As a follow-up to my last post, I have also been thinking about how to distill my training philosophy into a simple, enumerated list. Obviously, something as amorphous and malleable as a methodology does not lend itself to bullet items very easily, but here’s my best shot:
1) Every mile counts. I have heard lots of people say “you need to run for at least x amount of minutes to reap any benefits.” Sometimes x is 20, other times it’s 30. It may be true that you achieve full benefit after so many minutes, but a mile is still a mile. If you only have time to run one mile, get out there and do it! 10 minutes of running are better than 0 minutes of running. And generally speaking, the more miles you run, the more fit you will be.
2) Some miles count more than others. If you were to take two runners with equal 5K times, and have them both run 50 miles per week, but tell one to only run easy, and the other to do a threshold run and an interval workout each week, who do you think will improve more? Yes, I am a big proponent of increasing mileage, but not at the expense of quality. Optimal training is derived when you find the right balance of quality and quantity, which is different for every person.
3) There is no magic workout or training. Just because some runner did 20x 400m before every big race doesn’t mean there is anything special about it. Every successful runner has one thing in common: they worked hard for many years to get where they were. Consistency matters much more than any individual workout. It is much better to run 40 miles per week for 6 months than to try to run 60, get injured, and not be able to run for 6 weeks.
4) No one workout ever made a runner, but one workout can break a runner. If you’re feeling achy or sore, skip or truncate your workout. It’s not worth getting injured for a minuscule increase in fitness. Going back to number 3, staying healthy for a long time is the “secret” to success.
5) If you have the opportunity to run a hill, do it. Hills are probably my favorite training tool. Even if you’re not charging up them repeatedly, running uphill builds strength and aerobic capacity. Runners who train on hills regularly are almost always fitter than their flat-lander associates.
6) Expensive gear doesn’t make you a better runner. This is one of the reasons I am not a fan of cycling. A biker can improve their times by a very large margin by simply buying a better bike. But even the most expensive shoes (contrary to Nike’s claims) won’t turn a 3:30 marathoner into a 2:45 runner.
7) Effort matters more than pace. Per my last post, the point of a workout is to elicit a particular physiological stress, not to beat your paces from your last race or workout. On that note, going by effort level ensures a better response than trying to hit a pace that may or may not be feasible on that day.
8) Preventative Maintenance is better than rehab. Few runners enjoy going to the weight room or doing supplemental exercises. So we wait until we get injured and only then do we start doing the required work to fix the issue that caused the injury… Until we are healthy again and forgo the strength training to just run. But look at it this way: if you dedicate 30 minutes three times a week to working on exercises to fix your weaknesses, isn’t that better than taking two to eight weeks off from running because you got injured? Work on your strength, flexibility, and muscle imbalances. It’s better than being injured.
9) Don’t neglect your speed. Even during base or marathon training cycles, don’t completely ignore speedwork. I am a big fan of doing strides of 20-30 seconds at 800m to 5K pace a few times a week. This keeps you in touch with your speed so you don’t completely lose it during the times when you are focused more on mileage and endurance.
10) Recovery is just as important as the workout. After a workout, your body needs time to recover and rebuild in order to get fitter. This means that if you are not recovering properly, you won’t be improving as much. Run your easy runs slow so that you’re not preventing your body from recovering. Take an extra day off if you feel you need it. Doing more workouts or running faster on your easy days is counterproductive and will lead you to injury, not success.
There. I guess that about sums it up. Does anybody have any tidbits of wisdom they live by when it comes to training?