Training: How to Train for Any Distance

The subject of training for specific distance in running is not as simple or “obvious” as it might seem. Whereas doing sprints while getting ready for 100m seems logical and reasonable, just because you’re preparing to run a marathon, doesn’t mean you should run one during training. I’m often told that it is counterintuitive but we’ll have to agree to disagree, besides it is never specified whose intuition is being used here as a standard. My own experience of over 40 years as an athlete first and then as a coach, my intuition, my understanding of this topic as a scientist and teacher, all make me follow the logic dictated by the processes involved, processes that I see, processes that inevitably lead to certain conclusions and approaches.

Training overall is a delicate process and requires much thought and preparation, and work. Training for a specific distance adds a layer of difficulty. It is crazy to expect such effort from anyone who is not training on a professional level. However, a bit of effort will go a long way, so in my articles I attempt to present such information in the simplest form possible to help you protect yourself from injuries and wandering off in the wrong direction. While some experimentation is healthy and can be fun, some of the uneducated guesses can carry heavy financial and health costs.

What is the Goal of Racing?

What is your final goal when you enter a race? Any race, no matter the distance? Simply put, the final goal of anyone running any race is to attempt to run that specific distance with a good resulting time, or at least faster than before. Even those that enter to merely ‘finish’, as they say, are still pressured by certain time constraints. The rules are (and they are clearly understood) that if you don’t finish within a specific time frame than you won’t get the finisher medal and instead will get the dreaded ‘DNF’. So as you see, even at the recreational level of racing, it is still a race and a question of speed.

However, simply running more miles will not make anybody a better or faster runner. Specific training will. That applies to sprinters as much as to marathoners and everyone else.

What is the Goal of Training?

Simply put, the goal is to be able to run a specific distance on a specific date. Preferably faster than last time. Maybe faster than a bunch of other people that will also be racing.

What is a Common Approach to Training?

Diluted by folklore, training process has become a foggy scenario where recreational runners obtain some numbers from someone who called those numbers a “training plan” and proceed to follow half heartedly that plan while missing some days, skipping some stuff, etc. The emphasis in such training is often put on running and running and running. I’m sorry to disappoint you but this is not a ‘10,000 hour’ thing, and even the 10,000 hours are not a real thing, so what is this idea of running and running and running? This is an oversimplified picture but it summarizes the confusion.

A common approach to training clearly shows the common opinion of what training is – a repetitive experience of doing. Doing something. A rather popular belief or an assumption that during training a runner should run the very distance he or she is training for has no scientific foundation. It is suggested that it helps prepare the athlete for the given distance by letting him/her “experience the load”.

The reality, however, is that every one of us can run any given distance, whether it’s 100m or a marathon. The only true question is – who can do it faster and incur less damage in the process?

The “experience” mentioned earlier is purely a psychological tactic to feel more secure and confident. There is no scientific basis there, no significant physiological advantage and there are better ways to get that feeling of confidence like, for example, improving technique. However, this psychological tactic has a strong potential to cause a lot of physical damage. If you’re attempting to train for a marathon by simply running and running, what you’re really doing is robbing yourself of progress, plus getting a little more and more of “wear and tear” with every pointless long slow run. Every such run has a potential of a serious injury besides not only being unproductive, but what’s more – being counterproductive.

What is a Better Approach to Training?

There are certain things about our body and mind, our personal energy level and perception that are not common knowledge among athletes and coaches, and especially recreational ones. Add to that hierarchical relations between combinations of short, middle and long distances used in training, and relations between speed and endurance and at this point you should be able to see how complex real training is. If those important aspects are not taken into consideration when training is being planned then it shouldn’t be called training and no particular or successful results should be expected.

One of the founding fathers of athletics in Soviet Union, Nicholai Ozolin, wrote in 1949: “Speed is the foundation of endurance.” While this is not widely accepted or even understood yet, the statement made all these years ago is pretty much the jackpot. The athlete/coach that understands it, gets the keys to the gates, i.e. to faster running on long distances.

In order for your training to be effective, whatever the distance, everything you do has to be aimed at the main event – a particular distance on a particular day. While it is simple to have a goal – the date of the race – it is far from simple or easy to figure out what needs to be done in order to get to that date and reach the goal.

Regardless of the distance you’re training for, the bulk of your training process should be focused on developing and maintaining proper form and your body should have the necessary level of strength developed. That alone will serve as a ‘life-saving’ foundation for your performance level. Additionally, you should dedicate your attention to developing speed.

Using the above mentioned as a foundation you can achieve solid progress or at the very least – stability. The better your technique, the longer you can keep on running. When selecting a race to participate in, remember, that whether it is a 5K or marathon – you can do it.

Proper training regimen and planning will prepare you for the race and save you from overtraining and injuries. A really good training program, along with a knowledgeable coach, will help reveal your full potential. In the absence of a coach, my new app or web based training plans might be what you’re looking for. Try them. It is build on the principles I described in this article. The best part is that you don’t need to wonder or guess – simply type in your data and follow the prompts.

Training Plans VS Training Programs

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

Warm-Up & Cool-Down for Runners

From my own experience I know that very often small yet very important elements of the training session structure, that is, the beginning, which is called warm-up, and the end, which is called cool-down, are ignored and neglected by majority of runners. Reasons (or we may say ‘excuses’) given for this are always numerous: from efforts to save time to just admitting plain neglect. In general, the attitude towards those parts of the training session is as if neither carry any significance so why bother. That’s a mistake. But then again, it’s only a matter of personal responsibility. If you think you don’t owe it to yourself to do things the right way and not the lazy way, then what can I say.

The Warm-Up

So, what kind of role does the warm-up play in the training session? The answer is obvious – to warm-up the muscles, ligaments and tendons, and, here’s the part that not many consider- to prepare the nervous and cardiorespiratory systems for the specific workout. Normally an athlete would spend (depending on the upcoming workout, outside temperature and his/her own body condition) somewhere between 5 to 30 min on this task.

Warm-up should consist of all blocks of preparation:

  • biomechanical
  • physiological
  • psychological
  • mental and
  • spiritual

In Pose Method we use specific running technique drills to get the body into the right biomechanical structure of movement. Those drills also serve as a psychological and mental tune-up for the upcoming workout. Be mindful when following this progression. All these parts should be performed on a conscious level with an understanding of why we are doing it. It is foolish to train or do anything for that matter under the assumption that mindless motions of doing something will give you the results you’re looking for.

If you normally train by yourself and run alone, simply make sure to structure your sessions so you cover the above mentioned aspects. However if you train in a group and/or do group running sessions, make sure to set time aside for yourself to maximize your results. You can (emphasis on can) manage your busy schedule, keep your group runs and enjoy the social aspect of running. A little bit of effort and discipline goes a long way.

Here’s a good warm-up set of drills and exercises for a session that can become your regular practice. To put together a more extensive session, refer to the vast collection available in the original book The Pose Method of Running if you have it, and the Beginner’s Guide to Pose Running resource.

Key points:

  1. Warm-up is about getting ready for the training session
  2. Make it simple, quick but get your mind into it completely.
  3. Emphasis on drills and elasticity exercises.

We should not do flexibility exercises in the warm-up part of the training session too often. That should be mostly saved for after the workout, for the cool-down part of the training session or for a separate training session altogether. But sometimes it is needed in which case make sure to do a warm-up flexibility routine before the actual warm-up and always keep your focus on moving your joints instead of stretching your muscles. Intentionally stretching your muscles is not a good idea. Muscles will do what they need to do when you focus on simply bending your joints. Correct intent and focus produce correct outcome.

The Cool-Down

The cool-down part of the training session has its own specific role as the process that should return your body to its normal condition, including its biomechanical, physiological, psychological, mental and spiritual conditions. When your training is done, it is very important to return all the “blocks” and levels of the body to their norm. This means recovering muscle strength, relaxation, tone, your technique and coordination, and proper perception of movement, and of course your mental state, emotional and psychological conditions.

So, cool-down is a multidimensional set of exercises and should be treated as seriously as the main part of the training session. Time-wise this part is not time consuming similar to the warm-up, but it could be a little longer if needed, because returning to the norm could be a more demanding process than getting going. There are more chances here to lose technique, perception, proper muscle condition and mental focus. So it’s a good idea to give more time to this part of your training session.

In the Pose Method we, again, use special running drills for cool-down with the purpose of recovering the specific conditions related to running technique and our focus should be on the main elements of running. But through these exercises we must also return our body’s strength condition, unless you want to wobble around on shaky legs for the next day or two. So, we additionally use special regimes of strength exercises to recover muscle tone & strength, tendon and ligament elasticity and coordination.

If the main workout was difficult with a load on the cardiorespiratory system, then we must use a light run (we are talking about a mile maximum for the majority of us) to recover these systems to the norm. Keep your eye on your form, just because it’s a light run to recover it does not mean you can drag your feet behind you.

Another thing to keep in mind about the cool-down is that it is not only the final part of your current training session, but it is also your preparation for the future training session, and that requires your mental and psychological focus and effort. Training is a non-stop process of moving from one training session to another.

Key points:

  1. Cool-down is about recovery
  2. Make it longer than warm-up
  3. Emphasis on strength exercises (lighter load, less reps)
  4. Wrap up with a flexibility routine (focus on moving your joints)

So, these seemingly simple parts of training, as you see, are not so simple at all, and they require your full attention and skill development, as any other part of your training. Start from this point and consciously build up your understanding of the deep meaning of these parts of your training process and it will take you to the next level of your training.I guarantee that. Enjoy this process of self-discovery and the newly found excitement that it will undoubtedly bring.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]