Building That Engine


“No matter how slow you go, your still lapping everyone on the couch”-Unknown

I was recently asked, by a perspective police officer, how to get faster times on their 1.5 mile run. In order to pass the Police Power test, you need to complete the 1.5 Mile run in 13 minutes 46 seconds, not a difficult task. But, he wanted to do it faster. Not being the fastest cat on that track, I am probably not the best person to ask such advice. However, sometimes the best people to get advice from are those who are not the best and need to work thier asses off to get to where they are by trying every program imaginable to succeed. Often I’ve asked the “natural” runners for advice and have found they don’t have much to give. Their advice “I just run”, not much help, they are just good at what they do. Not me.

So, I of course began describing my running program. And to his amazement no where in the program is a 1.5 mile run. Why? When it comes to how I look at any challenge, I shoot for the “aim small, miss small” approach. Which means train for harder shots and the easy shot will be, well easier. If you train for the longer runs, your 1.5 mile run will be a breeze. Since I can remember I’ve hated running. My body cramps, stomach rumbles, and my chest feels like its going to explode. However, I’ve grown to enjoy it. I had to start somewhere and this program is where I began to see drastic changes in my cardiovascular endurance. This is where I built my engine.

Lets say you have 8 weeks until your test/time trial. I start my programs with building my cardiac engine, easy/medium effort (Zone 1 or Zone 2 65-75% or 76-85% max heart rate) 3 mile runs with a 4 mile run on the last two weeks.

  • week Tne: Three 3 mile runs (easy/medium effort)
  • week Two: Three 3 mile runs (easy/medium effort)
  • week Three: Two 3 mile run + one 4 mile run (easy/medium effort)
  • week Four: Two 3 mile runs +one 4 mile run (easy/medium effort)

Medium effort or easy effort is where you want to be one these runs. For me, my heart rate is about 140BPM. You are building your engine in Zone 1 and 2. Your just getting your body used to running and developing your cardiovascular capacity.

This is a two-mile time trial I did during my program, my heart rate stayed at an average of 145BPM (72% Max Heart rate) Even when I pushed myself

What you’ll begin to see after training in these two zones for longer periods of time (30-40 minutes) is your heart rate will begin to fluctuate less as you pick up your speed. Your heart rate might spike during your faster runs, but what you’ll see is it levels back off, because you’ve built your engine.


Second phase, I step up the speed a bit with some interval training and a couple of 3 mile time trials. The time trials are used to push yourself to the next level.

  • Week five: one 3 mile run (medium effort) + two 4 mile run w/intervals  (.5 mile medium effort, .25 mile max effort, .25mile easy effort)
  • Week six: one 3 mile run (medium effort) + two 4 mile run w/ intervals (.5 mile medium effort, .25 max effort, .25 easy effort)
  • Week seven: 3 mile run time trial, 4 mile run medium effort, 5 mile run medium effort
  • Week eight: 3 mile run time trial, 4 mile run medium effort,  5 mile run medium effort


The intervals will allow you to build your speed and figure out how much you can push it and not get gassed out. Max effort is Zone 3 (86-95% max heart rate) and you’ll finish that Zone with a Zone 1 cool down. This is where you will begin to see your cardiovascular system learn to respond to induced stress and further regulate your oxygen delivery. During your 3 mile time trials push yourself and try to get the best 3 mile time you can. Anything in the low 20’s is great, and some of you may even be able to break in the sub 20 minute category.

Here I am able to maintain a 9 minute mile pace for 5 miles, and staying in Zone 1, due to my Cardio system becoming more efficient. Probably had more gas in the tank to step it up.

I than finish with 4 and 5 mile runs at medium effort. At this stage you’ll notice you can maintain a decently fast cadence for 4-5 miles, and you’ll stay in Zone  2.


Use of a GPS watch or running app is key, especially when doing your intervals. If you don’t have access to either of these tools, jump in your car and measure out the distances of your route using your odometer. Than use landmarks to divide the known distances. This is what I did back before smart phones and cool watches. You’ll still need a stop watch of some kind. You can also use a known distance track or trail.

Now, 8 weeks is a pretty short time period and if your new to running you want to start training farther out from your time trial, like 16 weeks or so. And, you can begin with 1-2 mile runs instead of 3. The object of the program is to train at a much higher volume than what your physical test will be in. Your times will increase and you won’t feel like garbage. Take it from the guy who puked in front of a bunch of cops after pushing himself to complete the run on time, not cool.

All success starts ends with the first baby step which in the grand Spectrum of things is a huge leap and not a baby step and that is raising your current mind-set and trading in your “expectations” for your NEW “standard.” If you don’t change that you will be ‘running’ in place for the rest of your life.


2 thoughts on “Building That Engine

  1. OUTSTANDING Article :

    I enjoyed it so much I passed it onto my Circuit Training Instructor . She’s actually passed it on to her 2 daughters that are currently College Lever Long Distance runners and it sounds like they are incorporating the endurance evolution training into their workout platform.

    We influence people we never meet with our thoughts. Pretty cool stuff that huh.?



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