Here are some fitness links to look over. The focus should be on running fitness (see article below) and on using your own bodyweight as resistance.
Body Weight Resistance Exercises
Body Weight Workouts with Examples
Hindu Squat Body Weight Exercises
Joe Kelly’s MARFU Women’s running workout
Brett Smith’s Rugby Workouts for the Months
Weight Training Schedule for Rugby by Ron Artingsall
5 Exercises for Rock Hard Abs Video
Fitness Magazine’s Best Balance Ball Exercises
Complete Balance Ball Exercises
Running Tips – The Basics
Training consists of stressing a particular physiological system followed by rest to allow it to re-build itself stronger than before.
Both the stressing and the rest are important. You must also not just stress everything! You just stress the particular factor that is important to the sport you are training for. This is called exercise or training specificity.
Running well requires four major components to be trained. These are:
- Anaerobic Threshold
- Aerobic Endurance
There of course many other factors but the above four cover 80% of running related performance.
This represents the maximum amount of oxygen per kilogram of weight that a person can use in converting fuel to energy. As there is a direct correspondence between oxygen usage and energy consumed it represents the practical upper limit of energy available to an exercising muscle. This upper limit is largely genetically determined but training can increase it by up to 20% of non-trained capacity. To train this upper limit you will need to performing near it. This means running quite fast. Interval sessions with ‘on’ times up to a maximum of 5-8 minutes are the best mechanism for this. If you run near your upper limit for some time then your body will make adaptations and try and increase it. Running longer than about 8 minutes, you won’t be running hard enough (close to your VO2max performance) so you won’t stress this system.
Anaerobic Threshold (AT)
This is the point when the oxygen a muscle requires is not completely provided by the air that you breath. At this point your muscles switch from purely aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen) operation. Lactic acid starts to build up, you go into oxygen debt and if not corrected you stop producing energy and you stop running ! Pain is also usually involved. This switch over point is normally expressed as a percentage of your VO2max. The aim is to increase the percentage at which we start operating anaerobically. It can vary from about 50-60% of VO2max for untrained people to 90% of VO2max for elite athletes. This is the speed that most long distance racing is done at. We try and juggle running so as to go fast enough not to create too much lactic build up so we stop. Training this system involves running right at this cross-over point, or at about 15k race pace. The training run is called an AT run, threshold run, tempo run or time trial and involves race pace running for between 20 and 40 minutes. Of course there should be a warm-up before and a cool down after.
This has got to do with how well we utilize the fuel that we are provided with for running. Without going into too much detail there are two main sources of fuel. The most efficient is glycogen (sugar) and the longest lasting is fat. We try and teach our bodies to conserve as much glycogen as possible whilst becoming more efficient at using fat for fuel. Running fast uses almost exclusively glycogen as fuel whilst running longer than an hour must utilize some fat. Hitting the wall in a marathon usually occurs when our glycogen stores are depleted. In extreme cases, as our brains use glycogen for fuel, we can collapse, act delirious etc. It pays to become better at using fat and learning how to conserve glycogen as much as possible. This factor is trained by running for long periods of time (greater than an hour). The body says ‘gee I’m running out of glycogen and I don’t like this I had better do two things- get better at using it and store some more of it.’ There is an optimum speed to stress this system and it can be worked out, but the basic thing is to run for a long time, it doesn’t matter how slow you go.
This has got to do with how many other muscles you are trying to provide energy to with the air that you breath. The more wasteful you are in terms of extra muscle activity, movement etc the less oxygen is available for moving you forward faster. All of your muscle activity should be focused on moving forward, not side to side, up and down, or keeping upper body tense etc. If you look at a world class runners head you will find it doesn’t bob. Next time you are out on a training run look at your shadow on a wall ! Some other pointers are:- Keep the height of your feet above the ground only enough to move them forward. Don’t have exaggerated rear kicks. Have the optimum stride length and frequency. Relax your upper body. Use your hands and arms to a purpose, don’t just swing them wildly. Don’t bounce from side to side like a boxer. There best way to improve this is to bring it into your conscious. Start thinking about your running posture then focus on correcting one thing at a time. Keep at it. Bad habits are hard to break. When you are correcting a habit make sure you run with the new habit in all runs until it becomes ingrained. Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.
The Workouts: Intervals
The concept of interval training was first developed by a Czech runner called Zatopek. He believed that as the heart was a muscle it could be trained like any other. The best training, he decided, was a series of stress-rest repetitions where the heart rate was increased then allowed to recover. He did this during the late forties and was way ahead of his contemporaries who were mostly favoring long, slow, distance (LSD) type running. Zatopek’s method’s culminated in him winning the running triple crown (5000m, 10,000m and marathon) at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. A feat never again repeated by anyone. Since Zatopek’s time there have been much study and many variations of his methods. Today however there are no top class runners who don’t use interval training at some time during race preparation.
Intervals consist of a series efforts followed by active or passive rest usually at a pace faster than a continuous type training run.
There are four things that you can alter in an interval training session. They are distance or time, rest time or distance, effort, and the number of repetitions. Each of these can be varied to tailor the interval session to a persons individual goals.
Interval sessions are also quite stressful on the body. They should be followed by a relatively easy training day and more than one of these sessions in a week should be left to the elite athletes. Also as it is quite jarring on the feet/body the softer the surface the better off you are from an injury perspective. Softer surfaces are also slower than hard surfaces so times will be affected. Games are also usually on dirt surfaces such as normal fields so a small percentage of your intervals should mimic game conditions.
These are fairly short intervals of between 50m and 200m whose primary aim is to improve your running efficiency. They get your body used to travelling much faster than you are going to play. The theory is that if you continually do this then some adaptations will occur which mean that running slower will be easier. They can be done at any time during a season but are common in the week leading up to a game with long rests to get your feet moving faster.
These are the most common form of intervals. They are run at a pace just faster than game pace with a fairly short rest between each interval. Sets above 10 repetitions are not uncommon with Rhythm Intervals. If you are training for a 10km event an example of a Rhythm interval session would be 8 x 400m with 1.5mins rest between each interval run at 5km race pace. Although intervals ranging from 400m through to 3000m can be used when training for any event, normally the longer the event you are training for the longer the length of the intervals you would do. Marathon intervals are typically 800m, 1000m, and 1500m.
These are directly aimed are increasing both the strength of your muscles and your VO2max and are designed to be run near your VO2max. For these intervals you run quite fast (95%) and have a longer rest. Also there are normally less repetitions than Rhythm interval sessions. You may have as much as 5 minutes rest between each interval in a power session. I prefer these sessions early on in the lead up to a game. This is to have maximum effect on VO2max early.
These intervals are vary hard and have significant effect on strength and power development within your leg muscles. Most muscles have two types of fibres: – fast twitch and slow twitch. The fast twitch are used when you run fast and to train them you can run fast, or….. research has shown that hill work strengthens them as well. Fast twitch fibres are recruited by the amount of power exerted by the muscle not its speed. Hills and intervals both require a high power output. They are also useful if your race will be on a hilly course. Different muscles are also used in hill running compared to racing on the flat. Strength is also more important in the hills. The idea is to have a series of hard uphill efforts (say 6-8) jogging/walking down the hill in between each repeat. Remember to take it easy on the downhill, the eccentric action required can cause injury.
The Interval Session
Intervals are much more fun if they are done with a group. They are hard sessions and is helpful to have other people to pull you on and to provide moral support through the sometimes grueling sessions. They can also be made quite fun with many different variations possible on the main theme. You should also be sure to both warm-up and cool down thoroughly and a do series of slow accelerations to ease you into the session. Some people also stretch.
A discussion on Intervals would not be complete without mention of Fartlek. This form of training was developed in Sweden and means Speed Play. It is an unstructured form of intervals where you run fast and slow for as long as you like. The length of the “fast” bits can range from 30 seconds to a few minutes. It is typically done in a hilly country area with grass and dirt tracks where you can run with the wind being as playful as you can.