Polarised training is a concept where your training sits on two ends of the intensity spectrum. It’s extremely popular among certain elite distance runners. By taking this approach they are able to reserve their body to run hard when they need to during training. Your training is either high intensity and very exhausting or low intensity and does not fatigue the body too much.
What’s Polarised Training?
By implementing a polarised training approach you ensure that each time you train, you perform at either a low or high intensity. High-intensity workouts are there for fitness breakthroughs and adaptations. They’ll leave you exhausted and you’ll need a fair bit of time to recover.
Low-intensity workouts are there for maintenance and to improve other aspects of your fitness such as muscular endurance and aerobic fitness. These are what you could call your ‘general runs’ or ‘recovery runs’. They’re both important, but the idea is that by doing a lot of low-intensity workouts between your high-intensity workouts, you’ll still accrue fitness benefits without trashing your body too much on a molecular level.
Why Polarised Training?
Polarised training gives your body more time to recover and can help to prevent overtraining which can lead to overuse injuries such as stress fractures as well as acute or chronic inflammation.
Some people feel the urge to workout hard every day since they feel like if the workout isn’t hard, then they’re not benefitting much from it, but this is not the case since the body needs time, nutrition and sleep to recover well.
Low-intensity workouts and runs can help to bridge that gap that a runner might need if they have the urge to run every day, but instead of running at a high-intensity they can run at a low-intensity and know they are helping their body recover. Low-intensity workouts can also include swimming, light cycling or taking a hike. It’s also important to remember to take between one and several days of complete rest if you feel like you might be pushing your body too hard to reduce your chance of injury.
Implementing Polarised Training
Polarised training can be implemented quite easily into most training plans since they generally have two or three high-intensity sessions a week. If you’re not accustomed to high-intensity sessions, then it’s best to start with once a week and progress slowly up to three a week if you desire as this will give your body time to adapt to the stress of the high-intensity session.
For a week with three high-intensity sessions you could do:
- Monday – 5 miles steady
- Tuesday – Track session (10 x 300m with 1 minutes recovery)
- Wednesday – 5 miles steady
- Thursday – Tempo for 25 minutes
- Friday – Rest
- Saturday – Hill session (20 hill sprints with jog down recovery)
- Sunday – 10 mile long run at an easy or steady pace
Occasionally, it’s a good idea to skip a high-intensity session and rest that day or have a low-intensity day in place of that. Perhaps every 3 – 4 weeks to avoid injury. Also, make sure you listen to what your body is telling you in order to know when to stop running or ease off on your training.
I hope you found this post useful! If you did, it’d be great if you could share it with other runners to help them prevent injuries by having a look and potentially taking this approach and using polarised training!