How to get in the zone of running

Q I am new to running and my target distance is 10km. Is it important for me to run daily?

A There are three things you should be looking to do:

• Build the habit of running consistently

• Improve your running form

• Strengthen your aerobic system

While you need not run every day, setting a frequency that works around your other commitments is important to establishing a habit and improving.

As a guideline, a good minimum frequency for completing a 10km race is three runs a week. If you have the time and motivation to do more, that is even better.

I recommend a minimum of one complete day of recovery a week, as much for the mind as for your body. Do not do more than you can recover from because that will lead to breakdown and overtraining.

I recommend using a heart-rate monitor and training to the zones outlined in my second column (Getting to the heart of the matter, June 23). This will ensure you have your intensity right and are effectively training your aerobic system.

Q So if I do multiple zone 1 runs to build my aerobic base, how do I know when to increase speed (yet with my heart rate remaining the same)? Is there an indication/tipping point where zone 1 runs can be blisteringly faster than when we first started?

A Everyone responds to training in their own way.

I have seen some improve so quickly that they were able to drop their marathon time from 5hr 20min to 4:20 after just eight weeks on our programme.

On the flip side, I have seen others who took nine months but, once improvements kicked in, they also dropped their timing by over 40 minutes in the next few months.


ST Run official coach Ben Pulham is a former professional triathlete and the founder of Coached, a heart-rate training programme that helps you to optimise, track and enjoy your training.

If you have a question, visit and post it in the #AskCoachBen section.

Most people will respond positively in three to four months.

When you hold your heart rate constant, you will naturally run faster as your body responds to the training and your aerobic system gets stronger, fat burning improves and you become more efficient at clearing lactic acid.

It is not something you have to consciously force.

It is also important to keep in mind that diet, stress level and quality of recovery all play a significant role in your ability to absorb and benefit from training.

Q I can run a half-marathon in about two hours. I am 48 years old. Since I try to train at my heart rate zone 2, I can only run a 7min/km pace. How long does it take to improve it? Do I need other types of training to improve my pace within the zone?

A I touched on the timeline a little in the question above. To improve, you need to train at a variety of intensities as the weeks pass.

Long-distance runners should train primarily, about 80 per cent of their time, in zones 1 and 2.

Early in your build-up, training exclusively in these zones will improve the aerobic system and, over time, you can run significantly faster at the same heart rate.

Closer to race day and having laid down a solid aerobic base, it is important to introduce tempo and race-pace runs to bring your fitness level up a notch.

To keep things simple, follow closely the ST Run training plan I created. I am confident that, using the heart-rate zones I outlined in my second column, you will be in great shape to run well on race day.

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