There's a quiet renaissance happening in American distance running. At the IAAF World Cross Country Championships this year, the Americans beat the vaunted Kenyans, a team we haven't bested since 1984. In 2012, Galen Rupp became the first American since 1964 to win a medal at 10,000 meters, and at the outdoor track and field world championships, Americans won medals in the men's and women's 800-meter and 1,500-meter races for the first time . . . ever.
What made the difference? Data-based training and nutrition practices from the top U.S. coaches and researchers. Lately these methods have spread from the front of the pack toward the back. "I use the same concepts with the fast runners as I do with the not-so-fast runners," says Greg McMillan, a Flagstaff-based coach who trains athletes of all levels, both pros and beginners. Here are 11 principles you need to know for more efficient training and faster times.
All-Distance Training Plan
Nonlinear training has all runners, from milers to marathoners, do a similar mix of long runs for endurance, lactate threshold runs for strength, and intervals for speed throughout the "base" phase of the training process. With nonlinear training, you're less likely to be limited by lack of speed in a longer race or by fatigue in a shorter one. The key is to keep the challenge level of your key workouts moderate to avoid burning yourself out. Only when the next race is a few weeks away should you shift your focus to challenging event-specific workouts. This "peak" phase should culminate in your most challenging and race-specific workouts. "We train all of our athletes to have well-rounded fitness," says Brad Hudson, a Boulder-based coach and author of 'Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon.'
Training for All Distances:
Base Phase Long Run
1-2 hours at a comfortable pace
Base Phase Lactate-Threshold Run
2-4 miles at a comfortable pace + 2-3 miles at 10K-half marathon race pace
Base Phase Interval Run
6-10 x (1 minute at 5K race pace or faster/2 minutes easy)
1 mile cool-down
Within a Few Weeks of the Race:
5 x 1000 meters @ race pace with 90-second jogging recoveries
6 x 1 mile @ race pace with 90-second jogging recoveries
Half Marathon-Specific Session
Credit: Lucio Beltrami / Getty Images
8 miles @ race pace