Tips from the best to improve your running

Oct. 4, 2010 at 5:04 a.m.

I have been running for close to 30 years now!

It has been a long, delightful journey filled with some ups and downs, but my passion for running is still alive and strong.

Fortunately, I have had the advice of great coaches, and I am an avid reader of all types of literature on it.

I came across a good article in Runner's World a few years ago that summed up some of the best tips on improving your running, while staying injury free. The contributors to the article are some of the best in the business. Here's what they had to say:

Incorporate Tempo Runs

I have spoken a lot about tempo runs in past articles and will continue to do so.

If you want to see your times drop, this is one of the best ways to help you achieve that goal.

Pete Pfitzinger, the top American finisher in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic marathons, said he first learned about tempo running when he attended an Olympic development camp in 1985, run by physiologist Jack Daniels.

"He explained the physiology behind tempo runs and why they are such efficient preparation for the distances I was concentrating on-15K through the marathon," said Pfitzinger.

If your racing focus is on shorter lengths, run a warm-up of ten to fifteen minutes, and then do four to six sets of two to three minute intervals at 5K-10K pace.

Incorporating "Easy" Days into Your Training- and Keeping them Easy

When you set up your training program, particular attention should be made in taking an easy day between hard training days.

Easier effort days and recovery days are intended to allow your body some rest and recovery so that on the higher intensity days, your body is ready to go. Matt Tegenkamp, American record holder for two miles, says keep your easy days easy.

While training for the 2001 World Junior Cross-Country Championships, "I decided I needed to work that much harder to make the jump to the next level. Pretty much every day, it was push, push, push," Tegenkamp said.

This mindset on training ended in negative results for Tegenkamp, as he spent much of the next few years sidelined with injuries.

Make Speedwork a Component of Year Round Training Plan

A training plan set up the correct way is typically cyclical, including a base, strengthening, peak and recovery phase.

However, if you spend too much time during the off-season without any speed or interval work, you may risk losing some of the speed you gained over the previous season.

That is why Shalane Flanagan, the National 5k record holder, recommends doing some speedwork year-round.

"My new coach, John Cook, had me start doing six or eight striders after almost every run, even in my base phase," she said.

This type of training is based on the mentality that your body will already be prepared to run fast when it's time to enter into your speed and peak phases.

To be a Great Runner, You have to Live "Like a Runner"

Deena Kastor, an Olympic marathon bronze medalist, took this notion to heart after moving to Colorado to join her new coach, Joe Vigil.

She tried to get off her feet and relax whenever possible and made sure to get plenty of sleep.

If you are trying to reach your full potential as an athlete, you need to pay attention to all aspects of your life, on and off the training field.

Take a Day Off Each Week

I have always included one full day of rest for myself during a training week, and sometimes two days off is needed.

Kara Goucher, the second fastest American woman in the 10K and marathon debut time record holder, lives by this rule, but didn't use to.

Four years ago, Goucher refused to take a day off in pursuit of meeting her mileage goals each week, despite a lingering injury and against the advice of her friend and fellow runner, Suzy Favor Hamilton.

Goucher continued on, running to meet her mileage goals and ignoring her body's attempt to signal to her that she needed a rest. She ended up with a stress fracture in her hip.

"If you're training pretty hard, you're almost always going to have something that's a little sore," Goucher said.

She suggests a day off per week and listening to your body, looking for indicators that something is amiss.

Missy Janzow owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition service. You can reach her with your questions at janzowml@ya or visit her on the web at



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