PT365 Run Plans: Need to know – Part 1


These drills and types of runs are the foundation of the training plans, so be sure to get familiar with them before you jump into training.

Look for Part 2 next week. Read Part 1 of the Elements of Efficient Running, here.

Aerobic runs

These runs are the foundation of fitness and health. Run at or slightly below your maximum aerobic heart rate for the duration of the run. You should be able to easily converse. At least 80 percent of your running should be at or below the AHR up to four to six weeks prior to an event or PT test. The first 10 minutes of the aerobic runs in this plan are intended as a relaxed warm-up and to gradually raise your heart rate toward your AHR. When you finish these runs, you should feel as if you could run more.

To find your maximum aerobic heart rate, use Dr. Phil Maffetone’s “180 formula”:

1. Subtract your age from 180. (Example: 180 – 30 = 150)

2. Modify this number by selecting the option below that best matches your health profile:

a. If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness or are taking medication, subtract an additional 10 ((Example: 150 – 10 = 140).

b. If you have not exercised before, have been training inconsistently or been injured, have not recently progressed in training or competition, or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, or have allergies, subtract an additional 5. ((Example: 140 – 5 = 135)

c. If you’ve been exercising regularly (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems listed in a or b, keep the number ((Example: 180 – 30 = 150) the same.

d. If you have been competing for more than two years without any of the problems listed above and have improved in competition without injury, add 5 ((Example: 180 – 30 + 5 = 155).

Body adaptation: Aerobic development. Builds capillaries and mitochondria — cellular structures that help your body burn fuel aerobically, and with a large percentage of fat as fuel — as well as fat-burning capacity and relaxed running form.

Common mistakes: Ignoring AHR and effort since you may be going slow. When you run above your maximum AHR, you are burning entirely glucose/glycogen and often tapping into anaerobic metabolism, which inhibits aerobic development.

Trying to run at a specific pace.

Going too fast up hills.

Long runs

These are a significant aerobic stimulus. Time on your feet is the goal — not speed. In a sugar-depleted “fasting” state (no carbohydrates before or during the run), you’ll teach your body to burn fat and recruit muscle fibers — that is, progressively activate muscle fibers as muscles wear out during a workout. Start very comfortably below your maximum AHR. On the return, you may run at your maximum AHR. Slowly build up your pace, and slowly extend the time on your feet to an hour and a half (two hours for experienced runners) once every two weeks. Maintain adequate hydration by following your thirst cues. Don’t over-drink water as this can lead to hyponatremia — a potentially dangerous condition caused when your sodium levels are too low. Replace fluids with a good recovery meal shortly after a long run, preferably within 30 minutes. As you get closer to race day, do the second half of these runs at near-marathon pace if you’re feeling good.

Body adaptation: Aerobic development. Builds capillaries, mitochondria, fat-burning capacity, and relaxed running form. Longer runs (longer than one hour) stimulate maximum muscle recruitment without the run being “hard.”

Common mistakes:

Running too fast so that you finish fatigued and slow. Like all training runs, you should feel as if you could do this run again if you had to.

Starting out above AHR and tapping all the glucose reserves instead of stimulating fat burning.

Relying on carbs for energy versus training your body to mobilize fat as fuel.

Making this one run more than 50 percent of your weekly miles.


The jogs in this plan help you recover and focus on a relaxed and efficient movement pattern. They’re also good for mental relaxation, stress reduction and general health. You should run much more slowly than you’re capable of, well below your maximum AHR. Use a light, springy running motion, and keep your cadence close to 180. The goal is an easy 20 to 30 minutes of activity.

Body adaptation: Aerobic development. You train the movement pattern as you focus on form, breathing and relaxation. This easy activity stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is essential for balancing the stress generated every day from the sympathetic nervous system.

Common mistakes:

Timing your jog for speed.

Getting frustrated with the slow pace.

Deciding to run this above your maximum AHR.

Threshold or tempo run

Threshold is the top-end aerobic pace, right at the line between aerobic and anaerobic — the fastest you can run without generating more lactic acid than you can recycle back into energy. Called the anaerobic threshold, it’s a pace you could sustain for at least 30 to 60 minutes once you are fit, about a 10K pace.

For these runs, warm up nice and easy for at least 10 minutes. Choose an out-and-back or loop course you enjoy that is uninterrupted by traffic. A track works well for shorter distances. Run at comfortable, hard effort, building from 15 minutes to up to 30 minutes. Your effort and heart rate (if you wear a heart-rate monitor) should be constant from week to week, but as you become more efficient, your pace will increase naturally.

Body adaptation: Develops relaxed speed and running economy; improves aerobic development (remember, this is below anaerobic threshold); and raises your anaerobic threshold by running at a pace at or slightly below it. Helps teach pacing.

Common mistakes:

Many novice and experienced runners do this “all out” or think of these as “races.”

Checking watch and wanting to run specific times.

Thinking you need to improve time with each successive run and trying to force this. Instead, think: “fast and relaxed.”

More to come: Look for Part 2 next week.

Mark Cucuzzella

Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella is a professor of family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He is also designing programs to reduce running injuries in service members. He’s been a competitive runner for 30 years — with more than 100 marathon and ultramarathon finishes — and continues to compete as a national-level Masters runner. His marathon best is 2:24, and he’s won the Air Force Marathon twice, including in 2011 (2:38) a week shy of his 45th birthday.

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