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.
Typically, the average runner is about as likely to lift heavy weights as a powerlifter is to run 10 miles. Among the few runners who do pump iron, most perform lots of reps with light loads. Instead, pick up 45-pound plates, like five-time national champion Nick Symmonds does. He regularly bangs out six- and eight-rep sets of heavy lunges, step-ups, and power cleans.
Credit: Photograph by Patrik Giardino