Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Progression Runs

Found this article fm Running Time's May.. veri Interesting!
Work in Progress
Progression Runs: A Kenyan Secret Everyone Can Use....By Kevin Beck

* He stresses the importance of "intense relaxation" in getting the most out of the workouts: "[Progression runs] are very ‘Kenyan’ in nature," Dowling says. "You start slow and finish fast, but you never strain at any point during the run." *


* "Progression runs are effective for three primary reasons," says McMillan. "One, warming up your muscles by starting out slowly not only decreases your injury risk, but ‘primes’ the physiological pathways you’ll use in faster running. Two, and most importantly, progression runs allow you to increase the total volume of faster, stamina-type training you do across your training cycle. And three, this increase in the volume of stamina training comes at a very small price—recovery is relatively easy given the invested effort." *


* McMillan recommends three different ways in which to perform structured progression runs.

The first, which he calls "Thirds," involves doing the first third of a run easy, the next third at a steady or "typical" pace, and the final third at half marathon to marathon pace—roughly 80 to 90 percent of maximum heart rate. Increases in pace are not "step-wise" but gradual, and McMillan suggests starting with a progression run 45 minutes in duration and working upward from there. "It’s likely that on some of your runs, you already do a Thirds progression run without even trying," notes McMillan. "It’s just kind of how the body likes to run when you are fully recovered from previous workouts." Especially useful for marathoners, Thirds runs should not be treated as tempo runs and should not be attempted by runners still recovering from hard workouts done in the preceding days.


*The second type of progression run McMillan advocates is a "DUSA," named for the Fila Discovery USA program in which McMillan played an advisory role. A DUSA entails doing 75 to 90 percent of your total run at a steady but easy pace. Over the final 10 to 25 percent of the run, pick up the pace significantly; well-trained competitors should aim for half marathon to 10K race pace and finish up hard over the last quarter mile. Afterward, jog or walk for five minutes as a cool-down. "Compared to a Thirds run, a DUSA involves a slightly faster pace for a slightly shorter amount of time, providing a slightly different stimulus to the body," says McMillan. He recommends that experienced marathoners do 90-minute DUSAs with the last 15 to 25 minutes hard; the main idea is that regardless of the total distance covered, about one-sixth of this type of run should be done at 10K to half marathon race pace. *


The third type of progression run, aptly dubbed "Super-Fast Finish" by McMillan, was a staple of Paul Tergat when the Kenyan legend was preparing for his world-record 2:04:55 at the 2003 Berlin Marathon. "The name says it all," says McMillan. "You run a normal, steady run but run super fast in the last three to six minutes of the run. And when I say super fast, I mean super fast—pretty much like a 5K race to the finish." McMillan says that these runs are fast enough to develop speed and sprinting ability through muscle recruitment, coordination, mental focus, and lactic-acid-tolerance mechanisms, but short enough for runners to avoid fatigue-related effects on subsequent runs. "That said," he notes, "you must be accustomed to fast running before trying to run a Super-Fast Finish progression run; otherwise you’ll likely be sore from the speed."
McMillan emphasizes that the "recoverability factor" of progression runs is what makes them special. "My experience has been that the athletes who most often suffer from overtraining, undue fatigue, and poor racing are those who push too hard, too soon, and for too long in their runs, particularly their easy and recovery runs," says McMillan.
Browne agrees. "People who over-train do so because they add too much hard running in a typical easy day," he says. "Progression running does help you to avoid that by forcing you to start slowly. Getting some good hard running each day—but not too much—is one of the keys to avoiding overtraining and injuries."

it’s clear that competitive runners can benefit not merely from mixing in a few programmed progression runs along with the harder workouts they’re accustomed to, but from embracing and applying an everyday philosophy of starting slowly and focusing on relaxation, a valuable policy whether a given day’s training is a harder session or an easy recovery run. Be honest with your body, trust in the process, and soon enough, nothing will stand in the way of your personal progress.

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