**This post is one of several in an excerpt series from the book, Be a Better Runner by Sally Edwards & Carl Foster**
Cross-Variability Training for Runners
As names go, this one is long but logical, as it replaces your old moderate-paced running with a variable plan that alternates hard and easy days,generously uses cross-training, and progressively pushes you harder over time. This sequence deliberately tears your muscles down, and then quickly builds them and your cardiovascular and fuel-burning systems back up, stronger than they were before. Over time, as you push even harder on the hard days, you’ll get faster and fitter, lower your PR, move up in your age group, and even lose weight. Progressive Cross-Variability Training has one basic law and several supporting corollaries.
The one basic law is the hard-day/easy-day pattern: Always follow a hard running day with an easy workout. After all, that’s how the body works: You stress your muscles beyond their comfort zone, and then give them time to heal so that they’re even stronger. To make sure you stick to the hard/easy format, remember the following:
Keys to Progressive Cross-Variability Training
• Hard means hard. By hard runs, we mean intervals (from thirty-second all-out bursts to longer, faster- than-race-pace efforts) or runs that are longer than you are accustomed to.
• Easy means easy. On easy days, take the talk test. That means don’t push it to the point at which you can’t easily carry on a conversation as you work out. If you work too hard, you will not give your muscles time to rebuild to a stronger state. It also means “short.” At the end of an easy day, you should feel fully rested and ready for the next hard day. If you aren’t, take another easy day!
• Cross-train after every run, and don’t run two days straight. All running, easy or hard, can be hard on the body. So, on the day after a run, go for an easy bike, swim, paddle, elliptical, or row, or don’t work out at all. If you are strictly a runner (not a triathlete), there is generally no reason to do a hard cross-training day—unless you have an injury that prevents you from running but allows pain-free cross-training.
• Avoid the Black Hole (moderately hard running). Training at an in-between pace is no good because it is too hard to allow you to go as long as you should to improve your endurance and too easy to force the cardiovascular adaptations that come with high-intensity training. A key job of the Heart Zones Training System is to identify this Black Hole numerically via heart rate so that you can stay out of it.
• To get race-ready, ramp up the hard days. Make the hard days progressively harder to be at your best on race day. The body will respond to the additional stimulus.
More to come ..
Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to release excerpts throughout upcoming weeks. If you fall in love with these tips from our excerpt series, make sure to stop in and grab a copy of Be a Better Runner from our online store, and keep it on your shelf at home to reference and share with others!