8 basic principles of running training

Renowned running coach Jack Daniels describes a unique approach to training in his book From 800 Meters to Marathon. This system will help runners of all levels improve their performance. To begin with, it is important to understand the principles of training in order to be able to use its advantages and at the same time avoid excessive stress on the body.

Principle 1: response to stress

Regardless of which race you decide to participate in, it is worth learning a little about how the body reacts to different types of physical activity – and it does, believe me. To understand that there is always a reaction, it is enough to run a circle around the block or around the stadium. After completing the circle, you can easily recognize some of the body’s reactions to stress. Your heart will beat faster, breathing will become harder, and you may feel slight discomfort in your leg muscles. If you measure your blood pressure, you will see that it is slightly increased, not to mention that blood has drained from some parts of the body and rushed to others in order to adapt the body to your task. The body copes well with adapting to stress, and you won’t even notice many adaptive changes in it.

Principle 2: specificity

The second principle of training is directly related to the first. The principle of specificity suggests that it is precisely those tissues to which these loads fall to respond to loads. If you load the heart muscle, the heart reacts, if the respiratory muscles – it reacts, and if you load the leg muscles involved in running, then these muscles will respond. Every time you run or even walk, your feet will also respond to stress. In addition to the almost instantaneous response to exercise, there is a second type of response. The parts of the body that you are loading become stronger and show more readiness for future loads, given the overall health of the body. Load your heart, running and breathing muscles and they will get stronger. This is how all muscles, ligaments, bones and other tissues of the body respond to loads.

Principle 3: overload

Increasing loads leads to greater adaptation, but here another basic principle of training can come into play: the principle of overload, overstrain. When overloaded, some parts of the body may not only fail to get stronger, but, conversely, become weaker or even completely fail. And here a very important question arises: when does the body react to the load of the second type, that is, strengthening? Strengthening occurs during periods of recovery or rest between loads.

Don’t forget to rest. A source

Rest and recovery is an extremely important part of a training program, not an attempt to dodge training. In fact, sometimes rest is more beneficial than another run, and sometimes a relatively light exercise will do better than a hard workout. The approach I suggest to runners is that if you’re at some point unsure of which workout to do, go for a less strenuous workout. If you’re not sure which exercise is best, why not skip the harder one?

Principle 4: Reaction to Training

The figure below shows how the body responds to new stress. Let’s imagine that you are starting to train with a new program. You are not in your best shape, but you are able to run about 30 minutes in any workout and can do several sets of 1 kilometer in 3:45 without undue stress. Let’s also assume that your current fitness level is Base. You start on the following program (more strenuous than before): 3 × 1 km in 3:40, between repetitions for 3 minutes of rest. You do this workout, say, three times a week. As the new training program is more challenging than the previous one, your level of running form increases.

The figure below shows how the body responds to new stress.
Improving fitness level as a response to a new level of training load

The effect of the new training load, however, diminishes over time, and as a result, if you continue to train in the same way week after week, your fitness level will stop increasing. This is shown in the figure with a dotted line. To get further effect, you need to increase the training load again. There are times when runners want to maintain their current fitness level and not increase their workload for a period of time, such as when competition season is approaching. However, if you want a new level of fitness, you need to increase the training load.

Principle 5: Individual Limits of Potential

Sometimes an increase in training load may not lead to an improvement in fitness. This does not mean that the person has already reached the optimal level of form, but it says that another principle of training comes into play, namely the principle of the limited abilities of each person. This in no way means that a person can ever reach the absolute limit of his capabilities, but it says that everyone has seasonal limits, that is, restrictions determined by his lifestyle in a particular period.

Principle 6: Gradually Reduce Training Output

The following two principles of training are often interrelated: the principle of gradually decreasing the return from training and the principle of accelerating regression as training increases.

Let’s look at the principle of diminishing returns first. We are talking here about the gradual improvement in fitness as the intensity of training increases. In this case, we are talking about a time period of several years, and not several weeks. When you first start exercising, the return on the effort you put in can be quite significant. But the better your fitness is, the less return you get with increasing training loads, which is quite logical if you think about it.

The following two principles of training are often interrelated.
Recoil reduction principle. A source

But you can put it another way: the worse your fitness, the more you will get a return even from relaxed training, which is very reassuring when you are deranged due to illness or injury.

Principle 7: Accelerate regression as fitness increases

When training is not very strenuous, the likelihood of slumps and setbacks associated with injury or decreased interest in training is low; however, at some stage in the training process, as the intensity of training increases, the likelihood of recessions begins to grow rather quickly.

Keep in mind that it is impossible to determine the exact amount of exercise as it will depend on your training experience. So, for one runner, the desired training window is 48 kilometers (30 miles) per week, while for another it will be 193 kilometers (120 miles) per week. Running training is highly dependent on your experience and body composition, not to mention the time and desire to run. This does not mean that you never need to leave this ideal window for training, but it is better to step outside it for a while and then return to this safe optimal zone.

Principle 8: Maintain Level

The last principle of training is the principle of maintaining the level. The point is that maintaining a certain level of fitness is easier than gaining it. This is partly a matter of psychology: it is usually psychologically easier for runners to repeat a certain result than to achieve it the first time. For example, if you have worked for some time to run 1.6 kilometers (mile) in 5 minutes and you finally succeed, then the second time that pace will be easier for you than the first. Physiologically, your fitness has also improved slightly. The heart strengthened, the muscles involved in running began to be better supplied with blood, and the muscle cells themselves began to more efficiently convert fuel into energy.

Further evidence that fitness is easier than gaining is the effectiveness of pre-competition stress reduction. At this stage, you make your training a little easier and eventually achieve higher competitive results. The athlete’s ability to maintain or even improve athletic performance while reducing exertion confirms our principle of maintaining level.

Based on the book “From 800 meters to the marathon”. The paper version is not yet on sale, and to find out when it will be released, subscribe to the notification: as soon as the book arrives from the printing house, we will immediately inform you about it. First readers will be able to purchase it at a discount!

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