Training Polarization

What does Polarized Training mean?

Kongin Bonface using LightSpeed Lift for quality training with less impact forces.

The term “polarized training plan” refers to the amount of time you spend running at a leisurely pace, based on HR 70% PMHR (predicted maximal heart rate), and an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 3-4 vs. running at a hard pace of 85-90% of PMHR or RPE of 6-8.  Most articles I’m reading recommend spending about 80% of your time training in the easy conversation zone and 15-20% training in the pain zone.  This advice is based on fewer injuries, improving max V02 with this training pattern, and producing a more significant gain in 10K race time. LightSpeed Lift body weight support system can make this template even better.

The 3/17/21 edition of Runner’s World references a study published in the “International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance” 2014, March;9(2) by Nunoz, Seiler et al. that documented better improvements in 10K times and improved max V02 for a group of runners who followed the 80/20 model vs. a group spending 30% of their workouts in the moderate, 75-85% PMHR or RPE of 5-6.  The catch with this “polarized” approach is that the easy needs to be easy, and the hard needs to be hard.  Spending effort at the moderate level seems to pay no dividends.

Many people will relate to the conversational runs we take with our running group, solving daily problems and melting stress away, talking comfortably throughout the entire run. The casual run stimulates brain & bone health while stressing tendons and ligaments in a running-specific manner.  The cardiovascular system opens up, drawing in air and pumping out blood throughout the entire body. Those sessions leave most runners energized and happy to plan the next run. Those are the easy, joyful runs.

The hard runs are much more focused and involve less conversation.  When running at 85% of PMHR, the body is stressed, the conversation is minimal, the heart and lungs expand and contract with greater force, and the musculoskeletal system is stressed into the damage zone.  This intensity will cause tissue adaptation, eventually strengthening bones, tendons, ligaments, heart, and lungs.  After a hard workout, rest and recovery are vital to allow the body to repair the planned damage.

Using LightSpeed Lift body weight supported (BWS) treadmill runs can benefit both easy and hard training days.  Here’s how and why you should work BWS into your training for fun, injury prevention, and running times.  The plans are not exclusive and can be combined in many patterns.  Customize for your fitness and running goals.

Plan 1: Use LightSpeed Lift as one of the recovery runs.

Running is a complex motor program.  The biggest problem with slow recovery runs is teaching your body to run slowly. Slow running has a different coordination pattern than fast or race-pace running.  If 80% of your running is done slowly, guess what pattern is imprinted?  Running with 20-25 pounds off-weight using LightSpeed allows you to increase your pace by about one minute/mile at the exact metabolic cost.  Training with BWS also reduces impact forces that can lead to injury associated with faster-paced running. So, run the same amount of time, HR intensity, and RPE as planned but do it with BWS.  Training at this faster pace imprints faster movement into your “running motor program.”  You will appreciate the quicker legs this 1-2 times/week workout provides.

Plan 2 - Using LightSpeed BWS for your hard days. 

Easing into fast sustained running can be an oxymoron. Hard days by design, are when the body breaks down (the good news is that with proper recovery, the body builds back better). However, the reduction in landing stress when running with BWS allows your body to adapt in a controlled manner.  The runner can either run for a longer duration at the training pace or run faster and allow more recovery time between intervals. Training faster and longer with less impact stress, safely ramps up the training load, enabling the body to adapt to the stress with fewer injuries.  Also, introducing the faster leg turnover gives the runner confidence and efficiency when running at speedier race paces.

The 80 / 20 training program can produce great fitness results.  Adding in 1-2 workouts per week using BWS running can improve it.  Faster recovery and a way to “ease into” the faster days with slightly less ground reaction forces that can push tissue breakdown into an injured state.  Join runners around the globe of all abilities who use LightSpeed Lift BWS to improve their health, running enjoyment, and speed.  Speed is FUN.  Use it wisely, my friends.