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.
Don't drink coffee until race day.
Not all performance enhancers are illegal or dangerous. Caffeine is proven to aid athletes by attaching to adenosine receptors in the brain, making hard efforts feel a little easier. The catch is that it doesn't work as well in regular coffee drinkers. Runners in the know wean themselves off coffee at least a week before racing and then pop a caffeine pill about an hour before the starting pistol is fired. Pills are preferable to coffee because they are less likely to necessitate midrace pit stops. The optimal dosage is 1.4 milligrams per pound of body weight. NoDoz and similar products contain 200 milligrams of caffeine per pill – about right for a 145-pound person.
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