These are based on the 9 Laws of Arthur Newton (in his day he was described variously as "the most phenomenal distance runner the world has ever known", "one of the marvels of all time", and "the greatest runer ever seen"), and added to by Tim Noakes, renowned sports scientist.
Although aimed mainly at distance runners, most of the rules apply to all runners.
Rule #1: TRAIN FREQUENTLY YEAR-ROUND
This is known as the "consistency ethic".
Rule #2: START GRADUALLY & TRAIN GENTLY
Bones, tendons and muscles, even of young healthy humans, are not able to adapt overnight to the cumulative stress of regular training. Start jogging slowly at first and for only short periods of time. It is only necessary to train at race pace for 5 to 10% of your total training distance. Most of the world's best runners do most of their training at speeds between 30 and 50 secs/km slower than their race paces.
For example, the novice runner who ultimately plans to run a standard marathon in 4:30 will need to run the marathon at about 6 min/km, so his or her training speed should be between 6.5 and 7 min/km.
The best way to achieve the correct intensity of training is to monitor how your body responds to the effort. While running, you should feel the effort is comfortable. You should be able to carry on a conversation with your running companions (the talk test). Should the effort of the run become noticeable and cause you to be unable to talk, you are "straining, not training" and should slow down.
Another method for determining effort during running is to monitor heart rate during exercise. A simple equation is maximum heart rate (in beats/min) is 220 minus age in years. So at age 20, maximum heart rate is about 200 bpm. Maximum benefit from training is achieved by training at between 60 and 90% of maximum heart rate.
Rule #3: TRAIN FIRST FOR DISTANCE, ONLY LATER FOR SPEED
The initial key to successful training is the amount of time you spend running each week and the distance you cover rather than the speed at which you run. Therefore at first you should aim to run for a certain time each session. You will run farther when fresh and rested than when you are tired. Remember, the initial goal in distance training is to gradually increase the speed or effort that you can maintain for prolonged distances.
If you train only for distance, your performances will reach a definite plateau after a few years of training. To improve further, you must either increase the distance you run in training or run the same distance but run some of that distance at a faster pace (i.e. train for speed).
The evidence clearly indicates that increasing the distance run in training is frequently counterproductive. Rather, the judicious use of a limited amount of speed training at the correct time can produce quite dramatic improvements in performance.
The reasons for speed work relate to both physical and mental needs. Faster running trains the quadriceps and the fast twitch muscle fibres in all the leg muscles. These are the muscle groups and the muscle fibres that you need during the marathon but that remain untrained if you run only slowly during training. Another benefit of speed training is learning to relax at speed. Furthermore, fast running likely adapts the ventilatory muscles for high work rates and may help prevention of the "stitch".
Speed work is also a psychological necessity, because a target is set and a time is laid down. Like the race, speed work is a test of the will.
But speed work is not without risk; the twin dangers are running the sessions too often and running too fast. More on speed training, and the ideas of some of the world's great runners, later...
Rule #4: DON'T SET YOURSELF A DAILY SCHEDULE
Some runners often choose to run each day according to a prearranged schedule. This approach is less than ideal as the weather may not always be appropriate and the body may not always be ready to undertake the training scheduled for that day. In particular, factors either within the body (e.g. minor illness or muscle soreness indicating lingering fatigue from the last workout) or external to it (e.g work, study or family commitments, lack of sleep, and travel) may reduce the body's ability to perform on that day and, more importantly, its ability to benefit from that particular training session. Inappropriate training performed with sore and damaged muscles will not only be ineffectual, because the damaged muscles are unable to perform properly, but will also delay muscle recovery.
A daily schedule should act only as a guideline. Knowing how much to train on any given day comes from learning to "listen to your body". This is not always easy because it demands insight and flexibility, attributes not everyone possesses. Yet the ability to know how much training to do on any particular day ultimately determines running success.
Probably the most effective technique I can suggest is to monitor how your legs feel at the start and during each run. When you are training hard, it is usual for your legs to feel slightly tired and lethargic at the start of a run. This feeling should lift rapidly as the run progresses. Muscle stiffness and soreness that either persist or get worse during the training run indicate that you should abandon the run and observe a period of rest to allow muscle recovery before you undertake another hard or long training session. When 24 or 48 hours of rest do not return a feeling of strength to your legs, then you are well on the road to overtraining.
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