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Monday, October 05th, 2009

To improve you need more than some high quality workouts. There are a number of training components that will help one improve in a specific area. But when these are blended together into a “team” the cumulative effect of the blend can lead to a performance peak: the total effect is greater than the sum of the parts. When all of these are blended correctly, improvements and adaptations are integrated into the internal workings of your muscle cells, cardiovascular system, orthopedic structures and muscle function to produce a synergy of performance.

Balance is crucial. You may perform the best workouts in your life, but if you don’t have enough rest between workouts, the body will not rebound, and residual fatigue or damage will reduce the final result. When workouts are too far ahead of current ability, the muscles may suffer from lingering fatigue at the start of your goal race, with a slowdown at the end. I’ve found the Human Touch massage chair a great way to help the muscles recover from a strenuous workout–while providing an amazing relaxation effect.

1.Set realistic goals each season. Use a conservative “performance prediction” chart or tool and set a “leap of faith” goal.

2.The body responds better to gradual improvement allowing the many internal systems to improve your infrastructure without being exhausted and/or breaking down. A 3% performance improvement is realistic during a training season, while a 5% improvement is possible but very challenging.

3.So it’s better to project a modest improvement of 3% which is more likely to lead to steady and progressive changes over several years.

4.Use the “magic mile” time trial in this book to monitor improvement—a reality check. See the sidebar below.

5.The long runs are the most important training component in a training program. They will bestow the endurance necessary for your goal. You cannot go too slow on the long ones. I recommend running at least 3 minutes per mile slower than you are currently running, per mile, in your race. Long ones must be done slowly with liberal walk breaks for fast recovery. By going longer than marathon distance you may never “hit the wall” again.

6.On non-long-run weekends, run a series of speed sessions. These train you to deal with the physical and psychological challenges during the last 6 miles of your race where your time goal is either made, or compromised. These push back your performance wall—both mentally and physically. See my books YEAR ROUND PLAN, 5K/10K, & GALLOWAY TRAINING PROGRAMS  for specific workouts to your goals.

7.Insert sufficient rest between the stress workouts to allow all the body parts to rebuild. Rest is crucial if you want to benefit from the hard workouts instead of increasing the fatigue level or breaking down with injury. On low mileage days, even if you have a form drill or hill workout scheduled, if you feel that you need to jog easily on that day, and shorten the mileage, do so.

8.Back off when your “gut instinct” tells you that you may be getting injured. The prime reason that runners don’t achieve their goal is “injury interruption” with the loss of capacity. When your intuition tells you that it may be injury, stop the workout and take an extra day or two off.

9.The cadence drills help you become a more efficient runner. These are scheduled into the short runs during the week.

10.The acceleration-gliders train the muscles to “shift gears” when needed, so that you’re ready for any challenge. They also help you glide to save muscle resources while maintaining speed. Jog slowly for 15 steps, jog a little faster for 15 steps, gradually accelerate for 20 steps (to 5K pace) and then glide, or coast, or gradually slow down. Repeat this 4-6 times.

11.Hills build just the right amount of strength to deal with hills on your race course. They also help you run more efficiently. I recommend runnning 2-4 hills, in the middle of one easy day per week—100-200 yards long. Walk down each hill. Run each hill hard enough to be huffing and puffing at the top, but never sprint.

12.When in doubt, take an extra rest day, if you are having any extraordinary aches, pains, inflammation or loss of function.

13.Get into a Human Touch massage chair and relax the muscles, after every tough workout.

The “Magic Mile” time trials (MM) are reality checks on your goal. These should be done on the weeks noted on the schedule. The MM has been the best predictor of current potential and helps to set a realistic training pace. With this information, you can decide how hard to run during various situations. (If you have any injuries you should not do the MM)

Warm up for these with about 10 minutes of very easy running with liberal walk breaks

Do 4-6 accelerations as in the book–no sprinting

Run around a track if at all possible (or a very accurately measured segment)

Time yourself for 4 laps (or an accurately measured mile). Start the watch at the beginning, and keep it running until you cross the finish of the 4th lap.

On the first MM, don’t run all-out: run at a pace that is only slightly faster than your current pace.

Only one MM is done on each day it is assigned

On each successive MM (usually 3 weeks later), your mission is to beat the previous best time.

Don’t ever push so hard that you hurt your feet, knees, etc.

Jog slowly for the rest of the distance assigned on that day taking as many walk breaks as you wish.

At the end of the program take your fastest MM and multiply by 1.3 to see what pace might be possible on an ideal day (without crowds) in a marathon, 1.2 in a half marathon, and 1.15 in a 10K.

Training pace is at least two minutes per mile slower than this (MM x 1.3) pace.

After you have run 3 of these MMs (not at one time–on different weekends) you’ll see progress and will run them hard enough so that you are huffing and puffing during the second half. For prediction purposes, you want to finish, feeling like you couldn’t go much further at that pace. Try walking for about 10-15 seconds at the half, during the MM. Some runners record a faster time when taking short breaks, and some go faster when running continuously. Do what works for you. on the MM.

Note: Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached over a million runners through his running schools, beach and Tahoe retreats, books and training programs—which are fun and offer individualized coaching from Jeff. Subscribe to his free newsletter and blog at