Category Archives: training

Determine your weekly mileage

Despite the author’s name, Jack Daniels, you don’t have to like whiskey to enjoy this book. It “provides you with his proven VDOT formula to guide you through training at exactly the right intensity to become a faster, stronger runner.”

Here’s an excerpt from Daniels’ Running Formula with permission of the publisher, Human Kinetics.

“A good measure of how much work you’re doing as a runner is how much distance you’re covering. It costs just about the same amount of energy to run eight miles in 40 minutes as it does to run eight miles in 60 minutes; you’re doing the same amount of work–only the rate is different. However, the amount of work (mileage) that you’re performing represents only part of the stress to which you’re subjecting yourself. Slower runners spend more time accumulating the same mileage covered by faster runners, and more time on the road means more footfalls, more landing impact, and a greater chance for increased fluid loss and elevated body temperature. Thus, although mileage achieved is a logical starting point, it’s also useful to keep track of total time spent running.

Keep track of your weekly mileage so that you can use this record as a basis for how much of the various types of quality work you do and so that your training is consistent. Just as you use your current VDOT or (based on current racing ability) to guide your training intensities, you can use your current weekly mileage to set limits on quality sessions–but use time spent running to log points accumulated at various intensities of running.

In the case of weekly mileage, remember the principles of stress and reaction (principle 1, page 8) and diminishing return (principle 5, page 12) I discussed in chapter 1. Stay with a set amount of mileage for at least three weeks before increasing your mileage. This gives your body a chance to adjust to and benefit from a particular load before moving on to a more demanding one. When it’s time to increase your mileage, add to your weekly total as many miles (or one and a half times as many kilometers) as the number of training sessions you’re doing each week, up to a maximum of a 10-mile (15-kilometer) total adjustment. For example, after at least three weeks of 20 miles per week spread over five training sessions, your maximum increase should be 5 miles or 7.5 kilometers–1 mile (or 1.5 kilometers) for each of the five sessions you’re doing each week. In this case, you would be moving from 20 to 25 miles per week.

A runner who’s doing 10 or more workout sessions per week could increase his or her weekly total by 10 miles, after spending at least three weeks at the previous amount. Let a 10-mile (15-kilometer) weekly increase be the maximum mileage change, even if you’re running two or more daily sessions seven days a week. Another way of dealing with increases in weekly training load is to add to the weekly total the lesser of 60 minutes per week or 6 minutes multiplied by the number of training sessions you undertake each week.

I think that two hours a day of running is quite a lot, and it’s unusual for even elite runners to run more than three hours a day (about 30 miles a day for an elite distance runner). Remember that stress is a function of time spent doing something, and that’s why a 20-mile run is more stressful for a slow runner than for a faster one. It’s not just the 20 miles but the time spent completing those 20 miles. The increased number of steps can wear you down, and the extra hour in the heat or on slick roads can take its toll. To avoid overtraining and injury, slower runners might have to run less total mileage than faster runners.”

Case for stretching before running

Given these frigid temps, it’s important to consider when to warm up and stretch. Here’s a good article on why you need to stretch from Running Well, printed with permission of Human Kenetics.

“Despite conflicting evidence on it’s benefits, we think neglecting to stretch is a bad idea! The trouble is, because many of us dislike it, we don’t spend enough time or effort on stretching and then it doesn’t work – reinforcing our belief that it’s a waste of time. However, doing it properly may result in a very different experience. To understand why, you need to know a little about what stretching does. what happens when you stretch? When you first take, say, your calf muscle, into a stretch, muscle “spindles” located among the muscle fibers detect a change in the muscle’s length and report back to the spinal cord. The nervous system sends a message to the nerves governing these fibers to tell the muscle to contract, in order to take it out of the stretched position. This is known as the “stretch reflex.” However, if the stretch is maintained for more than a few seconds (which, in many a runner’s case, it is not!), another, more sophisticated receptor, located where the muscle attaches to the tendon and called a Golgi tendon organ, comes into play. This receptor can detect not only changes in the length of the muscle but also in the amount of tension it holds. So, hold that stretch and the Golgi tendon organ, noting that the muscle fibers are contracting and lengthening, triggers a reflex relaxation of the muscle (via a process called autogenic inhibition) to protect the muscle from damage. This is why easing into a stretch slowly and then holding it allows the muscle to relax and lengthen. Over time, stretching can increase the length of the muscle, or at least maintain it at – or restore it to – its optimal functioning length. But why does this matter? Well, running, as you probably realize, involves repeated contractions of specific muscles over a long period of time. This can leave the muscle fibers shorter in length than normal, and misaligned (like hair that needs combing). Stretching is the process we use to restore muscles to their resting length and realign these fibers. Without it, we risk them shortening permanently (by a process called adaptive shortening) and, in doing so, altering the function of the joints they are connected to. For example, if the hip flexors (which work very hard in running) tighten and shorten, they pull the front of the pelvis down and throw the lower back out of alignment, which can have all sorts of knock-on effects.

What’s more, flexibility naturally declines as we age if we don’t maintain it – and changes take place in muscle fibers and connective tissue. Collagen fibers within the connective tissue thicken and, without regular stretching, get stiffer. Soft tissue becomes more dehydrated, decreasing joint lubrication and causing creakiness. One study concluded that stiffness and lack of flexibility were more a result of lack of use than of age per se, while another – on ageing runners – found that stride length declined primarily as a result of decreased range of motion at the hips and knees. Range of motion at the knees during running decreased by 33 percent and at the hips by 38 percent between the ages of 35 and 90. So, while we can’t categorically say that stretching will reduce injury risk or improve performance, it will help to restore muscles to their resting length after the continual contraction involved in running, help to maintain range of motion in the joints and prevent tightness and imbalances between muscle groups.

Six more reasons to stretch
* A flexible joint uses less energy to work through its full range of motion, so good flexibility will enable you to run more efficiently.
* Increased supply of blood and nutrients to joint structures helps keep them healthy and mobile.
* Stretching improves neuromuscular coordination (the nerve impulses that travel from the body to the brain and back).
* Muscular balance, body awareness and posture are enhanced.
* Stretching helps to flush out metabolic waste products post-run.
* It gives you time out to relax and reflect on your session.

When to do it
When – and how often – should you stretch? Ideally every day, suggests research in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, which found increases in both muscle force and power in subjects who stretched daily for several weeks. The benefits ranged from 2 to 5 percent improvement, which, they estimated, could make the difference to an elite athlete betweenwinning a gold and not making the podium at all –small, but worthwhile, gains. Another study showed that running speed improved as a result of regular stretching when it was not performed immediately prior to exercise, but this was in sprinters, so may not be so relevant to distance runners. Even more important than the possibility of shaving a few seconds off your time is the possible reduction in injury risk. While it is now widely believed that there is no evidence that stretching reduces injury risk, this refers to stretching pre-workout, as part of a warm-up, not as a separate regular practice. Three studies have found a significant decrease in injury risk as a result of regular stretching – or, to put it more accurately, as a result of good flexibility.”

Proper technique to water running

Many of us know what water running is because we’ve been injured and wanted to keep the cardio up or as a preventative measure to reduce the bodily stress of pounding pavement. Here’s an excerpt from Running Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Most runners have been introduced to water running as a rehabilitative tool for maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness after incurring an injury that precludes dryland running. However, runners should not assume that aquatic training’s only benefit is injury rehabilitation. Running in water, specifically deep-water running (DWR), is a great tool for preventing overuse injuries associated with a heavy volume of aerobic running training. Also, because of the drag associated with running in water, an element of resistance training is associated with water running that does not exist in traditional running-based training.

Although shallow-water running is a viable alternative to DWR, its benefits tend to be related to form and power. Although the improvement of form and power is important, it comes at a cost. Because shallow-water running requires impact with the bottom of a pool, it has an impact component (although the force is mitigated by the density of the water). For a runner rehabbing a lower leg injury, shallow-water running could pose a risk of injury. More important, balance and form are easier to attain in shallow-water running because of a true foot plant. Fewer core muscles are engaged to center the body, as in DWR, and there is a resting period during contact that does not exist in DWR. For our purposes, all water-related training exercises focus on DWR.

In performing a DWR workout, proper body positioning is important. The depth of the water should be sufficient to cover the entire body: Only the tops of the shoulders, the neck, and the head should be above the surface of the water. The feet should not touch the bottom of the pool. Runners tend to have more lean body mass than swimmers, making them less buoyant; therefore, a flotation device will be necessary. If a flotation device is not worn, body position can become compromised and an undue emphasis is placed on the muscles of the upper body and arms to keep the body afloat.

Once buoyed in the water, assume a body position similar to dryland running. Specifically, the head is centered, there is a slight lean forward at the waist, and the chest is “proud,” or expanded, with the shoulders pulled back, not rotated forward. Elbows are bent at 90 degrees, and movement of the arms is driven by the shoulders. The wrists are held in a neutral position, and the hands, although not clenched, are more closed than on dry land in order to push through the resistance of the water. The strength gained from performing wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are beneficial for this.

Leg action is more akin to faster-paced running than general aerobic running because of the propulsive force needed for overcoming the resistance caused by the density of the water. The knee should be driven upward to an approximate 75-degree angle at the hip. The leg is then driven down to almost full extension (avoiding hyperextension) before being pulled upward directly under the buttocks before the process is repeated with the other leg.

During the gait cycle, the feet change position from no flexion (imagine standing on a flat surface) when the knee is driving upward to approximately 65 degrees of plantarflexion (toes down) at full extension. This foot movement against resistance both facilitates the mechanics of running form and promotes joint stability and muscle strength as a result of overcoming the resistance caused by drag.

Due to the unnatural training environment (water) and the resistance created when driving the arms and legs, improper form is common when beginning a DWR training program. Specifically, it is common to make a punting-like motion with the forward leg instead of snapping it down. This error is due to fatigue of the hamstrings from the water resistance, resulting in poor mechanics. To correct this error, rest at the onset of the fatigue, and don’t perform another repetition until the time goal is met. Do not try to push through it. You won’t gain fitness, and you will gain poor form.

DWR is effective because it elevates the heart rate, similar to dryland running. And because of the physics of drag, it requires more muscular involvement, thus strengthening more muscles than dryland running does without the corresponding overuse injuries associated with such training. Specifically, it eliminates the thousands of impact-producing foot strikes incurred during non-DWR running.”

Signs you need to rest?

Understanding the difference between being tired, fatigue, and over-training is important to progress in training. Here’s a very helpful excerpt from “The Runner’s Edge” that might help. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Managing fatigue by reducing your training as necessary is one of your most important responsibilities as a competitive runner. Fatigue is a symptom of incomplete physiological adaptation to recently completed training. When fatigue persists, it means that your body is not benefiting from the hard training that is causing your fatigue. A day or two of soreness and low energy after hard workouts is normal and indeed much preferable to never feeling fatigued, which would indicate that you weren’t training hard enough to stimulate positive fitness adaptations. Extended recovery deficits, however, must be avoided at all costs.

You can minimize the need for spontaneous training reductions simply by training appropriately. Don’t ramp up your training workload too quickly (obey the guideline of 5 CTL – chronic training load-points per week), don’t try to do more than three hard workouts per week, follow each hard day with an easy day (featuring an easy run, an easy cross-training workout, or complete rest), and plan reduced-workload recovery weeks into your training every few weeks. Even if you take these measures, however, you will, assuming you train as hard as you can within these parameters, find yourself sometimes feeling flat on days when you had hoped and expected to feel strong for a harder workout, or find your fatigue level building and building over several days. At these times it’s important that you listen to your body and reduce your training for a day or two or three to put your body back on track.

Technology is no substitute for your own perceptions in these cases. No device can measure your recovery status and readiness to train hard any better than your own body can. When your body is poorly recovered from recent hard training, you can always feel it. And when factors outside of your training, such as lack of sleep or job stress, compromise your capacity to perform, you can always feel that. Before you even lace up your shoes, you know that you’re not going to have a good day because of the heaviness, sluggishness, soreness, or low motivation you feel. Your body itself is an exquisitely crafted piece of technology whose primary function is self-preservation. One of the most important mechanisms that your body uses to preserve your health through hard training is a set of symptoms of poor recovery (those just named) that encourage you to take it easy when that’s what your body needs most. It’s important that you learn to recognize these symptoms and get in the habit of obeying them. Pay attention to how your body feels before each workout and then note how you perform in the run so that you can discern patterns. Through this habit you will develop the ability to anticipate when it’s best to reduce workouts or take a day off and when to go through with planned training.

Technology can be an adjunct to listening to your body in making such decisions. We recommend three specific practices: monitoring your resting pulse, correlating poor workout performances with training stress balance, and performing a neuromuscular power test.
Resting Pulse

The first practice is monitoring your resting pulse, or performing orthostatic testing, as described in chapter 1. Look for patterns in the relationship between the numbers observed in orthostatic testing and how you perform in your workouts. (It will take at least three weeks for such patterns to become observable.) If, for example, you always perform poorly in workouts on days when your morning pulse is at least four beats per minute higher than normal, you can use this information to change your workout plans as soon as you observe a high morning pulse reading instead of waiting to find out the hard way that you need a recovery day (that is, by feeling lousy in the planned run).
Training Stress Balance

A second way to use technology in determining whether and when you need a rest is to note where especially poor workouts and stale patches of training tend to fall in relation to your ATL, CTL, and TSB. Specifically, on days when you have a harder run planned and you expect to feel ready to perform well but instead you feel fatigued and have a subpar performance, note your present ATL, CTL, and TSB. The next time these variables line up in a similar way, you will know to expect lingering fatigue and can alter your training accordingly. Don’t expect to find 100 percent predictability through this exercise, however, because many other variables factor into your daily running performance that these variables do not capture.

These variables may be somewhat more reliable in predicting the multiday stale patches that sometimes occur during periods of hard training. For example, you might find that you always hit a stale patch when your CTL exceeds 50, or when your TSB drops below −20, or when these two things happen simultaneously. Again, once you have observed such a pattern, you can take future actions to reduce the frequency of those stale patches.
Neuromuscular Power Test

Finally, you can use a neuromuscular power test to assess your recovery status. Research has shown that when the body is carrying lingering fatigue from endurance training, maximal power performance is compromised. Your maximum sprint speed is one good indicator of your current neuromuscular power. Running a set of short sprints once a week is a good way to increase and then maintain your stride power, but it also serves as a reliable recovery status indicator. For example, each Monday, after completing a short, easy recovery run, you might run 4 to 10 × 10 seconds uphill on the same hill each time at maximum speed. After completing the sprints, note the highest speed achieved. Pay attention to how you perform in the next hard workout that follows a sprint set in which your maximum speed is lower than normal. Through this process you might locate a maximum speed threshold that indicates the need to alter your training plans for additional recovery.”

Controlling Your Pace During Races

The following is an excerpt from The Runner’s Edge, regarding pacing and is with the permission of Human Kinetics.

“While it’s obvious that a speed and distance device can be used for monitoring and controlling your pace during races, you need to use your device somewhat differently in races of different distances, and you must avoid succumbing to the temptation to rely on it too heavily.

First, before you race, try to get a good sense of your device’s specific degree of accuracy. Most devices are inaccurate by a consistent degree in one direction—either too long or too short. Test your device on measured courses whenever possible to determine its pattern. Races themselves afford some of the best opportunities, but be aware that it’s actually normal to run approximately 0.5 percent too far on certified road race courses because these courses are measured by the shortest possible distance a runner could cover in completing it (that is, by running every turn and tangent perfectly), and nobody ever does that.

Pacing During a 5K

If your device model has an option to display the average pace for the current lap or run, set the display in this mode before the race starts. If you’re running a 5K, ignore your watch for the first several hundred yards, when it’s crowded and your main priority is to find a rhythm. Once you have found your rhythm, take a quick glance at your average pace. It almost certainly will not match your target pace for the first mile, but that doesn’t mean you have to actively speed up or slow down. Just absorb the number you see, think about it in relation to how you feel, and let your gut tell you how to adjust.

Sometimes this early quick glance can save the day. When adrenaline gets the better of you and you start way too fast, it gives you the chance to rein in your legs and save your race before it’s too late. If you waited until the first mile split to discover your mistake, it would be too late. On the other hand, if you start way too slowly, the quick glance at your average pace may remind you that, in fact, you are not working as hard as you could be, and you have an opportunity to speed up before you’ve dug too deep a hole to climb out of. But most often that early, quick glance will merely confirm that you’re more or less on pace.

Pacing During a 10K

When running 10K races, do the same early glance at your average pace as soon as you’ve settled into a rhythm and adjust, if necessary. After that point, ignore your device (but pay attention to your mile splits) until the second half of the race, during which you should check the device whenever you find yourself worrying that fatigue is causing you to slip off your goal pace. The benefit of doing this is that it almost always motivates you to run harder, no matter whether the display tells you that you’re right on pace, have fallen a second or two per mile behind pace, or are ahead of pace. The only circumstance in which it’s likely to be demoralizing is when you’re having a bad race and have fallen far behind your target pace. In these circumstances, you’re going to end up demoralized anyway.

Pacing During a Half Marathon

Half marathons are long enough that your mile split times become almost meaningless after you’ve run several miles and brain fatigue has crippled your mathematical faculties. So don’t even bother paying attention to your splits after 10K. Instead, glance at your average pace at each mile mark to check whether you’re still on track toward your goal. As in 10K races, this type of monitoring is likely to keep a fire under you—there’s just something about chasing numbers that makes us work harder!

Pacing During a Marathon

In the marathon, all measures taken to control your pacing with objective data go out the window after the halfway mark. You have to run by feel. But properly controlling your pace with objective data in the first half is critical to setting yourself up for success in the second half. The marathon distance is just too long for your anticipatory regulation mechanism to make reliable decisions about how fast you ought to be running in the early miles. Instead, rely on setting an appropriate time goal and target pace and check your speed and distance device as often as necessary to ensure that you stay on this pace through the first half.

While a speed and distance device certainly can help you pace yourself more effectively in races, it is no substitute for your body’s built-in pacing mechanism. While this mechanism is poorly developed in beginning runners, it is highly refined and more reliable than objective pacing controls in experienced runners. If you are ready for a breakthrough race performance, your anticipatory regulation mechanism will tell you so by causing you to feel better than anticipated as you proceed through the miles. It would be a mistake in this situation to trust your pacing plan and your speed and distance device more than your body and resist the urge to run faster. Likewise, on those days when you just don’t have it in a race, you need to heed your body’s message of unexpected discomfort and run slower than planned instead of stubbornly persisting at your target pace only to suffer a disastrous bonk late in the race.”

Runner’s gadgets

I dream of gadgets that keep track of training I used to log. Then upload it to my computer and it does all the analysis and planning for me. I shoot out of bed awakening from the deep dream state, shaking my head of the fog…reality begins to set in as I look at the log book.

Here’s a not-so-dramatic excerpt from The Runner’s Edge, regarding runner’s gadgets and is with the permission of Human Kinetics.

‘The stop watch may become the “8-track” of the running world, but that doesn’t mean runners need to be tech geeks to keep up. Stephen McGregor, PhD, lead author of The Runner’s Edge (Human Kinetics, 2010), claims that by using speed and distance devices, runners of all levels can maximize performance.

“If you can work a stopwatch, you can learn how to manage your performance effectively with a speed and distance device,” says McGregor. “And don’t worry: This process will not strip running of its charming simplicity.”

A speed and distance device measures elapsed time, distance covered, speed/pace, and elevation change. Many devices also have the capability to estimate calories burned and monitor heart rate-and some even track changes in VO2max.

McGregor claims that the real benefit to speed and distance devices, however, does not show up on the device, but on a runner’s computer. “The power of the devices really begins with downloading workout data from the device to the computer,” he explains. “Performance management software allows you to determine appropriate pace targets for all of your workouts and refine those targets as your fitness changes.”

McGregor gives advice to people who are interested in purchasing a speed and distance device. He and coauthor Matt Fitzgerald analyzed the five basic brands on the market.

Garmin — The manufacturer of GPS devices includes the GPS inside the wrist display unit. The authors give Garmin’s Forerunner line high marks for accuracy, reliability and ease of use. Some Garmin speed and distance devices can be mounted on a bike handlebar and used as a cycling computer.

Nike — The Nike+, developed with the Apple computer company, sold nearly half a million units in its first three months on the market in 2006, and almost all Nike running shoes are Nike+ compatible. The authors, however, warn that the Nike+ is not suitable for more serious performance management because it becomes increasingly inaccurate as the runner’s speed varies from the pace run during initial calibration. “We recommend that Nike fans wanting to commit to digital performance management purchase the Triax Elite,” says McGregor.

Polar — Runners who place great importance on measuring heart rate while running should consider Polar, according to the authors. Polar integrates a heart-rate monitor with each of its speed and distance devices and McGregor and Fitzgerald believe they are the best heart-rate monitors on the market. One of Polar’s speed and distance devices has options that allow it to function as a bike computer and power meter. The authors also commend Polar’s performance management application, Polar Personal Trainer, hosted online at

Suunto — A latecomer to the speed and distance device market, experts widely agree that Suunto running products are as high quality as any. One of Suunto’s unique advanced features estimates excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and use these data to calculate the training effect of each workout.

Timex — The display watch aspect of Timex’s speed distance devices makes them a good choice for runners who place a high value on the wrist display quality. “They are light and stylish enough to be worn all day, they have the ‘takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’ factor,’ and they have a better variety of information display options than other devices,” says McGregor. “You can even configure your own custom display so that the watch shows the information you want to see where you want to see it.”

Each model comes with performance management software, but McGregor also highlights Training Peaks WKO+, which works with all speed and distance devices. Training Peaks has cooperative relationships with most of the device manufacturers, who readily admit that WKO+ is far more powerful and sophisticated than their own performance management offerings, according to McGregor. “Because of this fact, and because you can create a basic Training Peaks account for free, we encourage every runner who uses a speed and distance device to also use Training Peaks WKO+, whether or not they use their device-specific performance management application as well,” he adds.

In addition to specific device guidance, The Runner’s Edge includes sample training plans and periodization guidelines–scalable to various fitness levels–for 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon runners. A special chapter for triathletes explains how to integrate swim, bike, and run training within a unified performance management system.’

Designing Your Own Training Week

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, …

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, such as long runs, interval work, tempo runs, and so on, are all important and necessary for helping you improve as a runner. The key is classifying the various workouts and then scheduling them into your training consistently. Following a map–one that successful runners have used time and again–can ease the uncertainty and doubts that creep into every athlete’s mind. Following an outline that has led to success allows runners to train with greater focus and purpose, knowing their work will achieve long-term results. A workable training schedule brings workouts together to form a routine that addresses every relevant energy system necessary for top racing performance and continued improvement over time.

I cannot name one individual heroic workout that will take someone to the next level, but there are a few workouts that, when done consistently and repetitively as part of a training schedule, can lead to substantial progress for the majority of runners. The surprising thing for many runners is realizing that the training principles are the same for any distance you want to race. It doesn’t matter if the event is the mile, 5K, 10K, marathon, steeplechase, or cross country; the same training elements and concepts apply. As a coach, if I base an athlete’s training on the key elements, the athlete invariably maintains his or her health throughout the season, improves his or her race performances throughout the year, and competes well at specific goal races. It’s basic, it’s fairly brainless to follow, and most important, it works.

The following suggestions will help you fit each of the six elements into your training consistently within your standard training cycles. Some advanced athletes who recover quickly can address all six within a single week. Athletes who require more time between hard efforts to recover fully should consider fitting these within a two- or three-week cycle. You can also try a 10-day cycle if one week doesn’t work for you, but given that most people have schedules that revolve around a standard 7-day week, we tend to stick with 7, 14, or 21 days as the standard options.

For my athletes, I generally schedule two harder workouts every week, cycling through anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, and anaerobic-capacity training. Once we’ve addressed each of these individually, we start the sequence of workouts over again; this allows us to elevate the athlete’s fitness level by concurrently working all of the energy systems necessary for distance running success. For athletes who recover especially quickly, I schedule a separate anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, or anaerobic-capacity session each week, thereby allowing the athlete to address all energy systems within a single training week. For those who require additional recovery, a single session each week of one of these types of training is sufficient, allowing the athlete to address all relevant energy systems within a three-week period. Here’s the most effective route to incorporating the six elements in your program:

Step 1. Designate Your Recovery Day

Because most of the athletes I work with have families and careers, a recovery day is usually one on which they’d like to complete additional chores around the house, spend time with their families, or socialize. It may be a day to do little or nothing except read a book and relax. Others travel frequently for business and have a floating schedule; these runners need a day on which they can miss a run without feeling guilty. View the recovery day as a day to let your body and mind unwind and allow modern life to take priority over training. As an added benefit, it’ll keep you healthy, allow you to improve, and help keep you motivated.

Step 2. Determine Your Long-Run Day

This is pretty simple because most athletes do their weekly long run on either Saturday or Sunday. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you do it consistently. I don’t have a hard and fast rule regarding spacing recovery days around the long run. In most cases, my athletes run a harder effort on Saturday, run long on Sunday, and run an easier day on Monday. This allows Saturday to be fairly hard and Sunday moderate while providing a recovery day following these back-to-back harder run days.

Step 3. Determine Your Primary Workout Days

On primary workout days you run scheduled harder workouts. My athletes schedule primary workouts every Tuesday and Friday in the fall. In the spring, the longer-distance athletes maintain this schedule, while the middle-distance runners adopt a Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday schedule. Depending on the length of your workout cycle, combinations of hard days vary. A 7-day cycle might include primary workouts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Runners on a 14-day cycle might designate Monday and Thursday as primary hard-workout days. On the other hand, some runners can only tolerate a single hard workout each week and are therefore on a 21-day cycle. Based on your particular goal event, rotate workouts in this order:

1. 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace (anaerobic capacity)
2. 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K race pace (aerobic capacity)
3. Tempo run of approximately 30 minutes at threshold pace (anaerobic conditioning)

On the fourth hard-effort day, start over again with the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K pace and work your way through the lineup again. In this manner, you address all the relevant energy systems needed for top-level performance. The 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K pace handle aerobic capacity, the tempo runs address anaerobic conditioning, and the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace develop anaerobic capacity (economy).

Most runners use a 14-day schedule of two primary, harder workouts each week during the two-week period. The question arises: There are four harder workout days and three primary workouts to do, so should I adjust the schedule? Rather than starting again with workout one on the fourth workout day, would there be a benefit to focusing on one area of fitness more than the other? I allow for the following slight variations based on the fact that most athletes see the greatest improvement in race times by giving increased focus to aerobic-capacity development.

Week 1: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-conditioning workout

Week 2: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-capacity workout

During the final four to eight weeks of the training year before the championship racing season, I make the following adjustments based on event focus:

1,500 meters. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout on another.

5K to 10K. During week one, perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic conditioning workout the second harder day of that week. During week two perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout the second harder day.

Marathon. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-conditioning workout on another.

Step 4. Schedule Your Double Days

I generally schedule double days on the primary harder workout days of the week because I want the athlete’s hard days to be hard. Without exception, my top athletes do a minimum of two double days per week on Tuesdays and Fridays, the same days we schedule either the 200s, 300s, and 400s, the 800- to 2,400-meter intervals, or the tempo run. The more experienced athletes add double days on an additional two to four days per week as they see fit.

Step 5. Fill In Rest With Aerobic-Conditioning Runs

The remaining days should consist of runs varying in distance from 45 to 90 minutes. Whether you choose to do two-a-days and whether you keep to the shorter end of the 45- to 90-minute range or the longer end is as much a matter of preference and “recoverability” as it is a function of your chosen race distance.

To help illustrate the previous concepts in detail, tables 3.1 through 3.3 provide some sample training weeks using this program. These are not set in stone, but rather are intended to illustrate how to apply the training principles to the everyday training of fast competitive athletes who also happen to have careers and family obligations.

So that’s it. Designing a training plan is important yet simple. I’ve described the elements it should include and provided examples of runners across the race-distance spectrum who have used these elements to form training plans that have taken them to the top of their game. Now, it’s your turn. Reread this chapter along with the other information in this book, set clear goals, grab a pen and paper (or a mouse and computer), and go to it.