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.
The simplest way to improve as a runner is to run more, but that can also increase your chances of getting injured. To escape this cycle, many elite runners now spend less time pounding the pavement and more time doing low-impact activities. Members of Alberto Salazar's Nike Oregon Project team, for example, do as much as 20 percent of their training on underwater and antigravity treadmills. You can train on an antigravity treadmill, too – if you've got $25,000 to spare. Or you can spend a tenth of that amount on an ElliptiGo, an outdoor elliptical trainer that rides like a bike and is used by a growing number of athletes, including America's top marathoner Meb Keflezighi, who takes one ride on his ElliptiGo for every run. For an even cheaper low-impact cardio fix, hop on a treadmill, set the incline to 15 percent, and walk at a pace that's fairly comfortable. "Don't wait until you get injured," says Keflezighi. "It's better to cross-train by choice to stay healthy than be forced to do it when you're hurt."
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