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The Long Run: High-Quality Runs

Training smarter is better than training harder.

Training smarter is better than training harder. 

When it comes to training, there is no easy way out. To be stronger runners, we need to run. To become fit and either reap the benefits of exercise or run faster, putting in time on the legs and feet is essential. Typically the more we run, the more benefits we receive. Run higher mileage, and running efficiency, along with muscle-fatigue resistance, will likely improve.

While high mileage sounds great in theory, what if we don’t or can’t put in the time? Although no real substitute exists for logging miles, here are my tips for getting some of the benefits of high-mileage training without running more.

Go Back To Back

As an ultramarathoner, back-to-back runs are one of my staple ways to improve muscle-fatigue resistance. Marathoners can run 12 miles one day, then 15 miles the day after; half-marathoners can run seven miles one day, then 9 miles the next. Another option is to run long the day after a high-intensity workout such as a tempo or interval session, a leg strength workout in the gym or an aerobic power session such as hill repeats.

Double Up

A double is running twice a day or performing two workouts in the same day. Doubles can include two recovery runs or a high-intensity run in the morning and a recovery run or a leg strength workout in the afternoon or evening. Another fun way to do doubles is to commute to and from work via running.

Note: It is very important to avoid running too often on tired legs. Even in peak training, do a maximum of one back to back and/or two doubles per week with a recovery day in between double days and the day after a back to back.

Super Rep It

Leg strength workouts can vastly improve fatigue resistance without running a step. Low resistance super-reps are the best type of strength workout for runners. Super-reps are completed with low resistance for two to five sets of 50 to 100 repetitions or more. Get off the machines and perform functional exercises, such as one leg mini squats, lunges, step-ups and step-downs, to get the most benefits. Work with a coach or trainer if you’re not familiar with the technique of functional exercises.

Use The Form

To improve running economy—a measure of how efficiently a person uses oxygen while running at a given pace—working on running form is key because a runner can minimize oxygen usage by moving more efficiently. The best way to improve your running form is to review video of you running with a coach or trainer. Improving running technique is not a quick fix and it’s important to work continually on it. The best benefit is that it doesn’t require extra time—it can be done while running.

Better Body Comp

Another way to improve running economy is to reach a better body composition by reducing excess body fat and increasing lean muscle mass through an improved diet. Body composition also improves by doing higher intensity workouts such as tempo and interval sessions, so mix up your training speeds.

If running more is not an option, it’s still possible to reap some of the benefits of high mileage training, and training smarter is better than training harder.


About The Author:

Based in Boulder, Colo., Scott Jurek is a seven-time winner of the Western States 100-mile trail run.