One thing that is for sure, you won’t be transformed into a better endurance runner or athlete overnight. It’s not that not that simple.
Neither will it happen in the first tenth of a race, a week or month, it’s about endurance, making the right decisions and doing the right things consistently over time.
Below are my 15 recommendations, including; variety, planning and patience, that will help transform your endurance performance.
Without a doubt, the number one route to improved performances as a distance runner is to aim for consistency with your training for a prolonged period of time. Athletes must do everything in their power to stay healthy, injury free and consistent in their training for as long as a duration that is possible. This is when the magic happens.
It is critical for all endurance runners of all levels to have plenty of variety in their training.
Variety is key for many reasons including creating added stimuli to your training aiding progression, helping prevent injury and keep an enjoyment factor to your training. Running on a variety of different surfaces is important too.
So mix it up between the track, road, grass and trails where possible and do not do all your running on the one surface.
All athletes should set goals for themselves, this is your roadmap and sets out where you are trying to get to. It also creates added motivation and makes it easier to get out the door and train when you do not feel like it.
After you have set your goals for the year ahead, it is imperative you lay out a plan to help you achieve them, and to get there in the best possible condition. Planning your daily and weekly training is key along with planning your racing schedule.
5) Testing & Monitoring
Athletes should use various monitoring techniques to gauge their training progress along the way.
Utilising test races, time trials, lab tests, blood monitoring, heart rate data etc. can all aid in your progress towards your goals. Use a training diary and record everything so you can look back and reflect on things following a key race or a full season.
Find a coach that you trust in, believe in what they sell you, form a close relationship with them based on honesty and open communication and then you have a platform that will help you achieve things you never thought possible.
Sleep and nutrition are the two most underrated performance enhancers available to all athletes. Use these wisely and reap the rewards in your training and racing.
Athletes use the various techniques available to help improve their sleep quality and perhaps sit with a dietician around daily nutrition.
The bottom line is that endurance training can be monotonous at times, you don’t always see quick results, you must deal with setbacks etc so patience in the process delivers time and time again. Be prepared to be in it for the long run and take it slowly, this is when the big performances come.
9) Lifestyle Balance
Running is just one part of an athlete’s life and a balance must be struck with school, college, work and family life.
Athletes must be organised and have a daily and weekly routine and plan their training around their own lifestyle. Becoming overly obsessive with your training and racing doesn’t help in the long run and having downtime to relax and spend with family & friends is important.
Too many athletes seek to go after the advanced training methods before, in fact, nailing the basics. Master the basic fundamental training areas, recovery methods etc. first before you try advancing your training. The basics when done well on a consistent basis lead to great results.
11) Strength & Conditioning
All athletes should have a form of strength & conditioning in their training, this is critical for many reasons.
A solid strength and conditioning programme tailored to the individual can help improve your structural foundations allowing you to either run a higher volume or increase intensity, it helps increase running economy, it helps prevent injuries, improves your posture and running mechanics and it improves your strength & power.
Having different forms of hill training in your training will improve your race performance and also help strengthen your legs while also improving running mechanics.
Use these 3 types:
– Short Power Hills (8-12 seconds Max Effort with 2-3 minutes walk recovery between reps)
– Anaerobic Hills (30-60 secs done fast with walk back recovery)
– Aerobic Hills (1-3 minutes with jog back down slow recovery)
13) Group Dynamic
Running can be a lonely sport at times and the power of a group environment can give an athlete added motivation and push them to better quality training.
The group can motivate each other and drive each other forward if the right culture exists within it.
14) Mechanics of Running
As a runner, we want to run in the most efficient manner possible to limit wasted energy and also to prevent injuries.
Spend time working on your run mechanics to help you run more fluent and relaxed through run drills, strength and conditioning programme, hill running and strides/short sprints on flat & on steep hills. This combination will help you run more effortlessly.
The bottom line is that anything in life you enjoy doing you will more than likely be successful in. Learn to enjoy your training and racing and not become a slave to your training programme or year plan.
Adapt and make changes where necessary and don’t feel guilty about missed days. Running gives a person many physical and mental benefits and can be a most enjoyable sport. Enjoy it more and see your performances improve.
About the Author
Steven Macklin is the National Endurance Coach for Athletics Ireland and Pentathlon Ireland Run with a coaching career spanning over eighteen years.