In his new book, Consistency is Key, Jay Johnson draws on twenty years of studying the sport, working with high school, collegiate and professional runners, and learning from its best coaches to present 15 practical, fundamental principals to become a better runner. While directed at high school runners, the principals are universal and will help any runner unlock her or his potential.
In Chapter 11 Johnson presents one simple way to keep on top of your training, not buried under it.
Because we know that consistency in training is crucial for running PRs, we need to make sure that you’re not racing in workouts. The consistent runner wants to run hard in workouts, while also holding back a bit. How do you make sure you’re running hard enough to build your engine without running race effort in practice?
You need to finish workouts being able to say one of the following:
“I could have gone farther at the final pace if I had to. ”
“I could have gone faster at the end if I needed to.”
You should be able to say something along these lines at the end of almost every workout (the only exception being a time trial, where your coach instructs you to go “all out”). It’s even better if you can say both — that you could have gone farther and gone faster. If you can finish a long run, for instance, knowing you could have gone another mile or two at a faster pace than you were running at the end, you have successfully completed a controlled run.
If you race workouts on a regular basis — if you’re unable to go farther or faster — you won’t be able to properly practice race effort. On occasion, you’ll end a workout completely spent, especially if you’re getting serious about training and are motivated to work hard. A dedicated athlete will almost certainly finish a calendar year with one or two workouts that accidentally became race efforts. But don’t let that become your normal.
If your Saturday long run turns into a long race, that’s a more serious problem: your body isn’t mature enough to handle the hard long runs that a collegiate or professional athlete might incorporate. If that happens, it’s not the end of the world; you’ll simply need more time to recover from the intense stimulus.
If you let yourself recover after accidentally running race effort in practice, you’ll be ready for your next workout or race. And because high school athletes can often recover quickly compared to older athletes, you’ll be back to 100 percent in no time (as long as racing a workout is the exception, not the rule). While most coaches can tell if an athlete has gone all out, and not run controlled, recovery is ultimately your responsibility. Don’t be afraid of talking to your coach at the end of practice: “I ran all out today, coach. I know that wasn’t the point of the workout, and I wanted to let you know. I look forward to executing the workout correctly the next time. Is there anything extra I need to do to recover from today?” You want to run PRs and your coach wants you to run PRs, so this type of communication is crucial for you to be ready to train or race at full strength as soon as possible.
How does the principle of farther or faster relate to consistency? Simple. It means that you ran controlled. Running controlled for weeks at a time, with meets being the only days you run all out, gives you a better chance of staying injury-free and, ultimately, running fast races. It helps ensure that you’re “on top of your training and not buried under it.” Remember, you have a finite amount of energy for training. Your academic workload and family obligations put limits on how much sleep you can get during the week. Combine those two factors, and it’s crucial that while you train hard, you keep your workouts and long runs controlled so you are ready for what’s next.
Excerpted from the book Consistency Is Key: 15 Ways to Unlock Your Potential as a High School Runner, by Jay Johnson.