Endurance Training

As fascinating as discussion and debate of the physiological functions of the body can be training is where the “rubber meets the road”.  Luckily, exercise physiologists don’t spend all their time just studying the physiological functions of the body.  They have also spent a great deal of time studying training and training methods and there is much that can be learned from this training research.  While training research may not tell us why something physiologically works or doesn’t work, it can provide us with insight into the actual effects of training on performance.  Does base building result in improved performance as compared to a high intensity training program?  Does increasing mileage actually result in improved performance as is so commonly preached?  These are the types of questions that training research can answer for us. The goal of this section is to review relevant training research,  gain an understanding of the lessons found in that research and, when possible, to apply these lessons to program design.


Six Paces Training  If you want to maximize performance you have to adequately train all the individual muscle fibers that you will use during your competition.  Six paces training is a training method designed to meet that goal.  Read the article here.

Base Building vs. High Intensity – a research study  One of the most enduring and intriguing ideas in endurance training lore is the concept of base building.  Runners are frequently advised to ”build a base” or to return to base building because their base has eroded.  By building or re-building a base runners believe that their performance will be enhanced as compared to training that does not include a base building phase.  What is base building and is it really as effective as suggested by many?  These were the questions that researchers from the University of Montana, the University of Minnesota, and St. Cloud State University teamed up to answer.  This article examines this study in detail and discusses the results.

Do all runners benefit from increasing mileage?  Runners are often advised that the number one thing they can do to improve performance is to increase their weekly mileage, up to as high as 100 miles per week.  However, research on endurance performance has consistently shown a very low correlation between weekly mileage and performance; running high weekly mileage does not automatically produce faster results.  So, a contradiction exists, causing lots of debate in the running community.  However, a research study sheds some new light on this old debate.  You can read more about it here.

Does increasing mileage make for a faster marathon?   Runners training for a marathon are typically advised to increase their weekly mileage in order to perform optimally.Why do runners, and marathoners in particular, focus on mileage so intently?  Is increasing mileage really the way to optimal marathon performance?  This article reviews a marathon training study that provides some new information about the role of higher mileage on marathon performance.

Dose-Response and Running Are you familiar with the concept of dose-response?  It is used in the medical world to describe the relationship between the dose and response to a drug. While most laymen may not use the term dose-response, it is a very important concept for the runner.  Find out the details of this important training concept here.

A comparison of the 5 training elements  There are 5 primary training elements that comprise a training program and influence endurance performance:  frequency, intensity, duration, volume, and specificity.  Do all 5 elements influence performance equally or are some more important than others?  Conventional training wisdom often suggests that weekly mileage (i.e. volume) is the most important training variable but does the research support this view?  This 4 part series is an in-depth review of the 5 training elements and their individual influence on performance.

Part 1          Part 2          Part 3          Part 4

Does strength training improve running performance?  Should runners strength train?  Will weight lifting make you a faster runner?  Will it protect you against injury?  These questions come up often and each time they do it sparks considerable debate as to whether resistance training provides any benefit to runners.  In this article we will examine the available research to see if we can find some answers to the above questions.

An analysis of Hadd’s approach to distance training  If you are a frequent visitor to running related web forums, you may have been exposed to a training method entitled “Hadd’s Approach to Distance Training”.  As I understand the story behind this training method, it was written by a fellow named John Hadd who originally posted it to the LetsRun forum.  It sparked considerable interest and a copy was subsequently saved for reference for those who might be interested.  (If you have not seen it you may access it here.)

With the publishing of the article a number of runners have adopted Hadd’s training approach and some, though not all, have reported positive results.  Their results in turn have sparked additional interest in Hadd’s methods by other runners.  In light of the increasing interest in his approach and the reported positive results of some who have followed it, I thought it appropriate to analyze Hadd’s training method.  The purpose of my analysis was to gain an understanding of Hadd’s methods and to examine the logic of his training prescription.  Is there something unique about Hadd’s training or testing program or is it a variation of accepted training methods?

Part 1          Part 2

Cross Training for Runners  One of the more controversial recommendations that I make is that runners of average genetic talent should not run the high volumes or frequencies so often recommended by conventional training wisdom.  Generally speaking, for runners with average genetic talent I suggested 3-4 days per week of running, 1-2 days per week of cross training, and 1-2 days per week of strength training.  While 3-4 days per week of running seems small when compared to the volume of training recommended by modern training theory, when combined with cross training and strength training the volume of training that I recommend more closely resembles that of conventional training.  Since I basically recommend 5-6 training days per week, why not run each of those training days instead of the 3-4 that I recommend?  Doesn’t the principle of specificity teach us that nothing is better for running than running?  Can cross training lead to the same performance improvements as run only training?  This is the topic of this article reviewing cross training research.

Successful Marathoning With Just 3 Running Days per Week  If you are planning on running a marathon in the coming months what would happen if you only ran the key workouts from one of those popular marathon programs?  What if you only ran the long runs, tempo runs, and intervals, but eliminated the easy runs?  Could you successfully complete a marathon on such a minimal training type of program?  Would your performance suffer?  Some researchers wondered the same thing, with interesting results.

Marathoning on just 3 run days per week – additional research  More research on the 3 runs per week marathon training program.

Mileage Based Training: A Logical Analysis, Part 1  Running is a mileage focused sport.  Runners typical talk about their training program in terms of weekly mileage, think in terms of weekly mileage, and train in terms of weekly mileage. In fact, it’s not uncommon for complete training programs to be named in terms of weekly mileage.  Training goals are commonly set for increasing the number of miles run each week and runners are routinely encouraged to increase their weekly mileage.  The message being sent is clear  – to optimize performance, increase your mileage.   Should mileage be a primary focus of training?  Should training programs be mileage-based?  Let’s logically analyze weekly mileage and see what the natural consequences of this focus are.

Mileage Based Training: A Logical Analysis, Part 2  In part one of this analysis we learned that the common practice of recommending training based on mileage results in slower runners training at a higher training load than faster runners.  Part 2 continues our analysis of mileage-based training.

An Interesting Analysis of Some Elite’s Training History:  Weekly Mileage and Performance  I have often been told that all elite runners run high weekly mileage.  Indeed, the high weekly mileage of the elites is often pointed to as proof that high weekly mileages are a prerequisite for success in running.  This article examines the written training history of some outstanding distance runners to see what lesson we might learn in regards to optimal weekly training.

Weekly Mileage and Marathon Performance  Just how influential is weekly training mileage on marathon performance?  A commonly held belief amongst runners is that increased weekly mileage will result in improved performance, especially at the marathon distance.  But is this belief based on anecdotal observation or actual research?  This article reviews the research on the influence of weekly mileage and marathon performance.

How Frequently Should You Run?  What is the optimal training frequency?  Most runners, at some point in their running careers, contemplate this question.  The answer to the question depends upon who you ask and what particular training philosophy they follow.  Conventional training wisdom suggests running more frequently results in better performance.  In line with this philosophy conventional training advice suggests to gradually increase training frequency until you are running 6-7 days per week.  Conversely, Power Running suggests that there is no one training frequency that is right for all or most people and that less frequent training is better for runners with average genetic talents.  But, how do you go about figuring out who is right?  I suggest looking at what the research has to say, as this article does.

How Much Should You Run?  One of the most frequently debated subjects amongst runners is weekly mileage. Conventional wisdom holds that higher mileages lead to improved performances; i.e. if I am running 25 miles a week now, then by increasing to 40 my performance will improve.  Additionally, the high mileage training methods used by the vast majority of elite runners are frequently used as proof of the effectiveness of high mileage training programs.  Does high mileage result in improved performance and is it necessary in order to maximize performance? This series examines what both scientific research and running experts have to say on the matter.

Part 1 – Research     Part 2 – Tapering     Part 3 – Injury     Part 4 – Elites     Part 5 – Conclusion