I have always tried to emphasize the importance of consistency in training and to produce the greatest benefit from the least amount of training stress, rather than the greatest benefit from the greatest amount of stress.
The four basic ingredients of success I have always referred to will determine how successful any person will be as a runner. These ingredients are, in their order of importance, inherent ability, intrinsic motivation, opportunity, and direction.
Because a good deal of what makes a great runner is not outwardly obvious, it is not as easy to see who is designed to be a great distance runner as it is to see who might have potential to play center on an elite basketball team. In fact, there might be two runners on a team who are the same height and same weight, who eat and sleep well, and who follow the same training program, but one beats the other by 30 seconds in a mile race because of unseen physiological or biomechanical (or even psychological) factors.
As for those in group three, there are cases of people who were not very good at the high school level who went on to make an Olympic team. One of the subjects in an earlier research project I conducted had a best high school mile of 4:34, and this runner went on to set a world record in an indoor, middle-distance event and also to place ninth in the Olympic 1,500.
4. Be flexible in training to allow for the unexpected. Switch days to accommodate weather, for example. If you have a workout scheduled for Monday, and Monday’s weather is cold rain and high winds and Tuesday’s weather is predicted to be much nicer, put Monday’s workout off until Tuesday.
5. Set intermediate goals. These goals pave the way to long-term goals. Long-term goals are important to have but may take years to achieve, so it is crucial to have some smaller, more readily achievable goals along the way.
6. Training should be rewarding. It’s not always fun, but it should always be rewarding. Sometimes a particular workout may not feel so great, but if you understand the purpose of each workout, it is more likely that you will understand that progress is being made—and that is certainly rewarding.
7. Eat and sleep well. Rest and good nutrition are parts of training, not things that are done outside of training.
8. Don’t train when sick or injured. Not following this law often leads to a more prolonged setback than if you’d taken a few days to recover from an illness or injury.
From a runner’s standpoint, consistency in training is the single most important thing that leads to success. That consistency comes from concentrating on the task at hand—neither dwelling on the past nor looking too far forward. The only thing you can control is the present, and when you focus on that and remain consistent in your training, you’ll find your greatest success.
it takes months for muscle fibers to fully adjust to the stress of regular running
The second principle of training is directly associated with the first. The principle of specificity simply states that the tissues being stressed are the ones that react to that stress. If you stress your heart muscle, the heart reacts; if you stress some breathing muscles, they react; and if you stress some running muscles in your legs, those muscles will react. Every time you run, or even walk, some parts of your feet will also react to the stress imposed on them.
More stress leads to more adaptation, but another training basic may also come into play here: the principle of overstress. If you overstress some body parts, they may not get tougher; in fact, they may get weaker or break down completely. This brings up a very important part of the equation. When does the body accomplish the strengthening part of the stress reaction? It is during the recovery, or rest time, between bouts of stress that the strengthening takes place.
Coaches and runners must be able to make adjustments to accommodate each athlete who is out there to work out. You never know when the slowest person on the team may eventually become the best, but it will never happen if he is discouraged and quits before he realizes his potential or, worse, is run into the ground and injured so he is not able to run at all.
When you feel the need to increase the stress level of the training program in figure 2.1, you have all four components to work with: You could increase the workload by increasing the number of 1-kilometer runs to 4, or some number more than 3, and leaving the other ingredients as they are. You could leave the workload at 3,000 meters and increase intensity to 3:30 per kilometer. You could keep load and intensity as is and reduce the recovery time between runs to 2 minutes. You could leave load, intensity, and recovery as they are and just increase frequency to 4 or 5 days each week. It is not a good idea to change more than one of the training variables. A lot depends on the total mileage currently achieved; the number of repeats of a particular training distance in a training session should be a function of weekly mileage. If a runner has a stable weekly mileage, the number of repeats will not usually be changed; more likely the speed of the repeated runs will be increased and recovery time held similar to what it was earlier. Making any of the ingredients of the training session more stressful will usually result in the body moving up to a new level of fitness,
Something that should definitely be avoided is overtraining, and the best way to prevent this negative scenario is to have constant runner–coach interaction. Training intensities should be determined by current fitness, which is best measured by race performances. With this in mind, my standard answer to a runner who thinks his training needs to be speeded up is “Prove to me in a race that you are ready to train faster.”
This curve shows that when you are not training very hard, there is less chance of encountering a setback, through injury or lack of interest; but at some point in the training process, as the stress of training increases in intensity, the chance of a setback starts to increase rather rapidly. When you consider these two responses to training, most of your training must be in the gray shading shown in figure 2.3. Within this ideal intensity zone, there are substantial benefits and relatively minimal chances of being sidetracked by setbacks.
When increasing the training stress, always stay at a chosen degree of stress for 4 to 6 weeks before making changes. It is a mistake to try to make each week of training, or each specific workout, better than the previous week or the last time you did that specific workout. I would much rather have my runners come to me saying a particular workout is starting to feel too easy than for them to be struggling to go a little faster each time they train.
Of all the runners evaluated, only one took fewer than 180 steps per minute. Turnover was well over 200 per minute in the 800 and sometimes in the 1,500, but from the 3,000 (a women’s event in the 1984 Olympics) through the marathon, the rate was quite similar and only stride length was reduced as the race distance became longer.
One reason I strongly emphasize trying to run with a stride rate around 180 steps per minute is to minimize the landing shock associated with running. Keep in mind that the slower the leg turnover, the more time you are spending in the air; the more time you spend in the air, the higher you are elevating your body mass; and the higher you elevate body mass, the harder you hit the ground on the next landing. Believe me, it is during the impact associated with hitting the ground that many little injuries occur.
Try to have your feet land closer back, toward your center of gravity, so your body is floating (or rolling) over your feet.
One final thought about foot strike is to try to avoid turning your toes outward as you land. Have someone watch you from the front as you run toward them, checking to see if your feet are striking the ground with the toes pointing straight forward rather than to the side. A turned-out foot on landing often leads to shin pain along the inside of the lower leg.
I sometimes tell runners they should imagine they are running over a field of raw eggs and their goal is to not break any of them; be light on your feet and comfortable in your landing. And one final note—don’t count each foot when counting stride rate; just count the right (or left) foot and look for 90 (assuming, of course, that you take as many steps with the left as you do with your right).
Most accomplished runners breathe with a 2-2 rhythm, especially when running fairly hard, because it is comfortable and allows a sizable amount of air to be breathed in and out of the lungs. I strongly recommend using a 2-2 rhythm during practice and in competition, at least during the first two-thirds of middle-distance races, as I explain later in the chapter.
Taking three steps per breathing cycle (using a 2-1 or 1-2 rhythm) gives you 60 breaths per minute (1 each second). This probably allows for the greatest amount of air to be moved per minute while running, but it is usually not necessary until you are working very hard, such as in the last part of a 5K or 10K race. Of all the elite runners I have tested in the lab, about 86 percent of them automatically choose a 2-2 rhythm until working at maximum, at which time they go to 2-1 or 1-2.
The measure of energy expended while running aerobically at some submax speeds is a measure of running economy. Just as some cars use less fuel to cover any particular distance of movement, so do some runners consume less oxygen (they are more economical) while running at the same speed.
shows the two economy curves that were developed by connecting the O2 data points collected during repeated 5-minute runs at several submaximal running speeds. By extrapolating the generated economy curves out to each runner’s O2max value (73 for my teammate [runner 1] and 63 for me [runner 2]) and then drawing a vertical line from each max value down to the horizontal axis of the figure, I was able to arrive at a running speed that I termed vO2max (velocity at O2max). If you think about it, vO2max is a far more important determinant of running ability than are O2max or economy, individually, because this important variable indicates what running speed is associated with each athlete’s aerobic power (O2max). So, if two runners have the same vO2max, they should be equal in racing over various distances.
Interestingly, runners race at rather predictable fractions (percentages) of their vO2max speeds, which are determined by the duration (not the distance) of a race. For example, a race that lasts about 30 minutes is run at about 93 percent of a person’s O2max, even if one runner is completing 10,000 meters and another only 8,000 meters in that 30-minute period.
Here is an example: Absolute O2max = 3,000 ml and body mass = 60 kg, which produces a relative O2max of 50 ml/kg, which according to my calculation is equal to a 19:56 5K race time. Now, getting body weight down to 50 kg means your relative O2max theoretically should now become 60 ml/kg (3,000 / 50 kg = 60 ml/kg), and a 60 max is associated with a 5K time of 17:02. However, if while losing weight you lose some valuable muscle, then absolute O2max drops because that O2 value is a function of how much muscle mass you have to do your running for you. So, maybe your weight (and muscle) loss results in a reduced absolute O2max of 2,500 ml (down from the previous 3,000 ml value). This leaves your relative max value at 50 ml/kg, and now you are weaker because of a smaller working muscle mass, and that results in a slower time.
E stands for easy and is typically an intensity about 59 to 74 percent of O2max or about 65 to 78 percent of maximum heart rate. What is the purpose of easy running? There are several benefits, and the first is that you build up a certain degree of resistance to injury by taking it easy in many of your runs. E running is especially good for building a base when just starting out in a running program or when returning to running after a break of some weeks or months.
E running does a good job of developing the heart muscle, since the maximum force of each stroke of the heart is reached when the heart rate is at about 60 percent of maximum. As you run faster, the heart rate and the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat (referred to as stroke volume) both increase, but stroke volume increases minimally.
Even during E running, your heart is delivering a good amount of blood and oxygen to the exercising muscles, and these muscles respond by making changes in the muscle fibers that allow the muscles to accept more oxygen and convert more fuel into energy in a given period. In fact, many of the benefits gained as a result of this process are a function of time spent stressing the muscle fibers. You will no doubt spend more time accomplishing this goal by running easily because it is easier to last longer at a comfortable pace than it is at a hard pace.
Because 30 minutes of steady running provides considerable benefits for the time spent running, I suggest that 30 minutes be the minimum duration of any E run you go out for. I also suggest that your longest steady run (unless preparing for some ultra events) be 150 minutes (2.5 hours), even if preparing for a marathon.
and an E day may even be a day off from running. In addition to using E pace during L runs, E intensity is also used for a good part of warming up and cooling down and during recovery jogs between bouts of faster and harder running.
It is often good to think of E days as opportunities to accumulate the mileage needed to reach your desired weekly mileage goals. For example, if you are trying to total 40 miles in a particular week and you have a 10-mile L run one day and a total of 8 miles (including warm-up, some faster quality running, and cool-down) on two other days, this means you have to accumulate another 14 miles on the remaining 4 days. This could be done by running 3 to 5 E miles on each of these 4 days, or you might run 5 or 6 miles on 2 of the 4 days, plus 3 on another day and take one day off completely from running.
I like to limit any single L run to 30 percent of weekly mileage for runners who are totaling fewer than 40 miles (64 km) per week.
Try to stay with the same weekly mileage for 4 weeks before making an increase, which also means your L run will stay similar for several weeks at a time. Also, feel free to reduce the duration of an L run if some weeks you are not feeling as good as in others, if conditions make the same L run much more stressful, or if you need to back off a little for a coming race.
the purpose of M running, for someone who is training for a marathon, is to adjust to the specific pace to be used in the coming marathon and to practice drinking while at this pace. So, you might say the main benefit of M running is mental, helping you gain confidence at the pace you plan to race in a coming marathon. Physiological benefits are really not different from those gained during E running. However, some runners who are not training for a marathon may find that M-pace runs build confidence that they can handle a fairly prolonged run at something a little faster than a typical E-pace run.
The intensity of T (threshold) runs should be comfortably hard, which means you are definitely working relatively hard, but the pace is manageable for a fairly long time (certainly 20 or 30 minutes in practice). Peaked and rested, you can race at T pace for about 60 minutes, which means elite runners run right at T pace for 20K or even for a half marathon.
The all-important purpose of T runs is to allow your body to improve its ability to clear blood lactate and keep it below a fairly manageable level. It is often best to think of the purpose of T runs as being to improve your endurance—teaching your body how to deal with a slightly more demanding pace for a prolonged period of time, or increasing the duration of time you can hold at a specific pace.
Threshold pace would physiologically be at about 86 to 88 percent of O2max (88 to 90 percent of maximum heart rate) for well-trained athletes and still above 80 percent values for lesser-trained runners. When I have a runner who is relatively new to my style of coaching and she is doing a T-pace workout for the first time, I will suggest that she ask herself during the run if that pace could be maintained for 30 or 40 minutes if necessary.
As with L runs and M runs, I suggest a limit on how much running to accumulate at T pace in a single workout session; for T, I suggest not totaling more than 10 percent of your weekly mileage in a single workout. However, for any runner who can handle a steady 20-minute T run, I also suggest a minimum of 30 minutes at T pace if the session is broken into cruise intervals.
the most logical purpose of I training is to maximize aerobic power (O2max), and believing that the best way to improve any bodily function is to stress that function, I decided that the intensity had to be at or very close to O2max (and maximum heart rate), and the work-to-rest ratio had to optimize that purpose.
the duration a person can exercise at O2 max, and that time is about 11 minutes. Obviously it is not desirable to make individual work bouts that long, but since it takes about 90 to 120 seconds to build up to O2max, from complete recovery, a good amount of time to spend running at I pace is between 3 and 5 minutes. It can also be less than 3 minutes, as explained in the next section.
Working beyond your O2max pace (beyond vO2max) will not give you any more benefit relative to the purpose of the workout.
running too fast on the first of five repeated 5-minute runs may result in the second run just making an 82.5-second pace, but the last three may all be slower than the proper pace because you wiped yourself out working too hard on the first one or two. Further, no matter how much you may be hurting during those later ones, which are too slow (because of so much anaerobic work being done while overworking in the first one or two), you are not spending any time at your max aerobic power. The result is that you get about 3 minutes at O2max in runs one and two, but you get no time at max in runs three, four, and five. What was the purpose of the workout? If it was to hurt, you accomplished the purpose, but if you had planned to spend 15 minutes or so stressing your aerobic maximum, you missed that completely.
you could accumulate a good amount of time at O2max when using 400-meter work bouts. O2 doesn’t quite reach O2max during the first I-pace run, but with a short recovery after the first run (about 45 seconds), the second run will be starting at an already elevated O2, and it will take less time to reach max with all additional runs that are followed by short recoveries. The result is that each additional run will reach max rather quickly, and the overall time spent at O2max will accumulate to a fairly good number.
My suggestion for how much I- or H-pace running to do in a single session is to make the maximum the lesser of 10K or 8 percent of your weekly mileage. So if you do 40 miles a week, the recommended maximum at I pace would be 3.2 miles (8 percent of 40).
The primary purpose of R (repetition) training is to improve anaerobic power, speed, and economy of running.
Some runners, and even some coaches, believe that if a good workout is 10 × 400 at 70 seconds each, with 3 minutes of recovery between the faster runs, then 10 × 400 at 70 with only 2-minute recoveries would be a better workout. I could argue that the latter could be a worse workout. Consider the purpose of the workout—to improve speed and maintain good mechanics while running fast. However, if you cut the recovery time, you may not be adequately recovered to run a 70-second pace with good mechanics, and struggling is not accomplishing the purpose of the workout.
For distance runners, I suggest a recovery time that is about two or three times as long (in time, not in distance covered) as the faster R-pace runs they are performing. Another way to determine recovery time in an R session is to do an easy jog as far as the fast run just performed. For example, when running R 400s, jog an easy 400 between the faster runs, perhaps walking the final 10 or 20 meters before the next fast run.
I suggest that the amount of running to accumulate at R pace (in a single training session) be the lesser of 5 miles (8 km) and 5 percent of weekly mileage.
Another rule of thumb I like to follow is that single work bouts (for faster runs at R pace) should not last longer than about 2 minutes each, which means most true R sessions will be made up of repeated 200s, 300s, 400s, 500s, and 600s for most runners.
Some inmates I worked with at a state prison held an annual marathon in the yard, and they ran on a 1-mile loop that changed surfaces five times each loop. One of the guys averaged 40 miles a week in that yard. A guy I coached by e-mail a few years back ran to and from work each day (in New York City, by the way). He would sometimes get a ride home on very bad days, so to make up for missing his workout, he would run for an hour and a half, in place, in his apartment. Another guy, in his 70s, ran more than 100 miles a week for 14 consecutive weeks, and it was all done between 2:00 and 5:00 a.m.
A word of caution about running downhill, be it over ground or on a treadmill. Just as running uphill reduces the impact of landing, so does running downhill increase the impact. It is wise to add bouts of downhill running rather gradually to a training program so you don’t bring on an injury associated with the extra landing shock.
Although it is not necessarily a constant, adding a 2 percent grade will increase the demand of running on the treadmill to just about what it would be outside on a calm day at the same running speed.
Using a person’s race times gives a far better prediction of training intensities and other race performances than do tests in the lab. Race times reflect your max, your economy, your threshold, and your mental approach to racing, all in one measure—the time it takes you to run a race.
I like to break a season of training into four phases, as shown in figure 6.1. Phase I is B/FIP, which stands for base training with foundation and injury-prevention emphases. Phase II has an IQ emphasis, which stands for initial quality training phase. Phase III is for TQ (transition quality) training, and this is generally the most demanding of the four phases. Phase IV is designed to provide the runner with peak performances and is identified as FQ (final quality).
My typical approach to setting up the four phases of training is to include mostly E running during phase I. If there are more than 3 weeks available for phase I, I would start adding some light strides (10- to 15-second light, quick runs, with full recoveries) to daily E runs, along with some supplemental training, such as light resistance training and dynamic flexibility work, after some of these runs. I also suggest one weekly easy L run that is 25 to 30 percent of each week’s total mileage.
After phase I is completed, I prefer to include R training in phase II. I try to add just one new stress to a new phase of training, and going from E running to R workouts is adding only a speed stress, with little being asked of the aerobic or lactate-clearance systems. If I were to go from E running to I training, I would be adding two new stresses—faster running and more stress on the aerobic system.
To summarize, I prefer going from E running to R workouts to I sessions and finally to T training. However, when I move from E running to R training, I continue doing E runs most days of the week during the R phase, and when moving from R to I, I may still schedule occasional R sessions to maintain what was gained in the earlier R phase. It might be simplest to think of each phase as including a primary type of training plus secondary training to maintain what was accomplished in the previous phase. Definitely, when moving to phase IV, when the emphasis is primarily on T workouts, I continue to add some R training, usually at the end of a T session.
I have set up the four phases of a training season to last 24 weeks—6 weeks in each of the four phases. However, especially during high school and college cross country seasons, there are not always 24 weeks available in order for there to be four 6-week phases of training.
This approach should also be used with any runner who had to take a break for some time because of an injury or illness. The worst thing to subject one of these runners to would be a somewhat demanding workout with the idea that you have to make up for lost time. Remember, the less your body has been stressed recently in training, the more benefit it gets from not imposing much stress on it. You are always better off a little below optimum and healthy than unable to race because of overtraining or illness.
people who are not in very good shape when starting out in a running program do not need to train very hard, or often, to gain considerable benefit.
Performance benefits that result from training at altitude should not be considered temporary in nature. Many athletes have raised their level of fitness a notch through altitude training and maintained that performance capability, even months after return to sea level. The key is to maintain what has been accomplished through new levels of stress in the overall training program. In other words, if your performances have improved as a result of altitude training, your body has made some improvements, and as long as your new level of fitness continues to be stressed—with increased speeds of training back at sea level—you will not lose that ability.
I often refer to this advantage as having “learned to hurt” when at altitude, and that same level of hurt is now associated with a little faster time than previously run at sea level. In fact, I believe that one of the most significant benefits of spending some time training at altitude is that you do learn to hurt a little more.
Both the 5K and 10K are primarily aerobic events, with most 5K races performed at about 95 to 98 percent of O2max and 10Ks at about 90 to 94 percent of O2max. To be sure, these are not fun intensities to hold for prolonged periods, and the mental aspect of these distances is certainly important.
Remember, if you are running with a good number of runners in the middle of a cross country race and you aren’t feeling particularly strong, you must realize all those others near you are also feeling as bad as you are or they wouldn’t be with you—they would be running on by and leaving you behind.
Some runners like to charge up hills; I prefer asking my runners to see how little effort they can put into staying with others on uphill runs and then to concentrate on a solid effort after reaching the top of the hill, when others are often backing off to recover. I have told my runners to concentrate on a solid pace while counting 50 foot falls after reaching the top of the hill. After the 50 foot falls, runners have often recovered well from the hill while moving ahead of others.
Regardless of the reason for a break from regular training, it is not advisable to jump right back into the volume of training you were doing before the time off started. Training will have to be adjusted because there has been some loss of fitness, and always remember that when your fitness is down a little, training doesn’t have to be as hard as it was before the break to still gain benefits. In other words, don’t try to work extra hard to make up for lost time.
In summary, consider adding some supplemental training to your overall program, even if it is just some exercises you can do in your house or backyard. Getting stronger will increase your confidence, will improve your running economy, and will help ward off those little injuries that often plague runners at all levels of proficiency.