Beginner and intermediate runners often plagued by the performance plateau. Once a certain level of fitness is reached, improving race times becomes a challenge—especially if you aren't training the right way. Without a variety of workouts, improvement is almost impossible to attain.
Running faster during workouts is essential to achieving a new personal best. In short: To get fast you have to run fast.
The problem for those who do run "fast" is that they're typically not running fast enough.
Running at a pace that's only slightly faster than normal won't help you improve your performance. Even if you're training for a short race like a 5K or 10K, all of your workouts end up being in the aerobic heart rate zone.
Aerobic simply means "with oxygen." The primary energy system is your aerobic metabolism. You use oxygen to fuel your working muscles. When the intensity is relatively low, you can continue at this effort for an extended period of time. These workouts make up the bulk of a good endurance training program.
Anaerobic is the opposite—it means "without oxygen." When anaerobic intensity levels are high, more lactate (more commonly known as lactic acid) is created. Lactate is what produces that burning sensation you might be familiar with late in a race.
To get faster, you'll need a mixture of both. Here's why.
Which Workouts Are Better?
Neither are "better" because they each have different purposes. If you're training for a shorter race like a 10K, your workouts should be evenly divided between aerobic (tempo runs) and anaerobic (5K-paced intervals) workouts.
Runners who are training for a long race like the marathon need less anaerobic work in their training program. A marathon is over 99 percent aerobic. The pace is much slower than a 5K, so you don't have to focus as much on anaerobic training. Classic aerobic workouts for marathon training are:
- Tempo workouts
- Progression runs
- Steady-state or marathon-pace efforts
The shorter your race, the more anaerobic it will be since you'll be running faster. So naturally, your workouts must be faster to meet the specific demands of your goal pace.