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RowPro : Rowing
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Principles of long distance running : Running
Padel versus Clips : Padels & Clips
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Strenght level calculator : Weightlifting
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Word Records Men : Athletic
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What is HRV - Heart Rate Variability - 2 : HR & HRV&SPO2
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VO2 Max Tables : General Health Info
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28-05-2018 : Indoor Rowing
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print articlePrinciples of long distance running


Long distance running – basic principles


Running, whether it is short or long distance running,  is the most natural way of moving the human body besides walking. Running is something most people (without disabilities) have tried out and tested. It is  independent of where you live, of your climate and of your economical situation and available facilities.

Our running competence comes from endurance and long distance running, say from 1,500m and up. We feel, however that the word endurance is not fully understood by many runners. How many times have you heard runners complain that they have too little speed? Very few, if any athletes that focuses on long distance running need much speed. What they need is more endurance.

The main activity within long distance running is to run, run and run again. All focus on speed, elasticity and strength is very often over rated. While this type of training can be done in a few minutes daily, we talk about 1-2 hours daily of the main activity: running. It is not the speed that fails when a runner is not able to make the last 100m sprint finish in a 1,500m. track and field race. It is his/her endurance that fails.

So the message is very clear to all middle distance runners: Forget about the high risk and painful anaorobic training. As you can see,  it has less importance than earlier believed. Go out in the woods and run more, mostly long runs, plus some intervals and fartleks.

Long distance running, which is longer distances than 1,500m, will be more and more dominated by aerobic energy. The only anaerobic training needed for long distance running will normally be what you get in the competitions. Our strong advise is to forget all tempo training; it very often causes more damage than gain.

You should be aware of the fact that very intense training and anaerobic tempo training can also easily “kill” some of your aerobic capacity. Why? Because of the environment this type of training creates in your working muscles; they become more acidic because of the lactic acid (or, more correctly stated, because of the H + ions in the muscles and later in the blood stream)

Aerobic capacity is normally measured in “VO2 max”, which is simply the maximum amount of oxygen you are able to supply to your body. As you may already understand, it is one of the major factors we develop when we do endurance training. However, in your daily training VO2 max is not easy to  refer to; it is more of a laboratory value or test value. An example of this is the fact that the test is done on a treadmill with control of your pulse, breathing gas and lactic acid tests in your finger.


You start at an easy speed, and then the speed is gradually increased until exhaustion. Oxygen consumption and pulse are continually controlled and measured, while lactic acid is measured 3-4 times. Oxygen consumption increases linearly with increase in speed. Up to the anaerobic threshold the aerobic processes are primarily at work, while above the threshold, the anaerobic processes are  also included with the aerobic ones.

When you reach  VO2 max load you will only be able to work a few seconds at this level before you have to stop. At this maximum load, the oxygen consumption will not increase even if the pace should be increased. (if the athlete were able to increase the pace)

VO2 max can be measured in absolute values: O2 consumption per minute. It can also be measured specifically: O2 consumption divided by the athlete’s body weight (milliliter oxygen per kg/per minute). But, be aware that the value divided by the body weight can be a bit misleading since the body does not consist of muscles only.

The anaerobic threshold is the maximum workload where you are not “borrowing” or using “oxygen” from anaerobic processes.

Practical speaking, this is the workload you are able to stay at for about 15-30 minutes. It is very useful to know what your pulse is at your anaerobic threshold, but be aware of the the fact that the knowledge of pulse rates is not so accurate. It is more of a pulse range with a threshold pulse (found in a test) of about +/-2 pulse beats.

Our advice is to stay away from high intensity interval or fartlek training. You have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose, because this type of training constitutes a very low percentage of the total work, and it can easily damage the dominant aerobic systems. The aerobic systems are steady state systems with low risk factors. It is almost always the unstable and unsteady anaerobic systems that make all the mess in your “engine room”.

A small reduction or improvement in your aerobic capacity will have greater impact on your performance because of its high weight factor. One minute of anaerobic energy uses the same amount of energy as 13 minutes of aerobic work.

If you work to “improve” the anaerobic capacity, be aware that it can decrease your aerobic capacity, due to high concentrations of lactic acid in the muscles. This can “kill” some of the aerobic enzymes, with the result of a decrease in the aerobic capacity.

We repeat again: Higher concentrations of lactic acid in the muscles can damage the cell walls in your muscles, while the number of anaerobic enzymes can be increased at the cost of aerobic enzymes. Therefore, hard and painful lactic acid training can easily give you a negative result. Congratulations! You have trained hard and brutally, with the result that you run much slower.


We want to emphasize that there is no problem with a hard competition or an intense training session now and then, even for long distance running. It is when this is the normal intensity level that there will be a chronic acidic envirThreshold training (lactic acid threshold) has been very popular in the past few years. However, you should be aware of that you cannot do too much of your training as threshold training. This will work fine for a while, and you will experience fast progress, but it will not be possible to continue this over a long period of time. As we have explained earlier, some types of the tissues in the body need more time to adapt and to develop.

If you progress too quickly in your training, you will certainly get injured. It is the mix of the harder and the easy training that is the only solution in a long term perspective.

It is important to know and understand that a workout consists of two major and equally balanced factors; the load or work phase, and the rest or restitution phase. The importance of the rest phase is underrated. Very many athletes are worried about resting a day now and then if they feel tired because they think they will lose a lot. The consequence of this is both the feeling of guilt and negative emotions about the “lost” workout, as well as many worn out athletes.

We believe that one of the main reasons for this is that training programs are designed by unqualified coaches who use the programs as a control and management tool. Training programs should only be used as a loose framework that the athlete should be encouraged to adjust and change based on the feedback from his/her own body.

A chain is as strong as its weakest link. So it is with your chain, which we can divide into the following links or systems:

·        Your head and your neurological system, or mental system

·        Your heart and lung system, the central system

·        Your blood and blood vessel system, the transport medium and the transport “paths”

·        Your working muscles, the peripheral system.

Normally, we do not divide our body into systems like we have done here, but it can be useful to do this when we talk about training and physical exercise. Most of you are familiar with the saying “to lose your head”, when we are not in full mental control of a situation. This can be a situation in your daily life, or it can be a situation when you are competing in a sport event.

Mental training is often strongly underrated by most athletes in most sports. This type of training is still surrounded by a lot of myths and a negativity since most people think you have mental problems if you do this type of training. Mental problems are a total different topic. Here, we are talking about training of that “extra percent” of yourself in daily life and in sport.

Read more about the physical basis for training here: Physical basis and More about the physical building blocks

Authors: Ingrid and Arve Kristiansen


Date Inserted: 08 July 2018
Last Updated: 08 July 2018
Have questions or comments on this article? email me


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