Every year I experiment with training for one or two athletes in my squad – in swim, bike and run. If I find value in the outcomes, I then incorporate this into our athlete training methodologies, and pass this information on to our Trisutto coaches.

This experimentation also includes Nicola Spirig, who through trial and error I found responds very well to running only every second day, and very importantly stays injury free with this approach.

Nicola’s favourite run day is the Kenyan run day – a run day with at least two running workouts.  I also usually schedule a light loosen up swim, or an easy short spin on the bike – depending on the weather, and her mood.

With this approach of multiple runs on the one day, always followed by a day without any running, I have found a huge decrease in injury. This allows tendons, ligaments and bones to rest up to 48 hours before the next running day, and recover from the load that running puts on these.

On a running day our first run we try to recruit the fast twitch muscles fibers, using speed work, fartlek or hill repeats. This tires the legs in the first workout. We then back this up with a non-stop run later in the day. The athlete starts slowly and runs out the speed / hill reps done earlier in the day. If they build the pace of this run, they do so at their normal build run pace.


 Recruiting the fast twitch fibres via hill repeats.

This Kenyan technique I observed and incorporated into our training, where the last run of the day is always a non stop run.

Kenyan runners have the luxury of being able to train three times in the same day.  The additional third run is a ‘wake up’ run – an easy slow run / jog as the first run of the day. It may include some pickups if one wishes. This would then look like:

  • Early morning – A 40 minute slow easy run / jog.  Pick ups optional
  • Mid morning – A speed workout, hill repeats or Fartlek workout
    ** I may alternate between these on different weeks, choose the workout the athlete enjoys most, or simply choose based on the terrain available! 
  • PM – A non stop run, usually of 1 hour, starting slowly and very easily – but building to finish at race intensity.

I still believe in the long run, which for Olympic distance athletes does not need to be more than 75 – 90 minutes, and done 1 to 2 times per week.

For age group athletes who do not have the luxury of a midday workout, we may use either the two runs in a day Kenyan Day, or include a Kenyan Day structure within the one workout, like this:

  • First part – warm up, with easy pick ups
  • Second part – main set with speed work
  • Third part – warm down with a build run of around 4 km.

The build in the warm down clears lactate created by the speed work, when it is run at a moderate to medium pace.
* Nicola will also do this run workout during a typical training week. For her, the warm down will be 10 laps of the athletics track, at 15 seconds per lap slower than the speed she ran the fast intervals. 

The above applies to both short course and long distance athletes. The overall weekly mix is a little different with long course athletes, but they still do a Kenyan Day once every 10 days. I believe this is why our long course athletes keep their run speed – they do not train it out of themselves with a diet of run training of all long slow distance work. I also believe that hill reps develop speed, so we do not use hill repeats or track work, or Fartlek on the same day. There are few exceptions to this, but we always use hill repeats first in those exceptions.

It’s been my experience that when I structure runs in this manner that we see a huge decrease in injuries. Many years ago, I used to follow a one run a day training structure for my athletes, and run every day with track workouts on Tuesday and Friday at 5pm in the evening. The results were very good, but we had 50% more injuries than using the above approach.  We also achieve a higher rate of consistency in our program, maintain speed of the athlete, while incorporating the volume required in an aerobic based sport.

For those asking, yes treadmill is fabulous for build runs, especially for the last workout of a Kenyan Day – but that’s another blog.

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