How To Supercharge Your Long Distance Runs With The NEW Anti-Comfort Zone Paradigm

Reignite the Fire in Your Running Program With This 7-Phase Running Formula to Maximize Your Performance And The Benefits You Receive From Your Runs

female runner

If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got. – Mark Twain

Runners are generally very stubborn people. And I would know since I’ve been one for over 10 years now. But here’s the thing: being stubborn is one of a runner’s finest qualities. They’re some of the most resilient people because they practice resiliency every time they hit the road, the trails, or the track. You’ll have a hard time finding a more steadfast individual than a dedicated runner. Runners don’t quit, and they don’t give up. And these are some of the fantastic qualities that stem from downright doggedness. But being a stubborn runner also has some downsides, too.

You see, runners tend to stick with what they know because it’s always worked for them. I mean, why screw up a good thing, right? If something has worked in the past, then why wouldn’t it work in the future?

It makes sense, yes. And that’s a good default attitude for a lot of things. But the trouble with this belief is that it leaves little room for growth. You see, growth happens when we challenge ourselves, try new things, and get out of our comfort zone.

And as a runner, this is one of the hardest things to do because we tend to get into a comfortable routine.

A New Paradigm For Runners

OK, so you’ve warmed up and are ready to hit the road, trail, track, or rubber conveyer belt. You are just itching to get some miles in, but you want to try something a little different today. You’re also looking for a challenge because running faster and logging more miles just isn’t going to cut it this time. You want to enjoy your run, and finish knowing you did something awesome for yourself – and most importantly, that you stretched yourself in a new way today. No, not just your muscles, but your potential.

So, if you’re ready to get OUT of your comfort zone, then allow me to introduce you to the 7-Phase Running Formula that I’ve been using more-or-less this year. It has totally changed the way I’ve thought about “going out for a run” forever. And I know, I really should work on that name a bit more, but the name really isn’t important. It’s the idea that matters.

If you ever go on a long distance run, this is the exact formula I would recommend you try next. And if you can only run once per week, this is exactly the formula I would give you to maximize the results you get and the benefits you receive from running.

It takes a little explaining, but it’s not complicated at all once you understand it. It’s just a simple model for adjusting your intensity level during your long runs to practice a variety of running skills and improve a number of conditioning attributes at once. Think of it like a multi-skill run.

The 7-Phase Running Formula

The formula can be constructed a number of different ways, and once you understand how it works, you’ll be able to tinker with the actual activities and duration yourself. But the general formula splits your long run into 7 distinct phases, each with a unique purpose. Here’s how it works:

Phase 1: Walking to warmup – approximately 5% of run duration
Phase 2: Trotting to increase body temperature, awaken nervous system, and focus on running technique – approximately 20% of run duration
Phase 3: Running at desired race pace – approximately 20% of run duration
Phase 4: Walking or trotting to recover heart rate and breathing – approximately 10% of run duration
Phase 5: High intensity interval training (runs or sprints with walking/trotting for recovery) – approximately 20% of run duration
Phase 6: Trotting to recover heart rate and breathing and also to refocus on running technique – approximately 20% of run duration
Phase 7: Walking to cooldown – approximately 5% of run duration

So, you see that this one run includes a progressive warmup, skill training, recovery periods, conditioning work, and a progressive cooldown. And that’s the whole point: to milk each and every run for all its worth. To challenge yourself in a new way every run. To never settle for just a “long run” again.

Here’s an example of the 7-part formula for a 30 minute run:

1.5 minutes of walking to warmup
6 minute of trotting
6 minutes of running at race pace
3 minutes of walking or trotting to recover
6 minutes of interval training
6 minutes of trotting
1.5 minutes of walking to cooldown

Here’s an example of the 7-part formula for a 60 minute run:

3 minutes of walking to warmup
12 minute of trotting
12 minutes of running at race pace
6 minutes of walking or trotting to recover
12 minutes of interval training
12 minutes of trotting
3 minutes of walking to cooldown

Note: Keep in mind that this is a rough formula that is meant to serve as a guide – not an absolute. Adjust the figures or the order/priority of the phases as you feel necessary. Or, you could just throw a few sprints into the middle of your long runs and you’d probably be just fine. You get the idea.

Now, you tell me. Which do you think will provide better overall results?

a) 60 minute run at a slow and steady pace.
b) 60 minute run with a wide variety of paces including walking, trotting, running, and sprinting in the form of technique work, pace work, interval training, and brief recovery periods.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. But more importantly than what this can do for you physically, I’ve found this formula to be perfect for developing mental toughness while running. This is because you have to regularly change gears and refocus your efforts. You can’t just “settle in” for a long run, like you’re accustomed to doing. On top of that, by integrating a few different paces into one run, you’ve significantly lowered the risk of overtraining one specific movement pattern – a common cause of injury in distance runners. You see, walking, trotting, running, and sprinting all use the legs and the rest of the body differently. And if you train all the different speeds regularly, you’ll be a more balanced runner, and be at a lower risk of injury. It’s like a built-in system of checks and balances for injury prevention and well-rounded fitness.

In essence, what we’ve done is turned a long distance run into one long interval training session with a wide variety of intensity levels and skills to train. And yet, this run still confers all of the physical benefits of a slow and steady run of the same duration, and more.

Don’t Get Boxed In By The Formula

As noted above, this 7-part formula and my examples are meant to serve as a guide. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do it differently. The point is to try something different, using the long run as a guide. And that’s not to say you should give up your steady, long distance runs completely. I certainly haven’t. But I have found immense value from experimenting with this simple formula and I’m sure you would, too.

Further Reading

100 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years Of Running

The Holy Grail of High Intensity Interval Training

How to Run Every Single Day for One Year

Persistence Hunting and Endurance Running: 5 Tips to Run Effortlessly

The Little-Known Philosophy of Gentle Running

How to Run Better For “The Perfect Run”

Learn the Skill of Barefoot Running

The Definitive Guide For Transitioning To Barefoot Running

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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

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P.P.S. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/

6 Responses

  1. Jeepers man! This requires that I actually have to think about it. It’s so much easier just to put the old legs & lungs on autopilot and lope along. Now you are recommending that I switch things up — multiple times in one session?

    Alright. I guess if it was easy, anybody could do it. Here’s to new resilience. ;-)

  2. I like a picture too much, it definitely supercharges me. Jokes aside, on actual 50K and 50 miles runs I was constantly super-charged by beautiful participants; they mostly were surpassing me, but sometimes I managed to stay behind. I remember… it probably was on UROC 50K Trail Run 2011 http://goo.gl/lBeZh… how I noticed a beautiful girl with tattoo just ahead of me and for a long time tried to catch up to look at her face.
    These things definitely help on ultra-marathons. I wonder if it helps to my fellow female runners as well, though. Does it?

  3. John, seriously – I like your approach. I always knew how good is to include interval running into training, but it is even better. Going to try it for sure. Thank you.

  4. How does it transfer to actual long distance races? :)
    I’ve always been the interval guy who did almost anything you can imagine with intervals and ran 10k pretty much without struggling. Now I have a goal of completing 20k. What goal session time should be good for 20k? Thank you very much! :)

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