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Northern Arizona University Distance Running

By Ron Mann, Head Track & Field coach
Northern Arizona University



If athletes follow sensible progressions of workouts throughout the course of the season, they will not experience what we often refer to as "peaking out." Workouts must be kept interesting, as well as challenging, to prevent athletes from imagining they are experiencing this phenomenon. However, if early season interval workouts, for example, are made too intense and if too much emphasis is placed on major competitions early in the season:

  • Athletes will suffer a psychological let-down in motivation, and
  • They will fail to improve on early season marks in the championship meets later in the season.

Although it is important that the athlete establish a daily training regimen, the coach should recognize individual differences and be flexible enough to grant an athlete a period of "active rest" when he recognizes signs of overtraining.


At Northern Arizona we use the hard day / easy day approach in training. This means:

  • If they train extremely hard on Monday, they should train with less intensity on Tuesday, and so on
  • In addition, we train athletes on a 14-day work cycle so that they will not have the exact same workout every Monday, but rather varied workouts throughout the 14-day cycle.

This removes the staleness athletes encounter when each week's workouts are the same.

We use five methods of training in working with distance and middle distance runner.


Over-distance training is essential in the balanced program of a distance runner. This training should be at a level that challenges the aerobic system. The workload should produce a heart rate of between 140-160 bpm. This consists of:

  • Long runs at a steady pace covering from 6-8 miles for an 800 runner
  • Up to 14-16 miles for a 10,000 runner
  • Longer for a marathoner.

These runs can take place in the morning before school or in the afternoon. The distance and amount of road runs they require will vary as to the aerobic and anaerobic needs of the athlete's primary event.


The purpose of repetition runs is to allow the athlete to sustain a high quality pace for a fairly long period of time, thus approaching the anaerobic threshold creating a positive training effect on that system.

Repetition runs are usually from 600 meters up to 2 miles in length. The recovery or interval between repetition runs is longer than in interval training. An example:

8 x 800m with 4 minutes rest between each


Fartlek training is a Swedish term for "speed play." There are two forms of Fartlek training:

A. Holmer Fartlek is an individual training method and not a group method. It can be as hard or easy as the individual wants to make it. It includes all of the elements of a race in one practice session.

Example: Assume the workout is to be one hour in length

Begin with a slow jog warm-up at 7-8 minutes per mile for 2 miles (this is to get the body ready for the hard work ahead).
Then pick up the pace to what feels like race pace and carry it for 400-600 meters or until a genuine feeling of fatigue sets in.
Without rest, sprint for 100 to 150 yards until it begins to "hurt."
This is followed by a jog recovery.
A series of short sprints follows with an equal amount of rest between each.

Next, imagine that they are racing an opponent over the last 200 meters of a race:

Set a pace that they would use in the final stages of the race and hold it as long as possible until the fatigue feeling is felt again
This race is worked on with a similar run and recovery.
Repeat these activities until they have run for one hour.


B. Lydiard Fartlek is a method of gradual increase in pace and decrease in pace without a jog recovery.


2 miles at 7-8 minutes pace for warm-up
3 miles at 5:30 pace
1 mile at 6:30 pace
2 miles at 6:00 pace, and
2 miles cool-down at 8 minutes per mile pace for a total run of 10 miles.


Interval training is a system for endurance training which alternates measured runs at a measured pace with a set recovery between each run.

= Distance to be run

= Interval or rest between runs

= Number of repetitions

= Time to be run

= Activity during the rest interval

To vary a workout, any one of these five elements can be changed to give the training effect.

Example: 12 x 400 in 65 seconds, 1 minute jog recovery

A runner who is doing an interval training session should do from one to two-and-a-half times their racing distance in bouts, not including the warm-up or cool-down
The recovery that is taken between each run is determined by taking one's pulse, when the pulse returns to 120 beats per minute, the athlete is ready for another bout
The distance for each bout is less than or equal to 600 meters in interval training for maximum utilization of the system.


The basic reason for speed training is to improve the speed at which the athlete can run relaxed and maintain running form. This training is done mostly at the end of the season just prior to the big meets.

Example: 1 x 600 meters all out with a 20-minute rest interval

Followed by 10 x 100m as fast as possible, with a 100m walk interval between each.

Macro 1 / August-September (Early Cross Country)

Goal: To increase mileage and aerobic capacity

4 days Distance Run

6 days Recovery Runs

4 days Fartlek


Macro II / October-November (Late Cross Country)

Goal: Maintain aerobic increase fast runs

2 days Distance Runs

6 days Recovery Runs

4 days Fartlek

2 days Repetition Runs


Macro III / December (Winter Break)

Goal: To maintain aerobic

6 days Distance Runs

4 days Recovery Runs

4 days Fartlek


Macro IV / January (Indoor)

Goal: Increase anaerobic, become track ready

2 days Distance Runs

4 days Recovery Runs

4 days Fartlek

2 days Repetition Runs

2 days Intervals - SLOW


Macro V / February-March (Early Outdoors)

Goal: Increase anaerobic track ready, become race ready

2 days Distance Runs

4 days Recovery Runs

2 days Fartlek

2 days Repetition Runs

2 days Intervals

2 days Intervals -- FAST


Macro VI / April-May (Late Outdoor)

Goal: Maintain aerobic, race ready, increase speed

2 days Distance Runs

2 days Recovery Runs

2 days Fartlek

1 day Repetition

1 day Interval

2 days Speed

2 days Race

2 days Rest


Macro VII / June-July (Summer Break)

Goal: Active Rest


Easy Distance Runs


A typical micro cycle will point toward the goals of the macro cycle and will be consistent with the overall training picture. The sample which follows is from the Macro V. It is only 7 days of a 14-day cycle.

a.m. 40 minute run
p.m. 12 x 400m with 1:30 rest interval
a.m. 40 minute run
p.m. Recovery run -- lift weights
a.m. 40 minute run
p.m. 24 x 150m jog recovery
a.m. 40 minute run
p.m. Recovery run
a.m. 40 minute run
p.m. Race
p.m. Fartlek--nothing longer than 2000m, nothing shorter than 800m
p.m. Distance run 40-60 minutes.


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