Running enables the body to improve the transport of blood and oxygen to the working muscles and brings about positive changes in the muscles’ ability to produce energy. Running fits well into any physical training program – because a training effect can be attained with only three 20-minute workouts per week.
Some soldiers may need instruction to improve their running ability. The following style of running is desired. The head is erect with the body in a straight line or slightly bent forward at the waist. The elbows are bent so the forearms are relaxed and held loosely at waist level. The arms swing naturally from front to rear in straight lines. (Cross-body arm movements waste energy. The faster the run, the faster the arm action.) The toes point straight ahead, and the feet strike on the heel and push off at the big toe.
Besides learning running techniques, soldiers need information on ways to prevent running injuries. The most common injuries associated with PT in the Army result from running and occur to the feet, ankles, knees, and legs. Proper warm-up and cool-down, along with stretching exercises and wearing appropriate clothing and well-fitting running shoes, help prevent injuries. Important information on safety factors and common running injuries is presented in Chapter 13 and Appendix E.
Failure to allow recovery between hard bouts of running cannot only lead to overtraining, but can also be a major cause of injuries. A well-conditioned soldier can run five to six times a week. However, to do this safely, he should do two things: 1) gradually buildup to running that frequently; and, 2) vary the intensity and/or duration of the running sessions to allow recovery between them.
ABILITY GROUP RUNNING
Traditionally, soldiers have run in unit formations at a pace prescribed by the PT leader. Commanders have used unit runs to improve unit cohesion and fitness levels. Unfortunately, too many soldiers are not challenged enough by the intensity or duration of the unit run, and they do not receive a training benefit. For example, take a company that runs at a nine-minute-per-mile pace for two miles. Only soldiers who cannot run two miles in a time faster than 18 minutes will receive a significant training effect. Therefore, in terms of conditioning, most soldiers who can pass the 2-mile-run test are wasting their time and losing the chance to train hard to excel. Ability group running (AGR) is the best way to provide enough intensity so each soldier can improve his own level of CR fitness.
AGR lets soldiers train in groups of near-equal ability. Each group runs at a pace intense enough to produce a training effect for that group and each soldier in it. Leaders should program these runs for specific lengths of time, not miles to be run. This procedure lets more-fit groups run a greater distance than the less-fit groups in the same time period thus enabling every soldier to improve.
The best way to assign soldiers to ability groups is to make a list, in order, of the unit’s most recent APFT 2-mile-run times. The number of groups depends on the unit size, number of leaders available to conduct the runs, and range of 2-mile-run times. A company-sized unit broken down into four to six ability groups, each with a leader, is best for aerobic training, For activities like circuits, strength training, and competitive events, smaller groups are easier to work with than one large group.
Because people progress at different rates, soldiers should move to faster groups when they are ready. To help them train at their THR and enhance their confidence, those who have a hard time keeping up with a group should be placed in a slower group. As the unit’s fitness level progresses, so should the intensity at which each group exercises. Good leadership will prevent a constant shifting of soldiers between groups due to lack of effort.
AGR is best conducted at the right intensity at least three times a week. As explained, the CR system should not be exercised “hard” on consecutive days. If AGR is used on hard CR training days, unit runs at lower intensities are good for recovery days. Using this rotation, soldiers can gain the desired benefits of both unit and ability-group runs. The problem comes when units have a limited number of days for PT and there is not enough time for both. In this case, unit runs should seldom, if ever, be used and should be recognized for what they are — runs to build unit cohesion.
Leaders can use additional methods to achieve both goals. The unit can begin in formation and divide into ability groups at a predetermined release point. The run can also begin with soldiers divided into ability groups which join at a link-up point. Alternately, ability groups can be started over the same route in a stagger, with the slowest group first. Linkups occur as each faster group overtakes slower groups.
With imagination and planning, AGR will result in more effective training workouts for each soldier. The argument that ability-group running detracts from unit cohesion is invalid. Good leadership and training in all areas promote unit cohesion and team spirit; training that emphasizes form over substance does not.
Interval training also works the cardiorespiratory system. It is an advanced form of exercise training which helps a person significantly improve his fitness level in a relatively short time and increase his running speed.
In interval training, a soldier exercises by running at a pace that is slightly faster than his race pace for short periods of time. This may be faster than the pace he wants to maintain during the next APFT 2-mile run. He does this repeatedly with periods of recovery placed between periods of fast running. In this way, the energy systems used are allowed to recover, and the exerciser can do more fast-paced running in a given workout than if he ran continuously without resting. This type of intermittent training can also be used with activities such as cycling, swimming, bicycling, rowing, and road marching.
The following example illustrates how the proper work-interval times and recovery times can be calculated for interval training so that it can be used to improve a soldier’s 2-mile-run performance.
The work-interval time (the speed at which a soldier should run each 440-yard lap) depends on his actual race pace for one mile. If a soldier’s actual 1-mile-race time is not known, it can be estimated from his last APFT by taking one half of his 2-mile-run time. Using a 2-mile-run time of 1600 minutes as an example, the pace for an interval training workout is calculated as follows:
Step 1. Determine (or estimate) the actual 1-mile-race pace. The soldier’s 2-mile-run time is 16:00 minutes, and his estimated pace for 1 mile is one half of this or 8:00 minutes.
Step 2. Using the time from Step 1, determine the time it took to run 440 yards by dividing the 1-mile-race pace by four. (8:00 minutes/4 = 2:00 minutes per 440 yards.)
Step 3. Subtract one to four seconds from the 440-yard time in Step 2 to find the time each 440-yard lap should be run during an interval training session. (2:00 minutes – 1 to 4 seconds = 1:59 to 1:56.)
Thus, each 440-yard lap should be run in 1 minute, 56 seconds to 1 minute, 59 seconds during interval training based on the soldier’s 16:00, 2-mile run time. Recovery periods, twice the length of the work-interval periods. These recovery periods, therefore, will be 3 minutes, 52 seconds long (1:56 + 1:56 = 3:52).
Using the work-interval time for each 440-yard lap from Step 3, the soldier can run six to eight repetitions of 440 yards at a pace of 1 minute, 56 seconds (1:56) for each 440-yard run. This can be done on a 440-yard track (about 400 meters) as follows:
1. Run six to eight 440-yard repetitions with each interval run at a 1:56 pace.
2. Follow each 440-yard run done in 1 minute, 56 seconds by an easy jog of 440 yards for recovery. Each 440-yard jog should take twice as much time as the work interval (that is, 3:52). For each second of work, there are two seconds of recovery. Thus, the work-to-rest ratio is 1:2.
To help determine the correct time intervals for a wide range of fitness levels, refer to Table 2-1. It shows common 1 -mile times and the corresponding 440-yard times.
Monitoring the heart-rate response during interval training is not as important as making sure that the work intervals are run at the proper speed. Because of the intense nature of interval training, during the work interval the heart rate will generally climb to 85 or 90 percent of HRR. During the recovery interval, the heart rate usually falls to around 120 to 140 beats per minute. Because the heart rate is not the major concern during interval training, monitoring THR and using it as a training guide is not necessary.
As the soldier becomes more conditioned, his recovery is quicker. As a result, he should either shorten the recovery interval (jogging time) or run the work interval a few seconds faster.
After a soldier has reached a good CR fitness level using the THR method, he should be ready for interval training. As with any other new training method, interval training should be introduced into his training program gradually and progressively. At first, he should do it once a week. If he responds well, he may do it twice a week at the most, with at least one recovery day in between. He may also do recovery workouts of easy jogging on off days. It is recommended that interval training be done two times a week only during the last several weeks before an APFT. Also, he should rest the few days before the test by doing no, or very easy, running.
As with any workout, soldiers should start interval workouts with a warm-up and end them with a cool-down.
In Fartlek training, another type of CR training sometimes called speed play, the soldier varies the intensity (speed) of the running during the workout. Instead of running at a constant speed, he starts with very slow jogging. When ready, he runs hard for a few minutes until he feels the need to slow down. At this time he recovers by jogging at an easy pace. This process of alternating fast and recovery running (both of varying distances) gives the same results as interval training. However, neither the running nor recovery interval is timed, and the running is not done on a track. For these reasons, many runners prefer Fartlek training to interval training.
This type of running, which includes both sprinting and paced running, improves CR endurance and conditions the legs. It consists of 40-to 50-yard sprints at near-maximum effort. This type of running is best done by squads and sections. Each squad leader places the squad in an evenly-spaced, single-file line on a track or a smooth, flat course. During a continuous 2- to 3-mile run of moderate intensity, the squad leader, running in the last position, sprints to the front of the line and becomes the leader. When he reaches the front, he resumes the moderate pace of the whole squad. After he reaches the front, the next soldier, who is now at the rear, immediately sprints to the front. The rest of the soldiers continue to run at a moderate pace. This pattern of sprinting by the last person continues until each soldier has resumed his original position in line. This pattern of sprinting and running is repeated several times during the run. The distance run and number of sprints performed should increase as the soldiers’ conditioning improves.
Cross-country running conditions the leg muscles and develops CR endurance. It consists of running a certain distance on a course laid out across fields, over hills, through woods, or on any other irregular terrain. It can be used as both a physical conditioning activity and a competitive event. The object is to cover the distance in the shortest time.
The unit is divided into ability groups using 2-mile-run times. Each group starts its run at the same time. This lets the better-conditioned groups run farther and helps ensure that they receive an adequate training stimulus.
The speed and distance can be increased gradually as the soldiers’ conditioning improves. At first, the distance should be one mile or less, depending on the terrain and fitness level. It should then be gradually increased to four miles. Cross-country runs have several advantages: they provide variety in physical fitness training, and they can accommodate large numbers of soldiers. Interest can be stimulated by competitive runs after soldiers attain a reasonable level of fitness. These runs may also be combined with other activities such as compass work (orienteering).