Dale's Dissertations on Running, Racing and Training

author : dtoce
comments : 4

Lessons learned from a beginner's training

Published from the archives of user-submitted articles that have never before been published.

Running/Racing lessons learned...or my version of "Wear Sunscreen"...by Baz Luhrmann.

As the year closes and I reflect on the many things I've learned and think about the zillion things I've yet to learn, I'd thought I'd write 'em down so I can compare where I am to where I'll be in a few years... take from it what you will.

General Running Lessons

  1. Run often -You will improve at racing, become healthier and happier as well as more resistant to injury. This must be accomplished while maintaining balance in your life. Prioritize running appropriately, be disciplined and be consistent.

  2. Rest enough -Do not become a slave to hard training, racing or your log book. To improve, you must recover and that takes resting and replenishing both your physical and mental stores. Learn to listen to your body. Avoid over training.

These are the most important lessons, actually, based on a 'hard/easy' approach and adhering to many of Dr. Jack Daniel's (and others) principles. Running is fun and that should never, never be forgotten. We are lucky to be able to enjoy this simple act, whether it's for fun, competition through racing, improving health, weight loss or simply stress relief.

General Racing Lessons

  1. Training always leads to improvement--There are few sports where this is absolutely true, but it is true of running. Genetics sets the upper limit of achievement (your potential), but adaptation occurs when stress and rest are balanced appropriately and you will get better with training.

  2. Train for endurance first, then for speed--Build your body to withstand the training stresses by running more total miles/minutes per week. This is the first essential part of base training. It builds resistance to injury by strengthening the entire body-skeleton, muscles and connective tissues. After a period of time, add in intensity (or quality) to really improve.

  3. Build up to a longer run about once every week or so--This should be about 1/5-1/2 of your total weekly mileage and done once every 7-14 days. I seem to need some extra time to recover from this and 10 days works best for me. I also noticed quite a bit of improvement in my strength and endurance when I was first pushing up to the point of running ~90 minutes once on the weekend and ~60minutes once or twice during the week. Over distance running is critically important to racing success.

  4. Learn your body--Learn what you like and what works best for you. Also, learn what doesn't work and use this information. I've kept a log book from day#1 and it's helped me improve and not make the same mistakes (too) often. Performing workouts you like and respond well to makes running much more enjoyable. We are all an 'experiment of one', trying to find out what works best-best for each of us, that is

  5. Avoid injury and setbacks--I'm still working on this one... ...but if you can do it, major gains can be had. In the past my personal failures have come from neglecting #2 and #7, fwiw.

  6. Become more fit overall--This includes not only endurance but also nutrition, strength, stretching, cross-training etc.

  7. Use multi-pace training--This is the most important thing, IMO. Not every day or every week, but you should train at faster and slower paces than your goal race pace. Use a variety of paces and workouts to keep it challenging, interesting and fun.

  8. Periodize--This is really a 'hard/easy' variant with peaking using the principles of specificity. Use training blocks to achieve specific goals and peak for your goal race. Base>Strength>Speed(sharpening/transition)>Peaking>Race

  9. Believe in yourself--Confidence is key. Visualization is another useful tool. Do not underestimate the power of the mind. Enough said.

General Training Lessons

  1. Do strides year round--Incorporate some 'form' work and 'neuromuscular training' by running some strides once or twice per week all year. This follows the rules of muscle memory and training specificity. Even during base training, some quicker turnover is important to keep the muscles stimulated and entrained. Strides, pickup or short reps accomplish this very well. I always seem to lose a little speed when I've neglected these, particularly in Base training.

  2. Do a strong long run--Extend this to a comfortable distance to achieve 'time on your feet' and then add in some intensity to this run. It could be a bit quicker pace overall, fast finish, tempo portions or even a progression run. This is a critically important piece of the marathon puzzle that can pay huge dividends.

  3. Do lots of tempo running--You can improve with this type of training long after reaching your maximum miles or V02max-even after you think you have reached your plateau. It's lower stress than interval training, too, decreasing injury risk. Especially useful for the Boomer crowd. Varied workouts include 20-40 minute continuous runs at a 'moderately hard' pace or tempo/cruise intervals of 1-2 miles with a minute or two rest in between, or countless other variations. This is one workout that can be done virtually every week with little injury risk and big time steady gains.

  4. Work in a medium long run during the week--This is an often overlooked piece of training (except those who follow Pfitz...) that builds enormous strength to hold a moderate pace and will pay off for marathon training as well as shorter races.

  5. Interval training will improve your speed--Be cautious as you approach track work but welcome the splendid improvements to be had. Allow for proper recovery and ease into speed work and do plenty of stretching. A cutback week in volume and intensity should be considered after several weeks of fast running. This is bread and butter for speed sharpening and the track is a fun place to work out and train!

  6. Allow recovery to be as slow as necessary--Even not timed! Gasp!! 20-40 minutes or whatever the equivalent is in miles, works for most people. Sometimes you need more than one recovery workout or day. Pay attention to recovery and learn what you need so you can progress. Recovery can vary from passive (no running) to active (walking/jogging/light running). It is not an 'easy' run and it is not a workout. The purpose is to allow the legs to recover enough to benefit from the next workout.

  7. Easy running is not recovery running--This is my latest 'enlightenment' as I've learned that I'm pretty lazy for several days after a hard workout, even though I've recovered enough to work a little bit harder. Do not practice running slowly, but recover enough and take the time needed to do the next workout at the prescribed pace. There is a training benefit from easy running and that is why lots of easy miles help. Do not overlook this.

  8. Get help when needed--Seek out professionals when needed...whether it's to check your stride or shoes at the local running store or getting a concerning symptom like chest pain/leg pain or breathlessness-seek expert help if something is out of whack. Consider getting a coach, if appropriate.

  9. Do some 'sub tempo' or MP runs--A terrific way to train for the 1/2M or marathon, but it also helps with shorter distance racing. The experts are finally coming around to eliminating the term 'junk miles'. There is still a benefit in this range, but it is still best to hit the desired paces of planned workouts...

  10. Training for longer, endurance races like the marathon is a spectacular way to develop aerobic fitness--There is improvement in racing times from the 1 mile to the marathon--with marathon training. Seems weird, but it works.

  11. Learn paces for training and racing--Know your paces and learn to race with even pacing. This has been proven enough for me by my own experience and well validated by so many others that I'm a big believer. After learning how to race like this, it is sometimes advisable to go hard and hold on, but that's for a certain few, only. I learned a lot from my HR monitor in figuring out what effort went along with what HR and pace-especially MP and tempo. The monitor is not for everyone, though. I like it to compare race efforts under similar circumstances.

  12. Tapering helps you peak for your races--Now you just have to figure out how to best taper for yourself, as it's an incredibly individual thing, however. Keep records on how you've tapered for various race distances, as this may help you in the future. Personally, I like to take it really easy 2 days prior to a race (occasionally off totally) and do some really easy miles with strides the day before a race, but everyone is different.

  13. Wear proper shoes and rotate them--This can help avoid an injury and will prolong shoe life, keeping the cushioning a little longer.

  14. Adjust goals as needed--Do this during training and especially on race day. Adjust for weather, illness and minor injuries. See the big picture.

  15. Use association/dissociation--There are times to let your mind wander and times when you must focus and concentrate. Learn to focus on yourself during races and monitor your bodies signals as well as your form and pace. Dissociate when on 'autopilot' in long stretches when you're holding pace easily and at the end of races when you go totally anaerobic-during the final sprint/kick. I was once told to 'run like your hair was on fire' during the final 0.1 of the 5k-a perfect example of dissociation and pushing it when you're very tired. During the majority of the race, though, it pays to pay attention to yourself.

  16. Practice taking fluids and gels--Find out what works and what doesn't work before race day. Never try things that haven't been practiced on the LR in training. Of course, I believe that the LR is best done with minimal fluids or gels to train the body to handle this type of endurance, and there is an extra boost when doing LR's with gels and fluids but you need to make sure that your GI tract can handle it.

  17. Run the tangents in the race--I'm shocked by the number of people who sweep outside and run longer than they need to. Don't turn a 5K into a 3.5-4 mile race. Take the shortest distance allowed by running the tangents. It's the way the course was measured.

  18. Warm up and cool down--Perform adequate warm ups-especially for shorter races or if it's cold. Remember warm up routines that seemed to work particularly well for certain races or during different weather conditions/times of the year. You risk hurting your 'engine' or 'chassis' if you ignore this.

  19. Avoid the wind, if possible--There is a small, but definite disadvantage to being in the front of a group of runners. Try to 'share the load' of front running with others, when able.

  20. Be efficient--Emulate good running form and have an 'elite turnover' . Most seem to have a quick cadence that stays around ~180 steps/minute-per Dr Daniels. There is also less landing shock injury with a high turnover.


Well, that's enough from me. There are other, more obvious lessons, like 'Don't run a 20K road race on a sprained ankle', but I think I'm the only one who needed to learn that particular one...ha.

As before, written with a tip of the hat and a bow to:
Lydiard, Cooper, Young, Costill, Pfitzinger, Glover, Higdon, Galloway, McMillian, Sheehan and of course, Dr Daniels.

Train on!


*edit-I wrote this years ago, but it truly is rather timeless...


Click on star to vote
17042 Total Views  |  158 Views last 30 days  |  38 Views last 7 days
date: July 31, 2020