Imagine your running body having a gas tank like that of your car. You fill up and go till it runs out. How far did you get? Can you go further with the same tank? Yes you can by increasing your aerobic capacity. There have been many studies about the affect of aerobic capacity and our running bodies. Reference
Most of the running we do as runners is in the Aerobic state. Meaning that our muscles get all the energy they need through Oxygen absorption. But first let’s take a look at how our running body generates the energy to run. Described in the simplest way: When we breathe air, Oxygen gets into our lungs, from there it catches a ride on the red cells in our blood and travels to the heart. The heart will then send the oxygenated blood to our working muscles. Once there, Oxygen will burn Glucose into energy (called ATP) for the muscles. Then as we exhale we get rid of the by-products that are CO2 and water vapor. The faster we run the higher the demand for Oxygen from the muscles and the more blood the heart will have to send. Thus the faster breathing with faster running.
Improving Running Economy
The more Oxygen our body can absorb the higher energy return for the muscles. Therefore our ability to absorb higher amounts of Oxygen (VO2Max) out of the blood makes us faster. Very well trained runners will have the highest absorption of Oxygen. Although some people have the genetic gift of high VO2Max there’s hope for the rest of us too. We can improve our VO2Max by running at faster paces, also called Speed training workouts about once per week. That is not running at an all-out effort. Instead is a little faster than Cruise Intervals pace, or when you feel your breathing getting much faster while your pace is increasing, a little faster than our 5K pace. Fast but not uncomfortable.
Speed workouts are very beneficial when done right. This is the Fast Stuff in our training and should be done once a week for most of us. These workouts not only increase our VO2Max but help us learn to stay focused and become more familiar with some of the suffering while racing.
Here is a sample of Speed Workouts:
8-10 times (1:00 minute Fast with 1:00 minute easy jog).
4-6 times (3:00 minute Fast with 2:00 minute easy jog).
3-5 times (5:00 minute Fast with 3:00 minute easy jog).
As with every workout make sure you start with an easy run for 10-20 minutes to warm up. During warm up the body gets ready by activating our neuromuscular system and setting up the delivery system of Oxygen and nutrients to our muscles so we are ready by the time the workout or race begin. Always end your speed workout with a Cool Down of 10 – 20 min easy run. This will flush any Lactic Acid build up in your legs and get you ready for the next workout. Speed workouts can be taxing to our bodies. Plan a day off or an easy run before and a day of rest the day after.