Ten Commandments of Training

by Patti and Warren Finke, Team Oregon

Often when we work with runners, we see that most of their problems are created by the same training errors. Over the years we have created a list of 10 common sense rules that can be used to avoid most training problems. We call them the TEN COMMANDMENTS OF TRAINING.

1. Have a plan

It is important to have a list of goals and the steps to reach the goals. Doing this is the key to self confidence and motivation. Keeping a log of how you do in following your plan helps to see what does and does not work for you. This will help you to create better plans in the future.

2. Train seasonally

Plan a 6 - 12 month training program Periodicity is important. No one can maintain top shape, train at maximum levels or race all year around. We all need periods of physical and psychological recovery. Build an adequate base and strength before adding speedwork. Speedwork is a sharpening technique that is only used for short periods of time, (8 to 12 weeks), to prepare for racing. After a period of racing there should be a period of reduced training, rest and recovery leading into another sequence of base and strength building.

3. Use the Hard/Easy system

For training effect to take place, a period of overload needs to be followed by a period of rest, during which the actual adaptation to the stress takes place. Exercise physiology research has shown that the hard/easy cycle for running needs to be 48 hours or more. It has also demonstrated that alternating long and short runs is more effective training than doing the same length run each day even though the total mileage is the same. Thus alternating hard and easy days or long and short days is appropriate training for runners. The most common beginner running mistake is to run the same distance and the same pace every day.

4. Train specifically

Ask yourself, does this training make sense for the racing I'm planning to do? If not, do something that makes sense. Adaptation needs to be specific to attain your goals. You must train duration specific energy transport systems and you must train pace specific neuro-muscular responses.

5. Don't train any more than you have to

Lazy runners are healthy runners. There are no bonus points for doing a harder workout than you'd planned. Most injuries seem to occur when runners feel good and over do it. Remember that how you feel is a poor physiological measure of how you are. Error on the side of conservatism. If you feel bad, do less. If you feel good, stick to your plan. Don't do more.

6. Separate speed and distance training

The risk of injury from training must always be factored against the gains made. Specificity makes training speed and distance separately physiologically possible. You train all the energy transport systems you need for aerobic endurance running by training slowly. Only small amounts of specific speedwork are required to develop maximum economy. By doing long slow runs for endurance and short fast runs for speedwork you avoid the risk associated with the high stresses of training speed and distance together.

7. Add variety

Varying a number of aspects of your training avoids injury and keeps you mentally interested. Vary pace, distance, courses, terrain, shoes, running partners or anything you can. Add some supplemental or cross training. These things will not directly improve your running. But, they will increase your overall fitness and resistance to injury and burnout allowing you to train consistently for long periods. This consistency WILL improve your running.

8. Make your training enjoyable

If you are not enjoying the training, you will not be able to maintain your commitment. Variety, mentioned above, will help. Also consider things like a once a week "adventure" run where you run somewhere you have never gone before. Join a training group like Team Oregon or a run for fun group like the Hash House Harriers.

9. Get a coach

At least educate yourself on training techniques and your body's responses so that you can coach yourself. If you cannot follow the rules and need more help, hire a coach. A coach should help you set up and follow a program based on your ability and your goals. A coach's primary goal should be to keep you healthy and motivated.

10. When in doubt, rest

This is the golden rule of training. Do unto your body as you would have it do unto you. Listen to your body. If it is saying, "I've got a problem, what now?" , The usual answer should be to take a day off, either your head or your anatomy need it.

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