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The ten basic laws of running

This is an excerpt from Daniels' Running Formula-3rd Edition by Jack Daniels.

In addition to the important ingredients of success in running, I have come up with what I call basic laws of running. I have designed these laws in hopes of allowing runners of all levels of achievement to be able to optimize the benefits of training. Since runners respond differently to a particular coaching treatment, training program, or environment, these basic laws help evaluate and enhance individual training situations.

1. Every runner has specific individual abilities.

Each runner has unique strengths and weaknesses. Some runners have a desirable muscle fiber design, with a high fraction of slow-twitch endurance fibers, which leads to a high aerobic power output (high VO2max). On the other hand, another runner who does not have a particularly high VO2max may have outstanding running economy because of ideal mechanics. I think that runners should spend a good deal of their training time trying to improve any known weaknesses, but when approaching important races, the main emphasis should be taking advantage of known strengths. For example, a runner who feels weak in the area of speed but great in endurance should spend early and even midseason time working on improving speed, but in the latter weeks of training, put more emphasis on endurance to take advantage of what works best for this individual.

2. A runner's focus must stay positive.

Do not dwell on the negative; try to find positives in all training sessions. For example, if a runner says after a workout that her run didn't feel very good, it would not be very wise for a coach, teammate, or training partner to say, “You sure looked bad running today.” A better approach is to find something good to refer to, such as “Sorry you weren't feeling great today, but your arm carriage looked like what you've been working toward.”

3. Expect ups and downs; some days are better than others.

Even world-record holders and Olympic champions have some off racing days now and then. Usually the longer the race distance, the less desirable it is to run a race when not feeling well. For example, you will need more time to recover from a marathon that you felt poor running than a 5K. I certainly would recommend even dropping out of a race when not feeling well, as opposed to struggling through a race knowing it will have to be some time before you are able to run well again.

4. Be flexible in training to allow for the unexpected.

Switch days to accommodate weather, for example. If you have a workout scheduled for Monday, and Monday's weather is cold rain and high winds and Tuesday's weather is predicted to be much nicer, put Monday's workout off until Tuesday.

5. Set intermediate goals.

These goals pave the way to long-term goals. Long-term goals are important to have but may take years to achieve, so it is crucial to have some smaller, more readily achievable goals along the way.

6. Training should be rewarding.

It's not always fun, but it should always be rewarding. Sometimes a particular workout may not feel so great, but if you understand the purpose of each workout, it is more likely that you will understand that progress is being made—and that is certainly rewarding.

7. Eat and sleep well.

Rest and good nutrition are parts of training, not things that are done outside of training.

8. Don't train when sick or injured.

Not following this law often leads to a more prolonged setback than if you'd taken a few days to recover from an illness or injury.

9. Chronic health issues should be checked by a professional.

Feeling below par now and then is not a big deal, but feeling consistently out of sorts is usually related to something that needs medical attention.

10. A good run or race is never a fluke.

Sometimes a bad run is a fluke, but if you do run a great race, it is because you are capable of doing it.

Keep these basic laws in mind throughout the training and racing process. Being able to keep training balanced, maintain a positive outlook, and set reasonable and achievable goals will lead to running success.

From a runner's standpoint, consistency in training is the single most important thing that leads to success. That consistency comes from concentrating on the task at hand—neither dwelling on the past nor looking too far forward. The only thing you can control is the present, and when you focus on that and remain consistent in your training, you'll find your greatest success.

The way to take advantage of these basic laws of running is to make them part of your everyday life as a runner. Over time, runners shouldn't have to think about how they are treating themselves; following these laws becomes a part of daily life, and race results will reflect this benefit. On the other hand, not following these laws can lead to disappointment in running performance and even poor relationships with other runners.

Athletes can't be sorted into clear-cut categories. Different amounts and combinations of my four ingredients of success are what give runners their individuality. Whether you are a runner or a coach, be happy with what you have, and use the ability you do have to its fullest. I discuss some training basics in chapter 2, but don't be afraid to make some changes now and then, when you are experiencing success with some alterations I offer. There are as many individual pathways to success as there are individuals, and discovering what works best for each person is what makes running so exciting and fun. Periodically reviewing the basic laws of running can remind runners of some important aspects of training and racing and also can be helpful in avoiding the negative effects of overtraining and not taking care of the body.

More Excerpts From Daniels' Running Formula 3rd Edition