You’re now running marathons and performing high-intensity interval training. There’s not a ton more for me to teach you! But there are one or two tricks you might want to consider as you start to adapt your training…
If you’re not interested in the muscle (this will burn muscle) and your main interest is in burning fat, then you might want to consider fasted cardio. Fasted cardio basically means that you’re running at a point when you have very low blood sugar. You can do this either by having a day of eating very little or by going running first thing in the morning when you wake up (when we sleep, we don’t eat – thus we are fasted!).
This works a little like HIIT in that your blood sugar is low and this forces the body to burn fat and utilize glycogen. It also increases your cortisol a lot, as well as your myostatin so use with caution. But if you’re really keen to lose weight fast, it might be worth a try!
Another tip is to try running off-road. One great way to do this is to run against resistance which can mean running through sand or running through relatively shallow water (such as the sea). This is a great way to increase the challenge and it causes the muscles to work harder. That, in turn, makes it into something that’s known as ‘resistance cardio’ – a fantastic form of cardio that actually burns more calories while also preserving your muscle.
This is one of the great examples of what you can do for yourself when you start running in nature and again start returning to your roots a little. As we’ve already seen, we were born to run and this is how we would have done it!
When you really go off-road running, then you’ll be in the territory of what is known as ‘trail running’. Trail running means that you’re running through forests and along rocks and it’s much closer to what our ancestors did.
The great thing about this is that it requires more awareness, more alertness and challenges the body in a lot more ways. In particular, it utilizes a lot of muscles as you have to constantly stabilize yourself against rocks and roots and other things that might cause you to trip or slip. This is why you need more minimal shoes for trail running and it’s why you might even start to venture into the barefoot territory at this point.
That’s because running barefoot allows your foot to become much more malleable and you’ll see that your toes and your foot bends and contorts to handle changes in the level of the ground. Instead of your foot tipping and giving you a twisted ankle, your foot just wraps around lumps in the ground like a hand.
Not only is this great fun and good exercise, it actually builds ‘foot dexterity’ which has a ton of amazing health benefits and is good for building more muscle in your foot. As mentioned though, this is an advanced technique and not for those just starting out by any means!
As you get better and better at running. It’s likely you’ll develop a greater and greater love of stats and figures. It’s great fun seeing your scores improve and watching as you become an efficient machine. One very useful figure to look out for then is your ‘lactate threshold’. Lactate was once what we thought causes muscle soreness – it’s a byproduct of the glycogen-lactic-acid energy system – but it’s actually useful as a secondary source of energy for your body.
Lactate concentration in the blood happens to correlate with fatigue because fatigue happens at the point where we can no longer use that energy source – because we’re going too fast. A build-up of lactate is also one of the signals that tell the brain we’re going to fast and this makes us feel nauseous in order to force us to slow down. The lactate threshold then tends to effectively be synonymous with the anaerobic threshold – the point at which we switch back to using glycogen because we can no longer use fat stores and we are going too fast.
This is usually around 85% of your MHR, so once you work that out, then you can calculate your lactate threshold. What’s more, is that once you have this number, you can then calculate your RSLT – Running Speed at Lactate Threshold. This tells you how fast you can go while staying below the lactate threshold. To calculate that, try the ’30 minute test’. That means running as fast as you possible can for 30 minutes to the point where you are completely fatigued by the end.
You then divide the average speed by the distance covered. If you managed to complete 8,000 meters in 30 minutes, your RSLT will be 4.5 meters per second. You’ll train this by using HIIT and ‘tempo runs’. Tempo runs are runs that you perform at or around your LT – much like that 30-minute test. This is one of the best ways to improve your overall performance and if you were ever interested in becoming a professional long-distance runner, it would make up an important part of your training.