Not every runner is a marathoner.

The great thing about running is that it’s so universal, and of course not everybody who runs competes in races. Here is a question from Christopher, who runs with a different purpose.

CHRISTOPHER’S QUESTION

I run often, but only as a means to train for soccer and basketball, which I play competitively. I enjoy running and when I started incorporating it into my training, I made some great cardiovascular improvements. However, now when I run I feel as though I am not improving as much as I used to. My runs are getting easier and the benefits are few. Unfortunately, the time I spend running is limited. How can I get back the benefits that I experienced before without having to go on longer runs?

MICHAEL ANDREW’S ANSWER

The running you’re doing now has likely given you a strong aerobic baseline, and has probably provided a good foundation of support when playing soccer and basketball. However, to maximize the benefit of your training it’s time you start adding intervals to your workouts. There are two types of interval workouts I would recommend for you.

The first would be speed intervals that you would add to your running. For example, you may want to try adding 1 minute of high speed running intervals, followed by 4 or 5 minutes of recovery at a slower pace. Repeating such sequences for 30 or 40 minutes will have a greater impact on your cardiovascular system than running at a steady pace for 1 hour.

The second type of interval workout I usually suggest for athletes with similar goal to you is known as high intensity interval training (HIIT). In your case, you need sports-specific drills that develop your skills at – or even beyond – game speed.

For example, I like to get basketball players out on a football field and have them do sprints, change-of-direction and jumping drills similar to what they would do on court. Without a ball in their hands, they can push themselves more than they normally can on a court, thus increasing their speed, quickness, agility, vertical leap and more. Similarly, soccer drills with an imaginary ball can improve overall foot speed that can then be applied at game time. The key is to do these drills in close succession with minimal rest in between.

The combination of these two forms of interval training will develop your cardiovascular strength as well as your speed, agility, vertical leap, etc. But often, the biggest difference I hear from clients is that once they are used to going at a high intensity for long periods in training, fatigue becomes less of an issue in games. At higher levels of competition, where athletic ability is relatively similar across the board, those who train this way are better able to focus their minds and bodies on executing the skills of their particular sport, giving them a greater competitive edge.

Physiologically, the benefits you can expect with this type of interval training include the building of new capillaries, resulting in more efficient circulation. Your ability to take in and transport oxygen to your working muscles will also improve. Your muscles themselves will begin to develop a higher tolerance to the build-up of lactate, and your heart as a muscle would be strengthened.

For athletes who are already well-trained, increasing training volume will often produce few, if any, additional performance improvements. However, interval training is the key to further developing an athlete’s ability and maximizing the body’s physical potential.

Michael Andrew

Triathlete & Personal Trainer

If you have a question for Michael, you can contact him at mkonlinetraining@gmail.com.

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