Similar to the pyramid fartlek session, covered in the previous article, the ladder is another variation on the fartlek theme. As always, these sessions will place different physical and mental demands that will prepare you for the challenge of race day.
Session Five: The Ladder
This session looks easy on paper, but if you do it correctly it is a great race simulation workout.
We are warming up and cooling down as for previous sessions, but for the longer distance racers, you could tack this on to an hour of easy running so that you can work on finishing strongly after a long race.
You can decrease the length of the intervals in whatever size increments you like and I suggest varying it throughout your training to keep the mind stimulated and the body guessing.
This time we will keep it simple and do: 8:00; 6:00; 4:00 and 2:00 intervals with a 3:00 floating recovery in-between. Again, the recovery period is not walking or jogging slowly but a nice smooth, constant but comfortable recovery pace that allows your HR to drop to between 70-75% of your maximum HR.
As we have been aiming the sessions we have covered at a 10-15km race, we will continue and start the 8:00 interval at your perceived 10km race pace. Run on feel, but refer to your HR monitor in the second half and make a note of what HR you are maintaining.
The 6:00 interval should be slightly harder than the 8:00 and you will want to aim at a HR about 2-3bpm higher than the first interval. Keep in mind the HR lag and you should look at hitting the desired HR after 1:30-2:00. You also don’t want to go higher than that target as this will make accelerating though the next two intervals harder or impossible.
Repeat the process for the 4:00 interval, raising the HR by 2-3bpm and getting there after about a minute.
The final 2:00 interval should be a strong finish and you can even throw in a kick to the line to simulate racing.
Session Six – The Reverse Ladder
If you have been following these sessions you will no doubt have anticipated this one. It is a toughie if you do it right, but it is great for learning pace judgement and also for teaching the body to deal with the demands of a race situation.
Warm ups and downs are as for the previous session and this one should be the opposite of what we did for the ladder; so 2:00; 4:00; 6:00 and 8:00 fast with a 3:00 floating recovery at around 70-75% of your maximum HR.
Previously we aimed at accelerating as the intervals got shorter but we are not doing the opposite this time. Instead of slowing down as the intervals get longer, which is not how we want to approach racing, we want to maintain our pace throughout the intervals, despite the fact that they are getting longer.
This time you want to use the pyramid session as a reference. You want to run the first, 2:00 interval at the same pace that you maintained in the 4:00 interval in the previous pyramid session; so this should be fast but comfortable for only 2:00. Then a good solid effort in the 4:00 and you should be stretched in the 6:00 and 8:00 intervals.
Make a call in the warm up period. If you are not feeling super you can lower the intensity slightly by starting at the 6:00 interval pace from the pyramid session or even a really conservative 8:00 pace. This will still result in a nice hard workout but the aim is to maintain the same pace throughout, so it is important to pace the early intervals correctly so that you don’t slow down towards the end of the session.
In the next of the series we’re covering changing gears, tempo sessions and variation.