5 elite workout tips for the amateur runner

Training tips from elite runners can be very valuable for amateurs, after all, they have very specific training routines to perform well in the sport.

Learning from the best long distance runners seems like a good idea when it comes to running, endurance, recovery and food training to go the extra mile.

A Nordic study compared running training programs from different long distance professionals. And based on that, the head researcher gave some tips that any amateur runner can adapt to his training.

Whether you are an amateur or an elite runner, you need to pay attention to three variables when it comes to running training: how much you run, how strong your training is and how often you train. 

Running training tips to become a strong amateur

1. Constant adjustment in spreadsheets

Some running training strategies, such as speed and interval training, are essential to achieving better times. However, the body gets used to the effort and, in time, you can reach a “ceiling” or simply get tired of doing the same spreadsheet as always. It’s time to adjust the type of training you’ve been doing. It is important for the body to challenge itself with a new training standard.

2. Training volume

Run a lot, but at a slower pace, to be an endurance athlete. An elite long-distance runner runs, on average, 120 km to 260 km per week. Leif Inge Tjelta, a professor who led the research at the  University of Stavanger , compared the results of many studies that analyzed training methods they adopted. 70% to 90% percent of all elite runner’s training was focused on long, low-intensity runs.

“Most running training involves long distances at a comfortable pace, with no breaks. There are runs that last from 50 minutes to several hours, ”said the researcher.

This, in part, contrasts with previous results that demonstrated that well-trained athletes are those who ran at a much higher heart rate intensity. So, invest in shooting practice to go further in the races.



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3. Training zones

When elite runners set up their training plans, they have to decide the weekly volume and how many high-intensity exercises to include. The key here is to control the intensity of your workouts (which reflects how hard your heart has to work to pump blood to your muscles):

  • Zone 1: the first training zone, the easiest, is the one where we train for long periods of time and the heart rate is between 62% and 82% of the maximum heart rate.
  • Zone 2: called the anaerobic threshold zone, it is the highest speed you can maintain for about an hour. Here, your heart rate is between 82% and 92% of your maximum.
  • Zone 3: in it, the heart rate is between 92% and 97%. This would include more intensive intervals with fewer repetitions and slightly longer rest periods between them.

Tjelta found that elite runners have come a long way by including two to four workouts in zone two and one or two sessions in zone 3 each week. These three zones are all considered aerobic; this means that your heart is able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. A widely used training to work this threshold is to do repetitions of the total distance of the race at a race pace. This method works with the maximum VO2 and the lactate threshold.

For example: you will run 10km and want to train the race pace. Do three 3.3 km repetitions at the pace you want to run, with 5 to 7 minutes of recovery between each one. Thus, the mental effort is similar to what happens during a 10km race.

It may seem simple in the first stretch, but in the third your brain and your body need to be fully involved to finish. If the athlete is able to perform the three repetitions at the target pace (race pace), he will feel confident to maintain that pace on race day.

  • Zone 4: this is where things get more serious. At this point, the runner is working so hard that the heart can no longer pump enough oxygenated blood. The body then relies on an anaerobic system to provide enough energy to feed the muscles that are working hard. In this state, the organism cannot maintain the effort for a long time; the legs are heavy and the muscles are more tense.

The running training indicated is called progression running, which starts comfortably and gets faster. This type of work makes the athlete maintain speed and pace when he is tired.

Want to try the challenge? After 10 to 20 minutes of warm up, run for 20 to 60 minutes, starting at 20 to 30 seconds slower than the tempo-run pace (training based on the athlete’s target race pace) and increasing by 5 seconds per kilometer, at intervals of five to 15 minutes.

  • Zone 5: reserved for short sprints and agility training.

Add 5 to 8 shots at the end of training. Run from 60 to 100 meters, gradually accelerating to about 85% of your top speed. So, slow down in the final third. Walk for 90 seconds to recover. Repeat once more. Do this once or twice a week, within the training spreadsheet.

4. Vary the terrain: run on grass or sand

Training on grass or sand strengthens the cardiovascular system, tendons and ligaments, builds more stable muscles and cushions the joints. That is why elite runners practice reps (zones four and five) on a grass track. They cannot run as fast as on the track or on the street, so they have to maintain maximum control over stride, pace, etc.

5. Distance, the big question

The head researcher emphasized at the conclusion of the research that running should evolve gradually and that elite athletes do have a lot to teach, but their running training routines are very specific – hence the importance of a trainer, to know what you need to evolve over long distances.

“You can’t start with a marathon. You need to work your body little by little, km by km, so that it can take long distances and be able to cope with so much effort ”, recommends Leif Inge Tjelta.

The idea is to get out of the running training pattern to gain breath and speed, and to vary the routine to evolve over long distances. Just find a workout that you identify with and adjust it from time to time so that it always works.


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