Training for running can get complicated. There are many different training models out there and even more opinions on how to use them effectively. Thankfully, performance coach and author of Peak Performance and The Science of Running, Steve Magness, has boiled effective run training down to five simple rules. Yes, there is some nuance to endurance training, but if your program is based on these guidelines, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
The 5 Rules of Training:
1. The boring stuff is your foundation
2. Let it Come, Don’t Force it.
3. Take the Next Logical Step
4. You lose what you don’t train
5. Train the individual, not the system.
— Steve Magness (@stevemagness) March 28, 2022
The boring stuff is your foundation
Many runners look for fancy, “magical” workouts that’ll give them the fitness breakthrough they’re after, but this isn’t truly how success happens. As Magness pointed out in this thread, nailing the basics for a long time will get you 99 per cent of the way.
The basics aren’t exciting or sexy, but they’re effective. Things like steadily increasing your mileage, keeping your easy days easy and doing regular form drills and stretches to prevent injuries will ultimately get you where you want to go, as long as they’re applied consistently over a long period of time.
Let it come, don’t force it
Forcing or rushing yourself into fitness almost always leads to injuries and burnout. As an athlete, the best thing you can do is focus on consistent training and taking care of your body. Sometimes, training adaptations take longer to set in than you expect, or the conditions beyond your control make you fall short of your goal.
If you focus on enjoying the process, and less on an external arbitrary goal, you will likely achieve more success (and happiness in the sport) over the long run.
Take the next logical step
Runners often try to force their way to big breakthroughs by skipping steps. They jump right into hard training with no base phase, or they go from training for a 5K to a marathon with very little room for build-up.
To avoid injuries while improving performance, only progress when your body has absorbed the training. Give yourself plenty of time to slowly increase mileage and/or intensity, and always take the next logical step. It may take longer than you want to get where you’re trying to go, but you’ll be much more likely to succeed this way.
You lose what you don’t train
This is the runner’s version of “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” It’s important to spend some time focusing on all areas of your fitness during your training so you don’t lose that piece of the puzzle. This includes doing long runs, speedwork, threshold work, mobility training, strength training, etc.
That being said, each of these components will become more or less important relative to each other depending on what you’re training for. For example, top-end speedwork will be more important when you training for a 5K, and less important when you’re training for a marathon. That doesn’t mean you should never do some high-intensity running during your marathon training, but other elements, like the long run or tempo runs will become more important.
Train the individual, not the system
When you’re following a training plan, remember that it is merely a template — it’s not written in stone. Every individual is different, and you will likely need to make changes and adjustments as you go to accommodate for how your body is responding to the training and any interruptions you might experience.
If you decide to work with a coach, make sure they’re ready and willing to adapt their training plan to you as you go. Be open and honest with them about how you’re feeling during your training so they can make the necessary changes to your program, and be willing to give your body time to adapt to those changes before making more.