Here at Canadian Running, we’ve written a lot about different training strategies to make you a stronger, faster runner. A quick Google search will bring up pages on pages of running plans, research on various performance metrics and advice for runners of all levels. When it comes to training, you can get as complicated as you want with it, but there are still a few basic rules that shouldn’t be ignored. They’re not exciting, but if you get them right you’ll continue to progress as a runner and knock seconds or minutes off your PBs.
Rule #1: build your base
There’s nothing exciting about weeks upon weeks of easy runs, but you have to build a strong foundation before you can start to add anything else. This is true whether you’re a relative beginner or you’re an experienced runner who’s starting a new training block or returning from injury. Even when you do start to add speedwork into your plan, the basic or “boring” workouts like long tempos, progression runs, and post-run accelerations are what build the foundation for you to do more targeted speed sessions later. As the classic saying goes — you can’t build a strong building on a weak foundation.
Rule #2: increase gradually
This rule is somewhat of a continuation of Rule #1. While you’re building your base, you need to increase your volume gradually to avoid overloading your body before it has time to adapt. The classic rule is to increase mileage by no more than 10 per cent per week in order to prevent injury. The same is true when you’re increasing intensity. You don’t want to jump into your hardest workouts right away, but rather periodize your training so that you have the fitness to complete those harder sessions effectively.
Rule #3: don’t force fitness
It’s tempting to want to fast-track your training to see results as fast as possible, but your body doesn’t adapt according to whatever plan you created, it improves gradually in its own time. The best thing you can do is to train your body for where it’s at right now — not where you want it to be a few weeks or months from now. Working with your body and allowing fitness to come naturally will prevent injury and burnout, and ultimately make you a better runner.
Rule #4: focus on recovery
We’ve said it a million times and we’ll say it again: recovery is crucial to performance. Without it, your body doesn’t have time to adapt to the training stimuli you’re placing on it, and you won’t see any improvement. This means sleeping well, eating properly to refuel after runs and listening to your body to know when you need an extra day off.
Rule #5: enjoy the process
Success in running takes time, patience and consistency. If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’ll be less likely to stick to your training plan long-term, and you won’t see the success you’re hoping to achieve. Plus, the reason you’re out there logging all those kilometres is (hopefully) because you love the sport, so if you’re no longer having fun, what’s the point? You’re not going to be excited about every run you do, but if you get to a point where you’re dreading every run, its time to re-evaluate your training and figure out what you need to do to love the sport again.