Running sessions from the pros

Running sessions from the pros

By ZONE3 athlete, Bradley Weiss

For the past 7 years I have been under the guidance of running guru Ernie Gruhn. Ernie is a trader by profession but has an intense passion for distance running and a wealth of knowledge having coached some of the best athletes both in running and triathlon. Olympic Triathlon Gold medallist, Flora Duffy, and South African half marathon record holder Elana Meyer are just some of the stars Ernie has coached, so I am exceptionally confident in his approach and ability to guide me to my best marathon performance.

Ernie is an incredibly cautious coach and very seldom pushes us in training. Our focus is very much on biomechanics and neuromuscular activation allowing us to run efficiently and powerfully throughout the entire race. Running is a very tricky sport to manage volume and intensity and almost every athlete has a slightly different tolerance requiring very specific loading depending on the event they are preparing for.

What my week looks like

Our general week consists of, at a minimum, 60km and a maximum of 100km per week. Below is the very basic weekly structure:

Monday: 60min easy run - 10-12km total.

Tuesday: Longer steady interval session, eg. 8x1km intervals with 1min recovery – 15km total.

Wednesday: Easy recovery run with drills and strides - 45min or 10km total.

Thursday: Track session - A favourite of Ernie’s is 22 x 200m sprint session with a 50sec jog back to the starting position between intervals.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Hill sprints session - 5km warm up, 18 x 20sec on a relatively steep hill,  6min cool down - 10km total.

Sunday: Long run – I tend to spend about 75% of the run at an easy pace before ramping up the intensity towards the finish.

So, in total we are completing 6 runs with 3 being interval sessions of varying distance and intensities. None of these runs are particularly challenging but the combination and consistency is where it pays off. We don't have hero weeks or sessions, every week has a small amount of manageable intensity which allows the body to improve over time while limiting injury and overuse risks.

Some of my favourite running sets:

  1. Beginner set

24 x 200m track intervals with 50sec jog across recovery

- When we begin to introduce some quality to our program, we usually start with shorter controlled efforts focusing on biomechanics and neuromuscular activation the 24 x 200m track interval session is a classic example of this and is a staple for all of Ernie’s athletes. Please note: this doesn’t have to be completed on a track, but it can help to keep track of exact distances!

  1. Intermediate set

5 x 1mile loops, 90sec recovery between intervals

- As the season progresses, we will go into a strength phase of training. At our home base in Stellenbosch we have a great 1 mile (1.6km) loop which includes a steep 200m climb to begin then a flat 600m section where you can settle into your stride followed by a gradual 200m decent and finished with another 600m flat section of gravel which brings you back to the start of the lap. The goal here is to run the hill solidly while the body is fresh which promotes a very good body position and great biomechanics. You then try to settle into a solid tempo on the flat upper section of the loop attempting to bring the heart rate back under control while maintaining a good tempo. The descent is then used as a nice recovery where you maintain good turnover but don't have to fight to keep up the pace. The lap then finishes with a 600m flat section where we simply try and maintain the same speed we were running earlier in the rep. This is the bread and butter of our training blocks and helps to build up immense running strength and great form.

  1. Advanced set

Track/Road interval session

- Before a big race, this is one of our secret sets which Ernie will use to build confidence in our running ability. The session works as follows:

1.2km (3 laps of the track) hard, 90sec recovery. Then 2.4km on the road holding at a similar intensity, 2min recovery. This is completed 3 or 4 times depending on the level of the athlete and what distance they are preparing for.

The set the ends with another 1.2km track interval.

The aim here is to use the easy speed which the track tends to give you and bring it over to the road intervals. The 1.2km on the track is usually pretty tough but a manageable speed/tempo. You then jog over to the road to complete the longer interval. It's always amazing how much slower it feels running at 15-20seconds per kilometre slower than the track interval. After a couple 100meters we are always having to slow ourselves down as we have started too fast. This session is a great way to build out some good volume and bank some confidence in your running ability as you lead into your race.

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