Thursday, September 16, 2010

Training advice: one size does not fit all

One of my recent blog posts sparked an interesting conversation on dailymile that got me to thinking about how "listening to your body" can, and probably should, result in different decisions by runners accustomed to different training volumes and running experiences. The body does, after all, adapt to greater training loads over time if consistently pushed and injuries don't get too much in the way.

Beginning runners often suffer from overuse syndromes and minor injuries that are sufficient to limit their training, even when following a plan that progresses in mileage and intensity at a sensible rate (the 10% mileage/intensity rule of thumb, for example). They sometimes develop these problems on plans that include workouts as infrequently as 3-4 days/week.

On the other end of the spectrum with every possible combination of training and outcomes between,  some experienced runners often run many more miles and work out up to 5-7 times/week (even more) and are rarely injured. Presumably, this is because their bones and soft tissues have become stronger from the mechanical stresses of running consistently over a long period.

Given this, it's not surprising that it is difficult to identify "rules" of running or "guidelines" for training that apply equally well to all runners. Indeed, a piece of advice that may help a novice runner training for their first 5K race to avoid injury, may be a hinder the consistent training needed for experienced marathoners to meet their time goal.

Day 313 - Chris RobinJust like shirts, training advice is not one-size-fits-all. That is for sure, and a big reason that good coaches and trainers try to learn something about an athlete's current fitness, training history, and goals before they set to work on a training plan.

This is also a source of variation in the training advice an aspiring runner finds on the internet when they begin to search for information.

From my perspective, I would suggest that a runner that becomes serious about their training embark on some self-study on training for runners, and NOT skip the chapters that explain why each training intensity is included in the training program. For best results, I think all serious runner should endeavor to understand the most basic aspects of exercise physiology-enough to understand why each type of training in their plan is important.

If you work with a coach, you may be able to learn some of this from them. If they can't/won't explain it to you (so that you can understand it), you should probably find a new coach!

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