by John Stanton
How you train will influence your results, whether you are trying to maximize your potential or simply improve your overall fitness. Most programs emphasize structure, consistency and slow progression toward a goal. This requires a delicate balance of listening to your body and striving for continual improvement. Here are four considerations as you build your personalized training program.
1. Progress slowly.
A progressive increase in time or intensity allows your body to adapt. If you get too aggressive, your body will break down due to the resulting fatigue or injury. As you add intensity or distance, err on the side of being conservative. Each week, you can challenge yourself to about a 10% increase in either intensity or distance. Work in periods of rest in about a four-week cycle, where every week you can build then hold, or drop back for a week and then rebuild to an even higher level of performance.
2. Look for long-term gratification.
There is a special sense of satisfaction that comes from the challenge as you feel your body getting stronger and becoming faster. Training should generally be enjoyable, but on the occasions where you have to dig deep, the results are worth it as you learn how strong you can be, both mentally and physically.
3. Set goals.
Goals allow you to strive to be your best, and they also provide you with feedback to answer questions about your training. Ask yourself: How will this run affect my race goal? Will it make me stronger or cause a setback?
4. Remember to rest.
More is not always better. Rest is a necessary and often underrated component of training. Train too hard, and you will break down. Train too little, and your capacity for work degenerates. The trick is to find your perfect blend of stress and rest—the point at which your body is injury-free and getting stronger.
Your program needs to be adapted to your needs, abilities and routine. As an athlete, you need to know when to say no to additional mileage, speed, hills or other intense workouts. You need to follow a plan, but you must also adapt the plan to your personal lifestyle, level of fitness and even to the weather conditions. Stick to the basics of endurance, strength, speed and recovery days, but stay attuned to your body and its messages to you. In doing so, you will avoid the common pitfalls that cause runners to miss training: illness, injury and lack of motivation.
Mix It Up: Enhance Your Training by doing a variety of workouts, such as:
Done once a week, generally followed by a rest day. These runs should be at a comfortable pace, at which you could carry on a conversation with another runner.
These should be slow and easy—a good choice on the day after a long run, hill session or speed session.
These are runs of moderate duration at varied speeds. They should leave you feeling exhilarated, not fatigued.
These are short, hard, repeated runs from100 metres up to 1.5K. These are run above 80% of your maximum effort and tax your body anaerobically.
Preceded by an easy warm-up, these are high-intensity repeats of shorter distances (50, 100, 200, 400 or 800 metres) with a brief recovery period in between.