Starting the Process With Where You Are Not Where You Want to Be

I think there are two aspects of the training “process” that most distance runners miss.

The first is that the process of training needs to start with where you’re at currently and move forward from there. 

As runners, we want to think about our goal times and then work backward from there to see what we should be doing. But that is not going to be the most effective way to move through the training process. You will see better results from your training if you match the training stimulus with your current fitness rather than deciding that you need to be at an arbitrary point in your training because of the time goal that you set. 

It’s good to have goals, and you can use your current fitness to track your progress towards your goals, but there is no way to “short circuit” the training because you’re not where you think you should be to hit your goal time.

As a coach, then, the question I’m always asking is “what’s the next logical step?” 

That next step could be adding more mileage, doing faster speed work, running longer long runs, or any number of other adjustments to what you’ve been doing in your training. 

But those adjustments need to start from the point you’re at currently rather than trying to jump ahead.

And speaking of “jumping ahead,” the second aspect I think most runners miss is that they don’t stick to a training level long enough to really maximize the benefits of that training.

A common approach is to try and increase total mileage each week, or increasing long run distance each week -- maybe with a recovery week in there from time to time. But that approach leaves your body constantly dealing with new levels of stress, and not having the time needed to really adapt and improve to those stresses.

Instead, I like to stay at a similar training level for two to three weeks before increasing. That gives your body a chance to truly adapt to that training level, to gain the deeper benefits of that training stimulus, and not make every week or every long run an exercise in seeing how much you can handle.

Putting both of these ideas into practice -- starting from where you’re at and holding steady on a training level before increasing -- requires patience on your part. And it may mean that your training cycles will be longer. 

But the payoff of more effective training with less risk of injury or burnout is well worth the extra time in my opinion.

By: Carl Leivers Running Coach and Fast Bananas Expert

You can find more of Coach Carl's content through his videos and 5k training plan on RUNsource!