Coach Mike Mead

April 2008

Consistency In Training

This writing is going to take a more philosophical approach to distance training and racing. With 35 years of running experience under my belt, I have learned through observation and personal trial and error that for one to be moderately successful at distance running you have to be consistent in your training and you have to be patient.

First about consistency in training which is much greater than is appears. In the general concept of distance training, you have to run on a consistent basis over several years. Running a couple of days here and a couple of days there will not lead to much progress. Neither does training for four or five weeks, then taking a couple weeks off, and then repeat.

Young distance runners typically begin training a couple of weeks before cross country season begins and stick it out until the season is finished. Then they will take one or two and maybe three months off before getting back into training mode for track season. Once the track season is complete, they repeat the cycle that never gets them truly prepared to make improvements to really race!

The big gains in distance running are made during the off-season. This is when novice runners need to get out and run some true distance. Consistent training is doing it almost everyday. In a serious off-season training mode, one should take 2-3 rest days per month.

I use the analogy that training should be like brushing your teeth everyday. The training should be a part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. Some people have poor dental hygiene and do not brush too frequently. These folks end up with cavities, rotten teeth and/or bad breath. Runners who don’t train regularly are always sore from running, have difficulties with tough workouts and will usually get hurt which means less training.

But the consistency part of running goes beyond the training. It includes how and what you do with your time away from the training each day, week and month. To be a very good distance runner, you have to live a routine life which may not seem all that exciting to most sedentary folks.

Until you experience that famous “runner’s high” you don’t understand and I cannot explain it here in this space. It’s going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time that helps shape you as a runner. You need to train at the same time, eat at the same time and sleep at the same time to complement your training. Consistent training includes your daily lifestyle. If you overeat, drink to access, take “recreational” drugs, or sleep less than eight hours a night, you are seriously hindering your running experience.

As for being patient, to reap the true benefits from running takes years of consistent training. During my college days, we were told that a distance runner hit their peak for performance around 28 years of age. These days, I believe that peak has shifted to about age 35.

I’ve seen too many young runners put in a few years of high school -- maybe college -- and then quit altogether. They did not have the patience to stick it out to really see what level they could take their running. For many, completing high school or college is a transitional period in their lives -- start a career, a family or seek a new physical challenge.

Those considering becoming serious runners need to allow time for their bodies to further develop; their training base to fully form to take their running challenges to the highest level possible. In a society that has to have it now and can’t wait until tomorrow is not what distance running is about. You take each day at a time and build on it. Each experience, good or bad, you learn from and try to make yourself better and faster the next time.

I began running in 1972. A lot has happened with my life and my running during that time. I’m still running consistently and I am still learning to be patient. Call me boring, but I like a good challenge and running has helped me get so far in this life. See where your running can take you by being patient and train consistently. Good luck!