COACH FORUM: Understanding the Artery Run: What to Look For and How to Execute
Hi Everyone! I'm here to chat about the artery run workout. What should we be looking for and how can we best execute this session? Post your questions here. I'll be in and out over the next three days to post answers.
As a reminder, here is the session description:
FOCUS: This artery session will evolve moving forward. Don't aim to track pace or progression in a linear fashion, use this for familiarity and a marker to gauge progress in different phases of training. Today, keep this session as a form-based low stress endurance run with heart rate firmly in Z2. The primary work is a set of strong, but not overly challenging, intervals where you carry good speed and effort over a graded terrain. Ideally do this on a repeating hill.
45 mins Z2 running. Over varied terrain if outside is ideal.
Then, SIX ROUNDS: (to be completed on a hill)
2 min Z4 effort (on 3-4 % grade) focused on RPE and HR, not pace. Strong but managed effort.
3-4 min as returning to the bottom of the hill with good foot speed, and extend into easy Z1 running before starting the next interval.
Easy home Z2 to finish.
- Kevin Collington, PPF Coach
David Shinn On this particular artery session you won't be missing out at all - in fact you can be very exact. Just be sure to wear your running watch and HR monitor on the treadmill (Garmins, for example, have a "treadmill" option for type of activity). Dial in the incline on the treadmill and monitor your RPE and HR (not the pace as the workout states) and hopefully over the coming weeks your pace goes up while RPE and HR remain in Z4.
I will also be completing most of these artery sessions on a treadmiill - and I think the biggest battle is keeping yourself entertained. So download some podcasts and good music and you should be set.
Adam Coates It is still early season so hills are massively important in the running build phase. You can get the same cardiovascular effect but without the pounding on the body that the higher speeds on flat terrain allow. This is why we ask for you to focus on RPE and HR rather than pace. There are also added strength and run form aspects to running hills - with the added resistance of running up a grade, hills become strength work for running, and are also a good chance to work on excellent run form (see the education library for more on run form work). Getting your hill work in during the post-season and build phases will leave you more prepared to execute faster race-pace workouts on the flats when the time comes to sharpen for a race.
I did the first artery run on a treadmill, and I want to make sure I was doing it right.
I maxed out my treadmill speed (5:30/mile pace), and set incline to 4%, but I was only hitting the bottom threshold of Z4 heart rate for the last 30 seconds of the two minutes (low 160s bpm by the end).
Now, I know if I kept going at that pace, my heart rate would continue to climb, but I was in Z3 for most of the two minutes.
Does this sound right? Should it be harder so that I hit Z4 HR for more of the interval (90 of the 120 seconds)?
Should I just do it outside and potentially run faster? Or at the same pace - because somehow 5:30 pace on a treadmill seems easier than 5:30 outside.
Alex Fuller I'll preface this answer by saying that you are definitely in the top 1% of athletes completing this session, so this answer won't apply to many other people.
First, for your specific situation I would advise increasing the % grade to 4.5 or 5% (possibly 5.5%, but no higher). That way we can slow you down a bit and get that HR into Z4 at a slower speed. Some harder hill work for you since you're clearly a gifted runner. There will be plenty of time to run 5:30/mile pace or faster once we start some race specific work. Disclaimer: After the workout some self-care on your achilles and calves (massage, The Stick, or similar) since the higher grade will be tough on that muscle group.
Another note on treadmills: there is a chance your treadmill is moving slower than it tells you. A really high quality treadmill (a newer model Woodway, for example) will lose 0.1 to 0.2 mph off what the display speed says simply because of a human running on the belt. Lower quality treadmills (like the treadmills at the my gym) are well known for being off by quite a bit. So I've learned to not pay attention to the speed at all and save that for when I finally hit the track in the Spring. Yet another reason to focus on RPE and HR in these treadmill sessions, since most gyms unfortunately don't have Woodways. Or, like you said, do the session outside if you live somewhere where the hills are not covered in ice at the moment!
Kevin - thank you for the quick response! I'm sure my treadmill isn't going the speed it says - it's a craigslist special and 11 years old!
That is helpful though to raise the angle a bit. I guess the only follow question I have is that should we be in Z4 heart rate for the full two minutes, or our heart rate just catches up, so we're only in Z4 HR 30-60 seconds into the interval.
Love the reminder on The Stick - I need to get back into that. Thank you!
Finally - I'm definitely not as gifted at running as my question sounds - I just fake it pretty well on the treadmill for 2 minutes.
Alex Fuller I wouldn't worry too much if your HR isn't in Z4 for the entire interval - but I think ideally you can find a gradient and pace combo that puts you into Z4 within 30 to 60 seconds of starting the interval and then remaining steady in that zone.
How important do you see the downhill portion of the intervals being with respect to building 'resilience' in the muscles and joints? Is there a significant loss in defaulting to the treadmill (weather being the primary reason with ice on pathways), and does strength work make up for any loss?
Dr Mark I think the main purpose of the downhills is recovery, but also a chance run with higher foot speed than what you had on the uphill interval portion. I don't think there is any loss by doing this on the treadmill - some treadmills actually have negative gradients so you can run "downhill," at least virtually. If your treadmill doesn't have negative gradients then you can hit 0% grade and the foot speed should still be easy to bring up a bit.
In a past life I was a sprinter, and was taught to sprint and run up hills on the balls of your feet. I find myself still doing this on inclines over ~5% is this recommended or no? I find it much easier with foot speed but not sure if it helps develop strength in the posterior chain MD is so fond of 😀
Andrew Luneau I would advise trying to run the hills with the same general run form you will use for racing the run portion of a triathlon. Most likely you will move away from that sprinter form - although I know old habits are hard to break. It will require another level of concentration for you in these sessions, but I think getting that posterior chain activation by powering down and out the back of your run stride through the heel (using your entire posterior chain - especially those glutes!) will pay off for you long distance running.
Thanks pierre close. You are correct that HR is a lagging indicator which is an easier way of answering Alex Fuller's question.
I think we are about to shut down this topic so new topics can come up next week. Good chat everyone!
Hey Kevin, hope all is well!
If we happen to miss an artery workout (run, or say, swim as I did last week), is it worth subbing in for a different yet comparable session the following week? E.g. If the artery workout is mostly focused on endurance and pacing, then would it be smart to do the artery instead of the next endurance and pacing-focused workout of the same discipline?
Thanks for the pro-fessional opinion
Joseph Rogalski absolutely - I would say 1 to 2 minutes of decline running into 1 to 2 minutes of 0% running for your rest intervals would be a great way to simulate the leg speed coming back down the hill.
Jessica VandenBussche Hi Jessica! A somewhat generic coach response on this - I'm not a fan of "making up" sessions you've missed. I would continue with the plan as-is for the next week. You will have plenty of opportunities to hit the artery sessions over the course of the build phase.
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