The basics of training
1. Run no farther or faster than you have to.
In other words, strive for optimal training benefits with the least amount of work. "If I said that you could run a five-minute mile with one program that took 30 miles a week or another program that took 80 miles a week, which would you choose?" The answer's a no-brainer, of course, but many runners nonetheless train too hard and too inefficiently. The outcome is worse performances, not better ones. Cut out the waste, maximizing improvement and minimizing injuries. A corollary to this rule: Whenever you do a workout, know what you're trying to achieve. Is it endurance? Speed? Running economy? If you're training intelligently, you'll know the answer before you begin to sweat.
2. Avoid injuries.
Duh. Who doesn't pay homage to this old chestnut? But it's easier said than done. To help you escape the trap of overuse injuries, formula: Stick with your current weekly mileage for at least three weeks. Then, if your training feels comfortable, you can increase your weekly mileage by the number of workouts you are running per week (that is to say, if you're doing four workouts, you can increase by four miles).
3. Follow a progressive training program that gradually builds to a racing peak.
Ideal training plan lasts 24 weeks or longer, and moves steadily from one emphasis to another: easy runs to repetition workouts to interval training to tempo training. Many runners don't plan far enough ahead to follow long-term training programs.
4. Pump up your stride rate to 180 per minute.
At the 1984 Olympics, Daniels and his wife, Nancy, analyzed the stride frequencies of runners from 800 meters to the marathon. At distances from 5000 meters on up, the top runners, both men and women, were remarkably consistent: They ran with a stride rate of about 180 strides per minute.
5. Run 75 to 80 percent of your weekly mileage at a relaxed pace.
This kind of running builds your basic aerobic capacity, and strengthens the key running muscles, joints, and ligaments. Your EZ pace is equivalent to your 5-K race pace, plus 90 to 120 seconds per mile. (If you race 5-Ks at 8:00 pace, your EZ pace is 9:30 to 10:00.)
6. Run a weekly long run that amounts to 25 to 40 percent of your total distance for the week.
If you're running 20 miles a week, the long run can be eight miles (40 percent). As your weekly mileage increases, the long run becomes a smaller percentage of your total miles.
7. Run about 12 percent of your weekly mileage at your lactate threshold (LT), or tempo pace.
When you run at LT pace, you enhance your running economy and your body's ability to function with increasing amounts of lactic acid. LT pace is your 5-K pace, plus 25 to 45 seconds per mile.
8. Run about eight percent of your weekly mileage at your interval pace (INT).
This pace improves your VO2 max and your ability to run at a fast pace. Your INT pace is 5-K pace, minus 10 to 20 seconds per mile.
9. Run two percent of your weekly mileage at your repetition (REP) pace.
This pace improves your power, your speed, your stride frequency, and your relaxation while running fast. Your REP pace equals your 5-K pace, minus 40 to 80 seconds per mile. You'll do most of your REP running as "strides" after easy runs or as fast 200-meter repeats.
10. Stay positive.
Remember: When you have a good day, it's no accident. You can't fake it; these days represent your true capacity as a runner. On the other hand, bad days are flukes. They happen to everyone, and they mean almost nothing (unless you have a lot of them, and then you need to analyze what's going wrong). Reward yourself mentally for your good days, and don't obsess about the bad.