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Train hard, train smart: How to take your running to the next level

Brent Fougner, director of the Pacific Sport National Endurance Centre for Athletics , in Victoria, B.C., and eight-time CIAU coach of the year, and his wife Trish Fougner, a sports consultant and former national team runner, offer an eight-week plan to giving your running a spring tune-up. This is the second instalment.

To get faster and stronger it's essential to establish an end goal. You need something to work toward. If your goal is to run a 5K or 10K road race you will need an eight to 12-week training program to prepare properly for it. If your goals are more intrinsic and you are looking to improve you overall fitness and just enjoy your running this season then you should see improvements within a few weeks.

As you get started, it's important to keep these training zones in mind:

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Zone 1: Relaxed Recovery Zone (warm-up and cool down)

Zone 2: Steady State (marathon pace but able to talk)

Zone 3: Max Steady State (faster pace up to 10K, breathing still under control)

Zone 4: Interval Pace (up to 5K pace, or max heart rate)

For some of you, staying at zones 1 and 2 might be necessary for another week or two but for others who feel they are ready to take the next step, you can start to move into zone 3 once or twice a week for a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes during a full workout. For example, after a proper 10 minute warm-up, this workout would include three five-minute intervals in zone 3 with one minute of relaxed running (zone 1) after each interval, followed by a cool down (zone 1) of 10 minutes.

It's very important during this increased activity and intensity that you gauge how your body is reacting to the training and how it is recovering. Focus your attention on how you are breathing while you're running. Is it in control? Are you still able to carry on a conversation? Begin to know what your levels are by how your body is reacting. You should be able to comfortably complete three intervals of this higher intensity.

Here's a sample week for the more advanced runner ready to move into zone 3 training:

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Monday: Day Off

Tuesday: 10 minute warm-up then three five-minute runs in zone 3 with one minute relaxed recovery (zone 1), followed by a cool down of 10 minutes in zone 1

Wednesday: Easy run in zone 1 – minimum 30 minutes

Thursday: Day off

Friday: Repeat of Tuesday workout

Saturday: Easy run in zone 1 – minimum 30 minutes

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Sunday: A longer run including some running in zone 2

A good way to monitor how you're body is recovering is to take your resting heart rate every morning before you get out of bed. If your resting heart rate starts to get higher over time, this can be an indication that you are not fully recovering. Consider taking an easy recovery day or a day off from training. It will only make your next run even better.

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