Those familiar with weight training will probably be familiar with the term ‘superset’, and also the concept of ‘stripping’. Supersets are simply repetitions that are performed without recovery. Stripping involves working with a weight and gradually reducing the weights as the muscles fatigue, ultimately the effect on the muscles means that just lifting an empty bar is impossible. These forms of high intensity training can produce rapid development of strength.
Similar principals can be applied to running training to devise simple, challenging and effective sessions.
Here is how a typical running training superset might be structured:
Run 200m at very near to maximum speed for that distance. Follow that with 400m as fast as can be managed for that distance and finally run 1k at your fastest, maintainable pace for that distance. This of course might look like the beginnings of a pyramid session, but the crucial difference with the superset is that there is no recovery between the reps. Hence the whole 200m, 400m, 1000m becomes one rep. After this combined rep, a good recovery is taken: perhaps 4 minutes of very light jogging/walking before the next rep is started. A total of 3 such reps would make for a very worthwhile session (3 miles total of hard running). These sessions sound quite daunting and are hard work. Surprisingly though they can be a great session to do if you are feeling a little lethargic; those 200s really wake the body up.
In summary then, our sample superset session looks like this:
- 200m then straight into 400m then straight into 1000m
- 4 min recovery
- x 3
Why are these sessions so effective?
The initial high intensity bursts of 200m and 400m produce significant amounts of lactate. Continuing to run — albeit at a necessarily reduced pace — prompts the muscles to utilise and clear the lactate and acid. The training effect is that your tolerance for faster running will increase.
There are also psychological benefits to be had too. Initially, at the start of the final element (in this example the 1000m), running is going to seem incredibly hard, but as the aerobic system catches up with the energy demands the pace will feel much more manageable. Your pace for the final 1000m section is likely to be around your 10k pace. In short, your 10k race pace will seem to be much more relaxed.
You don’t need to stick to these distances for effective supersetting, and you don’t need to limit yourself to 3 components of the combined rep. For instance, you could reduce the 1000m element to 800m and then run straight into a 1600m section so that you run: 200m, 400m, 800m, 1600m.
This type of session is very flexible and can even be done away from the track. It can also be based on time, e.g. a superset of 40 secs, 90 secs, 4mins would be a great alternative combination.
Play around with them and if you use the track keep a record of your times because a little analysis will tell you a lot about your training progression. Do keep in mind that those fast bursts should be run pretty much as fast as you can run; it’s easy and tempting to save a bit for the final element.