2B Progression Run
What is a Progression Run: A Progression Run is the next step up, or progression, from a Foundation Run. The basis of the run is that it is still part of your aerobic development, but you are progressing the intensity over time. You'll still be able to exercise for an extended period of time (up to many hours depending on fitness level), while building up your stamina and muscular endurance. These workouts are very useful in improving long-distance race performance because they teach you to run faster as the body gets tired.
This is an example of a Progression run that has been downloaded into the Polar Pro Trainer 5 Software--an exclusive feature of 2B Endurance Programming. Note the gradual increase in Heart Rate throughout the run. You can see from the heart rate average line that there is a clear division between the first and second half of the run. This shows an increase in intensity and is a great way to prep for the demands of racing.
Phase: Build, Peak
Duration (Length of Workout): Usually 60+ minutes, up to a few hours
Frequency: 1-2x per week
Rest Between Workouts: 24-48 hours, depending on the intensity of progression
Heart Rate: 70-90% of Maximum Heart Rate
Subjective Feeling: For the most part, easy and very conversational. You should have the urge to go faster early in the run. On the latter progressions you may become slightly breathless, but your aerobic system will be maximally engaged at this point so muscular fatigue will present more of a problem than shortness of breath.
How to Perform a Progression Run: A Progression Run potentially has multiple phases: the main set (however many progressions are included) and a cooldown. Because the first part of a Progression Run is done at a relatively low intensity (similar to a Foundation Run), a warm up can be done "actively" and is not necessarily needed. The duration of the first progression will likely be long enough to settle into the pace and prepare the body for the subsequent progression.
The Warmup should include:
The proper intensity is very important for Progression Runs. Depending on the duration of the run, the 2B Coach will divide your Progression Run into 4 parts, 3 parts, or 2 parts. And as the name implies, each part you will be "progressing," or increasing the intensity. Direct heart rate values will most often be used (as opposed to % of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)). For example, if the 2B Coach is programming someone with an MHR of 195, the heart rate zones for a 3 part Progression Run could be 136-146, 146-156, 156-166. These heart rates would correspond with 70-75%, 75-80%, and 80-85% of MHR, respectively. So, the 2B Coach would write your workout as follows--15 mile 3-part Progression Run @ 136-146, 146-156, 156-166. This would imply that miles 1-5 would be done at a heart rate of 136-146, miles 6-10 would be done at a heart rate of 146-156, and miles 11-15 would be done at 156-166.
The Main Set should include:
When performing a Progression Run, always keep one eye on heart rate and one eye on pace. Although you will be shifting your intensities based on heart rate, you want to make sure this correlates with a slight increase in pace as well. And because of the cardiovascular drift described in the last section on this page, sometimes it is difficult to tell how much of the increase in heart rate is coming from an increase in pace, and how much of it could be coming from dehydration and fatigue (i.e., cardiovascular drift). Psychologically, Progression Runs are easier for people to handle because, even if they have to keep the pace easy starting out, they find comfort in knowing they're going 2B able to pick it up later on.
The Cooldown should include:
A cooldown should definitely be included because the most difficult (and intense) part of a Progression Run will be done at the very end. It is necessary to slowly bring it back to equilibrium before ending the workout. This Active Recovery will also help to clear any lactic acid and free radicals that may have accumulated during the latter half of the Progression Run. As soon as possible after the cooldown (or during the static stretching) and replace the calories and electrolytes you burned during the workout. In terms of calories burned, Progression Runs are often times the biggest burner and you need 2B sure to refuel to repair and rebuild your muscles.
The "Progression" of Progression Runs: There are many ways to progress Progression Runs, but I will just describe the two main ways that a 2B Coach would program Progression Runs:
Both of these methods are used and both are common and useful progressions. The overall distance/duration of a Progression Run is unlikely to change too much over time. Because Progression Runs are the natural stepping stone after proper aerobic development (through Foundation Runs) you will already have a lot of duration and distance built into your program--now you will just be increasing the intensity. By prescribing the proper heart rate zone for the tempo portion, you should be able to exercise for longer durations over time. Of course, you're only going 2B able to increase the duration to a point (about 90 minutes--and this duration should be used sparingly) until you're going to have to pull back and reassess your fitness before going into the next phase of your training plan. It is possible for heart rate zones to shift over prolonged periods of training, but in the case of Anaerobic Threshold, this shift will likely only be a few beats at a maximum.
But, interestingly enough, if you're performing these workouts at the proper intensity, the speed of the tempo run should gradually increase over time at comparable heart rates. For example, when you start your training, running with your heart rate between 150-160 may correlate to an 8:00min/mile pace, but later in your training these same heart rates SHOULD correlate to a faster pace, say a 7:30min/mile. This is an objective method of assessing your fitness improvement--whether you're able to run faster without having to work harder. That's what we're all after, right?
If you're pacing yourself to a negative run split (second half of the run faster than the first), Progression Runs are absolutely key to your training program. Don't overlook them.
Where people go wrong: Similar to Foundation Runs, people have a tendency of going out too fast, and if this happens they are usually not able to up the intensity enough later in the run. The pace must be easy to start, giving the body the time to switch on it's aerobic engine.
Secondly, a runner needs to maintain a consistent pace across an entire progression zone. So, if they're running a 7:30min/mile at the start and then they let it slip to a 7:40 or 7:50 (even though they may still be in the same heart rate zone), this is not a good thing. Progression Runs are done to teach your body to run fast on tired legs and give you the mental and physical edge 2B able to run a negative split. If you let the pace slow as you run you're doing the exact opposite of what you want to. And if you're properly hydrating and monitoring your effort, you should be able to keep your pace and HR consistent once you settle into a give progression zone.
If you want to understand WHY you're doing what you're doing: Progression Runs carry all the same enhancements as Foundation Runs, but they go a step beyond in both physiological and psychological benefits. The most prominent is of the physiological characteristics is Muscular Endurance. So, if Muscular Endurance is defined as the repeated contraction of Type I muscle fibers over a long period of time, Progression Runs target this by training your muscles to continue contracting (and actually contract faster) even as your body gets tired. The better your Muscular Endurance, the stronger you will feel and the better you will perform--especially late in races. Progression Runs are not as beneficial in "pushing up" your Anaerobic Threshold (the way a Tempo Run would) because you would only be approaching this intensity later in the run and the duration at this intensity would not be enough to realize the physiological benefits.
The other main benefit of Progression Runs is psychological. Assuming that you've trained adequately, paced yourself properly, and had proper hydration/nutrition, the battle in the second half of the race is going to be more psychological than physical. Your going to go through a period of time in the race where your body is screaming at you to slow down--and this is where Progression Runs give you the Mental Edge. It gives you the edge to know that, even when your body is tired and it wants to slow down, you can continue to hold the pace. This is only accomplished through through rehearsal in training. You cannot fake it on race day.
Similar to a Tempo Run, there will be a certain amount of Cardiovascular Drift during a Progression Run. This is because Progression Runs involve long durations and higher intensities, which causes dehydration, an increase in core body temperature and a redistribution of blood from nonworking to working muscles. Still, cardiovascular drift should not be a factor until the second half of the run.
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