Training specificity for runners is to put emphasis on the movements and activities that will yield improved results in running a goal distance. For endurance runners this means training the muscular, neuromuscular, and cardiovascular systems, as well as your digestive system to compete in long distances.
I’ve always held the belief that running more builds a better runner. It’s a simple notion that people new to our sport often overlook. Even veteran runners frustrated with recent results forget the fundamental principles of specificity and divert training away from a solid running foundation. Some get caught up with workout fads that do little to improve running economy and others look to become better while doing less work.
What should we focus on? The long distance runner needs to develop a solid foundation of miles and comfortability of being on the move for long periods of time. Cross training should focus on building functional strength and flexibility. The majority of work done needs to focus on developing the correct energy system and muscles; aerobic and slow twitch. Nutrition needs to support the functions of the body during aerobic stress. Yes, fat and carbs are necessary!
Physically, runners must develop increased aerobic capacity through a consistently increasing series of slow pace runs. This part of the training should be based on time rather than mileage. Running for long periods of time, no matter what the pace, strengthens the muscles and joints needed for the running movement, teaches the body to burn fat as a fuel source, develops muscle memory, prepares us psychologically for future long runs, increases our tolerance for discomfort, and forces our bodies to efficiently use oxygen and energy.
I read PLENTY of blogs by half-marathoners and marathoners. A good number write about frustrations with goal times or injuries. Like me, they write about their training and right there, right in front of them on their screen, are their problems. They’ll write about a series of three mile runs with a 10 mile long run; or they’ll write about power lifting before a run; or about eating a protein rich diet to lose weight or squeezing in a quick run before a movie. The concept of training specificity is easy to understand, but sometimes the easiest are the most difficult to execute: long runs, long tempo runs, long intervals, functional lifts, form drills, periodization, rest, recovery, eating for energy, and PATIENCE.
Most people are short on time, thus the need to be more efficient and calculating with their workouts. In the coming weeks I’ll share workouts and exercises I’ve learned in the past that helped me become a better runner.