Beginner's Guide to Running

Your first session will stimulate physiological adaptations that serve to better protect your muscles and connective tissues from damage in your next session. Known to exercise scientists as the "repeated bout effect," these adaptations occur very quickly. If you do your first steep hill sprints on a Monday, you will be ready to do another session by Thursday—and you will almost certainly experience less muscle soreness after this second session.

Thanks to the repeated bout effect, you can increase your steep hill sprint training fairly rapidly and thereby develop strength and stride power quickly. First, increase the number of eight-second sprints you perform by two per session per week. Once you're doing eight to 10 sprints, move to 10-second sprints and a steeper, eight-percent hill. After a few more weeks, advance to 12-second sprints on a 10-percent hill. Always allow yourself the opportunity to recovery fully between individual sprints within a session. In other words, rest long enough so that you are able to cover just as much distance in the next sprint as you did in the previous one. Simply walking back down the hill you just ran up should do the trick, but if you need more time, take it.

Most runners will achieve as much strength and power improvement as they can get by doing 10 to 12 hill sprints of 12 seconds each, twice a week. Once you have reached this level and have stopped gaining strength and power, you can cut back to one set of 10 to 12 hill sprints per week. This level of maximum power training will suffice to maintain your gains through the remainder of the training cycle.

More: Hill Running Made Easy

Taking the Long View

As the seasons and years go by, assuming you train sensibly, your training should evolve first by adding layer upon layer to this foundation of aerobic and neuromuscular fitness through increasing mileage and more challenging aerobic workouts, including longer long runs, and also through more challenging high-intensity neuromuscular training. As these types of training begin to reach a point of diminishing returns, gradually shift your focus toward specific-endurance training for your primary race event.

The longer you continue training for competitive performance in the sport of distance running, the more your overall training mix should move away from general training at the extremes and the more it should focus on specific endurance. The following table provides general parameters to guide this developmental process.

Continuous Running Experience

Major Training Priorities

1-4 Years

? Gradually build easy mileage

? Increase long run distance

? Hill sprints

? Hill intervals

? Short intervals (including fartlek)

? Minimal specific endurance training

5-7 Years

? Continue building mileage

? Faster long runs

? Threshold runs

? Tougher speed workouts

? Gradually increase specific-endurance training

8+ Years

? Maximize mileage

? Very hard long runs

? Challenging threshold runs

? Increasingly emphasize specific-endurance training

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