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.
Run slow, with a how-to training plan.
Interval training has taught us that to get the maximum benefit from every mile you run, you need to keep the intensity high and time working low. While this is a solid strategy for general fitness, it will never get you to the front of the pack for running. Research indicates that doing most of your running (about 80 percent) at low intensity (where talking is comfortable) can improve race times significantly more than running above the ventilator threshold more than half of the time. "We believe that the runners who did more running at low intensity were less tired for the high-intensity sessions and therefore got more benefit from them," says Jonathan Esteve-Lanao, an exercise scientist at the University of Madrid. The rule: Keep 80 percent of your runs easy and hit the rest of them hard. Here's a sample week.
Tuesday: Interval Run
- 5-minute warm-up
- 10 x (1 minute at 5K pace and 2 minutes easy), 5-minute cooldown
Thursday: Easy Run
Friday: Lactate-Threshold Run
- 5-minute warm-up
- 30 minutes at half marathon race pace
- 5 minutes easy
Sunday: Long Run
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