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.
Lose another pound.
In a big road race, the first-place finisher is certain to be a lot skinnier than the last-place finisher. But the winner is also likely to be leaner than the guy right behind him. In races, body-fat percentage predicts performance almost as well as aerobic capacity does. In other words, the leaner you are, the faster you go. As a rule of thumb, you will shed 1 percent in race time for every 1 percent of body weight you lose. That means if you currently weigh 170 pounds and your 10K time is 45 minutes, losing two pounds could lower that by about 30 seconds. Studies have demonstrated that people lose more weight when they weigh themselves often, so as you approach a race it's a good idea to monitor your weight daily and to keep a log. As for what you need to do to shed excess body fat, there's nothing new there: Clean up your diet (eat more fruits and vegetables, cut down on alcohol, and skip dessert), and train more.
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