Coach Mike Mead

"Run, Run, Run!" - July 2007

I’ve been reading for about the last 10-15 years the different training methods that the big-time running gurus have been advising runners of various backgrounds to consider. The advice ranges from incorporating cross-training to walking to rest days into a typical weekly running program. For a while I’ve bought into these variations. But recently I’ve reconsidered the “old school” way to train; that is run!

During my developmental years of high school running, my coach was a firm believer in that for every day a runner missed running meant it would take two days to make up. As a coach, I’ve had a few athletes – runners – who always looked for shortcuts to training. It turned out that they were either lazy, unmotivated, or did not understand why they trained. I’ve stressed for years the importance of developing a serious training base to improve racing speed. Some get it, many don’t.

As we find ourselves in the midst of summer, many runners will cut back their training and racing because of the hot, humid weather conditions. Meantime, high school and college distance runners should be logging in some serious miles in order to build a proper base to prepare them for their respective cross country seasons. My thinking is that many young runners are exposed to too much of an emphasis on “non-running” activities like cross-training, walking and rest. Yes, these are important training components, but not if you are trying to build a base. These methods should be applied when you are brand-spanking new to running, coming off an injury or during your racing/peaking phase.

For the first time in many, many years, I stepped up my summer training and have not missed a day of running (as of this writing) since Memorial Day. For at least 10 years I have usually taken a day or two off each week, partly because of work, partly because of age and partly because the gurus say it is good for you. However, during this mini training streak I’ve noticed that I am much stronger than I’ve been in a couple of years and I have not broken down. I’ve made gains by running everyday though I’ve struggled on some days, making those my easy or active recovery days.

I’ve always believed there is no substitution for running. However, the running gurus are telling runners that there are substitutions. I believe that applying these “non-running” activities are just holding many folks back from progress. It’s great that we have more runners these days, but as a whole they are not much faster than a generation ago.

So what’s a runner to do? The simple answer is run. For those building a base, it takes about 10-12 weeks, so during that time you should try not to take a day off from running. Keep in mind that during this time you do not violate the “10-percent rule” – do not exceed your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent. Every fourth week you need to cut back your weekly mileage by 15-20 percent. After a long run of 10 miles or more, you may run a very short (3-5 miles) run the following day for active recovery.

Caution needs to be taken for those novice runners, those with poor running form, or if you are coming off an injury. Just use common sense. If you have pains during or after your runs that persist for more than two or three days, you need to stop running, see a doctor, or do both. Be sure you are well hydrated before, during and after your runs. And avoid the hottest times of the day.

After you have completed your base weeks, then you can build in some cross-training, walks and rest days to complement your training as you enter the racing/peaking phase, particularly if you are doing a couple of speed sessions per week.

Get in as much consistent running during your base training weeks and you’ll be ready for the speed training and racing later on. So get out and run, run, run!