout. Again, just thoughts. I will say that being in top-notch 10k shape lends itself well to racing all sorts of distances. Or at the very least, it sets the table for you to succeed at all sorts of distances.

As for your stated workout, it depends on what "steady pace" means. The 5k reps are really quite short, so much so that this almost looks like a structured 5k fartlek. 5k fartleks are great early season training but wouldn't be a main session I'd use to focus on racing the 5k.

Sandilandsrunner
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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by Sandilandsrunner » Tue Dec 20, 2016 8:02 am

Great reply!

Yes i can 100% see why working CV reps at a race pace above (10k) then at race pace (5k) and then some 200s faster (3k) really does tick all the boxes.

Its so interesting to hear that you find being in good 10k shape to be the most effective.

Im trying to plan some goals for next year whilst carefully returning from injury and i cant decide whether to target a 10k or 5k. So its fascinating that you think having the 10k strength helps 5k&10k and i imagine HM too.

I used some of the alternations in my build up for a 10k (eg 800 @goal 10k pace/ 800 steady ) this past summer and really enjoyed them. They were challenging (aerobically and mentally) in a different way to 10k reps with rest but not harder so that i was physically more sore etc .
The recovery being at a steady pace (say 50-60s) slower then 10k pace felt like a good stimulus.

i imagine like all race pace workouts its good to have different stimuli (straight reps @ race pace, alternations, combo w/o's like you described).

i know the likes of Canova, Hudson etc use alternations a lot and so i was curious to see how much benefit people had felt when they tried them.

You're right though about its like a fartlek...

I heard a very wise younger coach say recently in a podcast "the thing is: all workouts are fartleks really"
thought it was a really nice observation.

dilluh
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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by dilluh » Tue Dec 20, 2016 1:39 pm

IMO, good 10k training will put you in phenomenal shape for the HM. It's only a few tweaks away from being ideal HM training and those tweaks aren't anything all that drastic, either.

Tinman has many posts regarding "wave" workouts which I think are partly what you are describing. They are great! I used them to great effect during HM training years ago. All training that is multi-paced, within a given restraint of total volume of workout (based on both current fitness and average weekly mileage), and working at speeds that are 75-90% of VO2max are going to increase stamina. It's a matter of timing, where you are currently in your fitness, when key races occur and keeping consistency at the forefront of you planning of training. These things come from experience, knowing yourself and how you respond to certain training stimulus, or by having a great coach.

The real nuggets of wisdom in training come from finding the workouts that accelerate the development of stamina while maintaining consistency of overall training. For some people it may be CV workouts, others it may be doing two strong tempo runs per week, for others it may be very long reps of LT pace that are most effective at developing stamina. Keeping or working to improve stamina should be the primary focus of training. Of course, small amounts of specificity are needed to achieve the best results but, overall, maintenance of good stamina is really important. Getting too far away from stamina-focused, multi-paced training often leads to inconsistency in both training and racing. Tinman has stated many times that fast race-pace reps maximize their usefulness after only 4-6 weeks - typically with declines in performance and training thereafter. Stamina-based training can be used year-round.

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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by Josh1 » Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:18 pm

Dilluh,

I haven't posted in quite a while - I agree with everything you've written regarding getting oneself into 10k shape, followed by tailored event-specific training which produces tremendous distance running results.

One nugget I liked in your post was the reference to stamina as it relates to certain types of runners (CV for some runners, TInman Tempo for others, long LT reps for some others).

Do you have any insight into determining which is most effective for any given runner? I understand CV is going to work best for the speedy folks, but does trial and error prove best for determining the nuances? Is the next best thing a muscle biopsy?

Tinman has eluded to this in the past but I find the subject fascinating!

Thanks!

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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by dilluh » Wed Dec 21, 2016 1:12 pm

Josh1 wrote: Do you have any insight into determining which is most effective for any given runner? I understand CV is going to work best for the speedy folks, but does trial and error prove best for determining the nuances? Is the next best thing a muscle biopsy?

Tinman has eluded to this in the past but I find the subject fascinating!

Thanks!
I don't know about muscle biopsy - perhaps Tinman could speak more to that. I know that his recent video coaching series (which I have not seen) talks about different categories of runners. If I remember correctly from this forum he has stated that there are about 5 basic categories of runners with some subtleties. If I were to take a stab at the 5 categories they would be: the sprinter, the true miler, the VO2max runner, the stamina runner, and the endurance monster. My guess is that Tinman is experienced enough to place a runner into one of those categories with some questions about racing and training history along with a look at their logbooks. Within each category there is fine tuning that is unique to each runner. This is where a good coach can help identify the nuances: types of workouts that are most efficient in stamina development, how long one can withstand harder race-pace training before plateauing, primer workouts for specific race distances, total training load, etc.

For me, Tinman identified LT as a stamina pace that: (1) I really felt energized by and felt smooth at that pace and (2) got me into decent shape quite quickly. I use long LT reps as workouts for early/mid period training before switching over to CV (which I think is incredibly effective once I'm decently fit) as I approach key races. Based on experience, I've also altogether stopped running easy tempo workouts as I find medium tempo (Tinman tempo) to be more effective, they take less time and thus I take on less structural damage. I used to alternate easy/medium tempos on a weekly or bi-weekly basis but I didn't see the point for someone who focuses on races that are typically 10 miles or less.

As I said, some people might just need two tempo runs per week and then frequent racing or time trialing, for others it might be increasing volumes of CV workouts and for some small subsets, it might just be quite a bit of volume with lots of strides and hill sprints. I would imagine that each of the 5 categories of runners probably gravitates toward similar types of these highly effective workouts.

I think this might be a place to start if one wanted to try this by trial and error. What kind of workouts really ramp you into good shape relatively quickly without breaking you down in the process? That can be a beginning point and you work forward from there knowing that you'll have to do some subtle changes to maximize your ability for a given race distance but always keeping that underflow of stamina and consistency going throughout. The key, I think, is that the changes in training as a season progresses should not be major and/or abrupt changes.

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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by Josh1 » Wed Dec 21, 2016 3:17 pm

Dilluh -

That was super helpful. I agree that one should complete training that leaves you feeling invigorated and fit. Otherwise, not only is it mentally difficult (you're not having fun) but it is also likely not helping improve fitness. All good points.

The times that Tom has written my training plan, when racing, there has not been a long run included. I also very rarely run races over 10 miles, mostly 5ks - 10ks. I love a long, easy run and I am good at them, but I think that the "Big Two" Tom prescribes can alleviate the need for a long, slow run if training for shorter race distances. If you run a CV or Tinman Tempo workout and cover 10 miles, as a 17:30 5k'er, no real need for a long run.

In the end, no matter the specificity of "typical training", you need to do what is right for you despite conventional wisdom. If you are an endurance hog training for the 800m and distance running is what gets you in the best shape, you don't need to be training in the same manner as a 400m/800m specialist - even if your 800m race times are the same. My $0.02.

Thanks for the reply!

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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by jbarts » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:32 pm

Sandilandsrunner wrote:When it comes to Specific Endurance training for any race (5k-Marathon) one method that interests me is alternation workouts.

example for 5k the following progression :

4mi of alternating 200m at 5k pace w/ 1400m at steady pace.
4mi of alternating 400 at 5k pace w/ 1200m at steady pace
4mi of alternating 600 at 5k pace w/ 1000m at steady pace
4mi of alternating 800 at 5k pace w/ 800m at steady pace

i was wondering if anyone had tried these and what they thought? Or had enjoyed using these in conjunction with more traditional repeats: eg extending the length of reps at goal race pace.

:)

(NOTE: these workouts are not my own - i took them from a well known coach)
I've used a similar but modified progression of those workouts for high school cross country runners (the one you listed are from Steve Magness) before and I think the biggest benefit for them was the mental benefit of being confident to push at 5k pace without fully recovering due to being at a steady pace during the "off" sections. I think if done correctly it's a type of workout that fatigues you without wiping you out.

Sandilandsrunner
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Re: Alternation Workouts for Specific Endurance - Opinions

Post by Sandilandsrunner » Fri Dec 23, 2016 2:08 pm

Thank you for your reply and information. Yes they are from SM - i find his work very insightful and interesting.

I had a similar experience in using some alternations in the middle of a Long Run this summer (alternating 10k and steady) ... that the mental side was the most challenging and rewarding.

It is asserted that more slow twitch runners find these a little easier than fast twitch runners. I have a suspicion i might fall more on the FT side and so found these tougher than normal repeats and thus a good stimulation.

Furthermore, I do feel they are of some use in a sort of mental-callusing side for the experience of racing as one really encounters the feeling of surging off a steady pace, not from standstill.

:)

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