How Long Before I See the Benefits of My Training?

April 21, 2015

Nate Vandervest, a running expert at Bellin Fitness, writes about when runners can expect to see results from their training:

So you’ve been training hard for the Bellin Run, and you wonder how long it will be until you start to see results. It’s a common question — and fortunately, one that science can help us answer.

But that answer might surprise you.

As it turns out, your age, the type of training you’re doing and other factors all help determine when you’ll start to see results. And because there are so many variables, the degree of benefit and response time will vary by individual.

Let’s start by talking about your long runs. The goal here is to increase endurance and work the aerobic system. Usually this type of run is done once a week and makes up about 20 to 30 percent of your overall weekly mileage or time. It could take four to six weeks of long runs to see the aerobic benefit and get comfortable with these longer runs.

Another common type of training is a tempo, or threshold, run. These workouts are fairly intense, run about 10 to 15 seconds slower per mile than 10K race pace. You’re running faster, but still under control. Since this is a more intense workout, it will take about seven to 10 days before you see results.

Moving on, we have the daunting interval workouts. These are very intense workouts that contain short bouts of faster-than-race-pace running lasting two to five minutes each and repeated a certain number of times. Since this is a very intense workout, it takes a little longer to see the results — probably 10 to 14 days before you reap the rewards.

Finally, there’s sprint training. This is an all-out effort for a maximum of 10 to 15 seconds, followed by complete recovery between each sprint. Even though this is a top speed workout, the results often can be seen in just one or two days. The reason for the quick turnaround is that we are working more of the nervous system to get more muscle fibers active and working. We’re training the brain just as much as the muscles on this one. 

This information helps explain why it’s smart to taper before a race. Doing a really intense workout seven to 10 days before your event is more likely to tire you out than give you that extra boost.

The key to any and all workouts is recovery. Follow the hard/easy principle of working hard one day and easy the next. Your body heals and recovers during the easy workout, which is when gains in your fitness are made. Continuously working hard or semi-hard on every workout leads to poor gains in fitness and it takes a lot longer to see those gains. Plenty of sleep, proper nutrition and massage/flexibility training will aid in your recovery.

So work hard, then recover — and you could be on your way to your best race yet.

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