5 Running mistakes to avoid

1. Not allowing enough time to achieve your goal
2. Going too hard on your easy days (intensity blindness)

3. Not being consistent
4. Ignoring strength training
5. Over emphasizing stretching

The underlying basis for setting goals is to discover new running limits and explore our individual running potential. Goals may include running a certain mileage over a certain period of time (week, month or year), running personal best times, running a certain event (10k, half marathon or marathon) The positive feeling when we reach these goals are extremely rewarding and uplifting.

Leave no stone unturned in your pursuit to reach your goals.

Avoid these common pitfalls

1. Not allowing enough time to achieve your goal.

You must allow an appropriate lead in time to achieve a certain running goal. When you don’t allow enough time, you are going to get frustrated and succumb to anxiety and pressure and feel you are behind in your preparations.

This may result in cramming training in the form of significant volume, intensity or even both. It may also result in removing rest days. Don’t! this can increase the risk of developing an injury.
You can’t short-cut your physiology! Gains must be made in due course with training.

2. Going too hard on easy days.

Many runners fail to run easy on their easy days and then they don’t have the energy to run fast on their really important training sessions. Running too hard is the single greatest detrimental mistake in running.

The tendency to run what should be an easy paced run at a moderate effort is most likely hindering the progress of a lot of runners. It is difficult for many runners to make peace with the concept that if they want to run faster, they need to slow down in some of their training sessions. Easy days are a crucial component of your training. To improve running and performance, you need to correctly balance training and recovery so that your body can positively adapt.
An appropriate number of easy days in between bouts of stress is vital for harder efforts during your workout days to be beneficial. Just as the planned hard workouts in your running programme serve a purpose, so too do your easy days. Easy days support growth and adaptation. Slow easy running helps to flush oxygen rich blood through the legs and heals micro tears and other damage that workouts and long runs create. Mitochondria, capillaries and blood flow to muscles are increased so they are better able to utilize oxygen.
So, slow down, keep your easy days easy to allow your body to rebuild and reset after a hard workout and before the next big workout.

Maximise your results on tempo/speed days by taking the other days easy consistently.

3. Not being Consistent

Consistency is the key to success, for runners of all levels, the key to improvement is consistency, structure, variation and patience!

The number one route to improved performance and forward progression is to aim for consistency with your training.

Training consistently and building up gradually with the right structure and progression will reduce injury risk and improve performance.

4. Avoiding strength training

Strength training has long been overlooked as a crucial component of a runners training. Many runners believe that strength training will bulk them up with muscle mass and subsequently impede their running ability. This is not the case with maximal strength and reactive strength training, you will not bulk up and put on extra muscle mass.
Strength training does however improve your stability, postural control, strength, rate of force development (power) and running economy, improves time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic speed and improves performance.

Running Economy is the oxygen cost of maintaining a given pace. A stronger athlete with appropriate strength, stability and mobility will cover the same distance more efficiently than an athlete who has poor RE.
Runners with good RE have greater stride length and frequency than those who struggle to control their technique due to a weak body.
Prehab work will focus on strengthening supporting muscles to facilitate proper biomechanics to avoid injury.

Strength training reduces sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries can be almost halved. For a sport in which there is a high percentage of overuse injuries, why would you not do something so extremely valuable and reduce this injury risk?
Also, you will seldom come across a rehabilitation programme that doesn’t include strength training. Strength training will minimise imbalances and weaknesses to improve the body’s capacity to endure whatever training and competitive loads we throw at it, enabling us to perform harder and longer before we find a weak link and something is overloaded.

You want are neurally induced gains in strength and muscle fiber recruitment. Max strength training component aims to fatigue the muscle between 4 to 6 reps for 4/5 sets with an extended rest period between sets.

5. Over emphasizing stretching

Many runners over attribute the importance of stretching for their ambitions to run injury free and faster. It’s not bad, it just gets too much attention though it can have a place in some runners weekly program. There is however no evidence to suggest that static stretching significantly improves performance or reduces the prevalence of the common injuries in endurance runners. Acute stretching can reduce running economy and performance for up to an hour by diminishing the musculotendinous stiffness and elastic energy potential by reducing the recoil of them. If you reduce the reactive force enough, then you’re not going to spring, your flight time is going to decrease and you will get from A to B in a slower time.

If we use the idea of a pogo stick generating enough force to travel through the air to increase your flight time, then why would we try to loosen that spring up as much as possible by stretching. Strength will give you stronger springs, not stretching!

You are only going to inhibit your running
Stretching does not appear either to reduce the longevity or intensity of DOMS.

Don’t stretch just because other runners stretch.

Time spent stretching is better spent strength training working on exercises which have been shown to be very beneficial in the reduction of injury and optimization of running performance.

Goodluck with your training everyone 😊

Fartlek Training

Fartlek, a staple workout adds freshness to your training by varying paces and terrain over a continuous run.

From the Swedish meaning- ‘speed play’ is defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slow recovery jogs.

The basic idea is to run hard during the ‘on’ section and try to recover on the ‘off’/easy section while maintaining a continuous run.

This occurs over a predetermined time period or distance. The focus is on being able to change and sustain different paces and being able to surge when needed.

It challenges the body to adapt to various speeds, conditioning you to become faster over longer distance.

It is great for a variety of fitness levels and can be customized according to personal preference and what your current training situation is.

Fartlek can be structured or run off feel. It can train and improve all energy systems with a range of speeds from aerobic to anaerobic running. It keeps things interesting while allowing you to run according to how you feel.

There are endless combinations of times/distance, paces, terrain to make your fartlek’s interesting. This training provides a lot of flexibility so you can do a high intensity session to really challenge yourself or a lower intensity session if you are tapering for a race or coming back post injury.

Fartlek training can be used to achieve different end goals, but it stays true to its original Swedish meaning, ‘speedplay’, a game of varying pace running.
Try to remain disciplined and compete the workout. Remain controlled and relaxed during the faster efforts and remember that the

recovery is part of the workout too! As you practice these, you will become more aware of your body’s limits and know what pace you are capable of running your efforts and recoveries.

They are a great way to get a hard and beneficial workout in without the mental stress of interval sessions where everything is measured precisely.

The key to successful fartlek running is in the recovery segment. It should be a decent float, not jogging especially for longer duration on/off’s as it is good to keep the heart rate up for the duration.

Instead of putting all your effort into the fast sections and struggling through a very slow recovery, you should control the fast section and maintain a better pace on the recoveries. This way, you will teach your body to recover whilst running at a fast pace.

You increase lactate levels during the ‘on’ sections, then your body must clear the lactate during the recovery segments in order to be ready to go hard again for the next fast effort.

Essentially, you are teaching your body to become better adapted to cope with and removing lactate at a faster pace during your recovery which will transfer to race day and allow you to race faster. This is when you really start to see your endurance take a positive turn.

This a particularly important mechanism for all 5k- marathon runners regardless of actual race speed.

Shorter faster sessions can also be used to improve speed and running economy.


The classic Mona Fartlek
20 minutes fartlek with rec the same as hard effort. It is a mixture of long and short intervals which is very demanding.

2 x 90s w/90s rec
4 x 60s w/60s rec
4 x 30s w/30s rec
4 x 15s w/ 15s rec

The classic and basic Canova Fartlek

20 x 1’on/1′ off

10 x 2′ on/1′ off

You can also use a basic combination of 12 x 45 sec hard/90 sec easy starting out for 5k training for example and build from there.

This is one of my fartlek sessions that I did last year. The efforts were increased as the length of ‘on’ section decreased.
6 x 90s on/45s off, 3′ easy, 8 x 60s on/off, 3’ easy, 3’, 8 x 30s on/45s off

3 x (4′ @ threshold, 2′ easy, 3 x 1′ hard, 1′ easy)

1’/2’/3’/2’/1’/2’/3’/2’/1′ hard with equal recovery

Always begin with at least a 10-minute warm up and a few strides to get the body prepared for the faster stuff to come in the session.

Strides are essentially short repeats of approx. 100m at faster speeds with plenty recovery. They develop neuromuscular coordination and efficiency at high speed. They are generally done at mile pace depending on your goal. Concentrate on maintaining good form and staying relaxed. They should feel choppy-legs should be turning over quickly.
Avoid tensing the neck, shoulders and arms. Tight muscles, clenched jaws and excessive movement all inhibit the body’s ability to run fast.

Enjoy getting creative with your new training sessions.

Michelle Greaney (Athletics Ireland Level 2 National Endurance Coach)

Running Efficiency

While most of the time the focus is on capacities, or how big our engine is, the real key is often how efficient a runner is. Endurance is about supporting speed and being physiologically and biomechanically efficient. Distance runners maximise their mechanics for efficiency of movement.

The three types of efficiency we are concerned with are:


These 3 combine to create total efficiency.
Running economy (RE) is one of the physiological parameters for running performance and used to measure total efficiency.

It uses oxygen intake to represent energy use and is defined by how much oxygen it takes to cover a given distance at a fixed speed. Or, it also relates to the amount of oxygen used by an athlete when running at a constant (submaximal) running speed.

RE significantly correlates with running performance. RE can explain up to 65% of variation in race performance.

RE is a measure of gross efficiency, meaning that it is the result of both internal and external components so that mechanical, neural and metabolic efficiency play a role.
<Short ground contact times,

<higher cadence (greater stride frequency)

<and higher knee and lower ankle stiffness are associated with better RE.

Trained runners who exhibit greater neuromuscular activation prior to and during ground contact, in turn optimizing spatiotemporal variables and joint stiffness will be the most economical runners.
Factors that affect Running Economy
Running economy is one of the most important factors in determining distance running performance.
Up and Down Movement
Uneconomical runners expend more energy bobbing up and down when they run than do more economical runners who tend to glide over the ground with very little vertical oscillation. Excessive up and down movement is a waste of energy.
Muscle capacity to store energy
With each running stride, the muscles of the landing leg store impact energy as they contract eccentrically to absorb the shock of landing. Most of the stored energy is then used during the concentric muscle contraction that propels the body forward during the next stride. We can use elastic recoil provided by the tendons, contribute a significant proportion of the energy for propulsion (35%) at least when running on flat terrain.
Biomechanical efficiency refers to anything that impacts the mechanical cost of running. Factors such as elastic energy storage and return, the mechanics of the stride itself, how the foot lands and the structure of the runner contribute to biomechanical efficiency, how wasteful a movement pattern is. If these factors are optimized, then less energy is required to cover a given distance.
There are several mechanisms that can improve biomechanical efficiency, one of the most important being the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC). A spring-like mechanism where a muscle is actively stretched and then immediately contracts. During the pre-stretch portion, energy is stored in the series elastic components of the muscle, then energy is then released during the contraction part. The amount of elastic energy return is dependant on length and speed of the stretch, stiffness of the muscle and the time between the stretch and subsequent contraction.
Muscle stiffness strongly correlates with RE. In general, a stiffer muscle will store more energy and the SSC works best when a stiff muscle is rapidly stretched and contracted with little time in between. Example of this is the calf muscle upon landing and subsequent toe off in running.
Stiffer (measure of leg compliance) muscles surrounding the ankle and knee create an increased SSC response which results in greater force on the subsequent toe off.
We always want to obtain optimal stiffness and energy return. Pre-activation, or tuning of the muscles to prepare for impact before landing is a way to actively manipulate stiffness of the system, resulting in greater storage of elastic energy.
The achilles tendon stores 35% of its kinetic energy. To properly utilize elastic mechanisms, the body needs to be in optimum position biomechanically and the tendons need to be trained to utilize the forces. Rapid movements such as sprinting and plyometrics train the tendons to be better able to utilize the energy.
Running with the ankle more plantar flexed, (more forefoot) allows the subsequent stretch reflex on the calf and Achilles-Calf complex to utilize more elastic energy than landing in a dorsiflexed position at heel strike where the calf complex is already in a stretched position thus minimizing the SSC. Ground contact time is also longer in heel strikers so there is more time between energy storage and release. More energy likely dissipates and is lost.

Maximising Elastic Energy Use
Reactive or plyometric training-Short hops, jumps and bounds with the focus on minimizing the amount of ground contact time will work! Sprinting is about the most specific form of plyometric activity that can be done for runners, yet it is often under-utilized. Doing 60-100m accelerations is a great way to work on using elastic energy. These will train you to reach force development faster, minimize ground contact and optimize the stiffness of the muscles and tendons.

The biomechanical model proposes that an important function of the muscles and of the brain and nerves that control their function, is to maintain the tension in the tendons when stretched at footstrike as well as during the first part of the of the stance phase of the running cycle. This then allows the spring (Achilles tendon and other structures) to be stretched actively. Return of the spring to its unstretched position at toe off then provides a good proportion of the energy needed for the next stride.

Neuromuscular Efficiency
Maximising rate of force development so that ground contact time is minimized creates a more efficient runner.
Neural efficiency is an improvement in the communication between the nervous system and muscles themselves. E.g, an improvement could occur via more refined motor programming.
Metabolic efficiency refers to the factors that impact on the production of energy for the muscles to use such as fuel source or oxygen delivery.
It is a balancing act to maximise total efficiency.
Strength training
The most important thing about strength training is it builds damage resistance. Athletes need muscles with superior efficiency, contractility, elasticity and fatigue resistance. Stronger athletes tend to have reduced risk of injury. Rate of Force (RFD) is of huge importance. Force capability is increased in stronger runners which improves their running economy and therefore overall performance. An increasing body of evidence shows that by incorporating an S&C program of heavy weights and plyometrics increases running economy by 4% (Barnes et al. 2013b; Burgess and Lambert 2010a; Saunders et al. 2004) A stronger and more stable athlete will cover the same distance more efficiently than an athlete with poor running economy.

Logo (2)

It will improve neuromuscular function-improved muscular coordination and coactivation, increase the percentage of fast twitch fibres and improve tendon stiffness-all of which contribute to faster more economical running as well as reduced injury risk. Strength training is good practice, we should not dismiss something that has such a positive impact on our running performance and reduces risk of injury by improving mechanics and enhancing athleticism and ultimately prolonging your running career.

Distance runners-don’t neglect pure speed training/hill sprints or strength training, or you will continue to be inefficient over the ground.

Coaching – Maximise your potential for you to race at your best

The Foundation of success lies in careful planning to maximize your potential to reach your target time. A coach is a trusted partner in your quest to become better. I work with runners from the back, middle and front of the pack. If you are goal orientated and determined to reach your goals, I am here to help no matter what your pace.

To achieve great things, we need to be patient and take a long-term approach to training to grow, adapt and improve incrementally season after season. I am in favour of long-term goals, it cant all be about short term gains and successes. We should not seek instant improvement and chase get fit quick approaches to training.

My coaching ethos: coach the individual and not the system. Individuality of training is too often neglected and is extremely important. There is a large inter-individual response to training, both in the magnitude of response and in time frame for developing and retaining training effects. Every athlete is physiologically and psychologically different which affects the way they handle their training and how training should be adjusted accordingly.

The perfect training program doesn’t exist. We work with humans the most important variable in performance!
No two people are the same, everybody responds differently to training, everyone has different levels of fitness and limitations.

Program modifications are to be expected. I adjust to my athletes by being flexible and making modifications and adjustments to their training programs. To meet their individual goals and needs each step of the way, the goal of my training programmes are to have my athletes adapt over time but this is also my goal, I adapt also. A large emphasis is placed on adaptability, recoverability, variability all the while insuring durability of the athlete remaining a key focus.

I coach my athletes to successful results by designing time efficient programs and optimizing them to include everything they need. Family and work are the most important things and these cant be compromised. I build training sessions into their busy lives and integrate flexibility, guidance into the notes of the plan itself.

After you sign up, you will receive an email with the questionnaire about your training and racing history schedule and goals. I will do a complete evaluation to determine your strengths and weaknesses as a runner. I will evaluate your goals and determine how to best advance you towards them.

I will email your new customized programme to you based on these. You will train optimally by avoiding the pitfalls that come with following a generic programme. Feedback is provided on an unlimited basis.
Program modifications are to be expected according to how you are adjusting, results from key workouts and based on family/work commitments.
The coach – athlete relationship is vital in terms of being able to adjust a schedule as things get in the way which they sometimes do.

GOLD Personal Coaching Package

Included with my GOLD personal coaching plan(designed for the person that wants a more personable coaching experience. It provides an attention to detail and communication approach. Guidance on all aspects of training)

  • Customized training plan delivered weekly, adjustments if necessary. Provides overview and description-detailed workout instructions to maximise your training and avoid injuries. The plan is tailored to your history, race goals and working/life commitments.
  • Coach interaction via email, calls and texts via WhatsApp.
  • Specific education on personal running paces and sessions. Specific warm up and drill routines for key sessions.
  • Advice on cross training and injury prevention.
  • Specific short term, mid term goals and long term planning
  • Strength training guidance where needed

Silver Personal Coaching Plan

This plan is for the person that wants a tailored program specific to their goals, fitness and ability but does not require one to one communication every day.

  • Customized training plan delivered monthly, adjustments if necessary. Provides overview and description-detailed workout instructions to maximise your training and avoid injuries. The plan is tailored to your individual history, race goals and working/life commitments.
  • Coach interaction and feedback with 24/7 email access.
  • Specific education on personal running paces and sessions

16/ 24 / 32 week options available


Are you on the Verge of Overtraining

Are we trying to achieve too much? While striving for perfection, we can demand more than our body can deliver.
The single most important reason runners are prone to overtraining is lacking the ability to make an objective assessment of our ultimate performance capabilities. I suppose we won’t accept we are mortal and that we have a built-in performance range beyond which training and other interventions cannot take us.
We believe that the harder we train, the faster we will run and we ignore the evidence that indicates that this is untrue.

Overtraining first leads to an impaired exercise capacity and is followed by a predictable range of medical and other complaints. Recovery occurs rapidly in those who wisely chose to rest as soon as any of the symptoms develop. Don’t continue to over train for months or years and risk developing a more serious condition.

Over trained runners find that while their minds are ready to run, their bodies would much rather be asleep in bed. The more their minds force them to train, the more their bodies resist until during a race, their bodies have the final say!!

Overtraining represents the most extreme example in which the central governor is maximally activated to ensure that we cannot exercise anymore and thus cause further damage.
In some runners, the first signs of overtraining are generalized fatigue, recurrent headaches, weight loss, loss of appetite for food or work, difficulty sleeping, early waking, inability to relax, worsening allergies, increased susceptibility to colds or flu, respiratory infections. All fail to understand why even though they are training hard, their race performances continue to deteriorate.
These runners have stretched their bodies beyond their individual breaking points.
Factors other than training alone can be involved.

Once athletes are even mildly over trained, they are already past peak condition and the only way to save the situation is to stop training immediately until the body is rested and the desire to return to run and compete again returns.

We lack the ability to make an objective assessment of our ultimate performance capabilities.
We believe that the harder we train, the faster we will run, and we ignore the evidence that indicates this is untrue. What do we do then? We train harder and run worse and then? We interpret our poor races as an indication that we have undertrained.
Consequently, we go out and train even harder.

The syndrome typically develops in one of 2 ways

1. Training very intensively for a protracted period or
2. Running a series of races in short succession, also following a period of intensive training.

Other important factors include inadequate recovery between days of intensive training and training monotony.
The combination of high training load with a monotonous training schedule is more likely to induce over training. Monotony creates a lack of mental and physical stimulus from which to adapt off of.  Instead of falling into your same pattern of training, introduce something new. Do a different workout type, go to different training venue, get out of the habit of having a set cycle and instead create modulation.

Don’t let your training progress from over reaching (generalized fatigue) to over training.
As long as your training performance is stable or improving, feeling tired does not in itself mean that you are doing too much!
Waking up tired and going to bed even more tired— clear signs of overtraining. Key to diagnosing overtraining is knowing when fatigue at either end of the day has become excessive.

Does your normal comfortable pace leave you breathless?
Do your legs feel heavy for far longer than usual after a hard workout or race?
Do you find it especially hard to climb up steps?
Do you dread the thought of training?
Do you have a persistent lack if appetite?
Are you more susceptible to colds, flu, headache or infections?
Is your resting heart rate persistently 5 to 10 beats higher than usual (reflects heightened activity of the sympathetic nervous system, reflecting the increased stress on the body and inadequate recovery?
Is your heart rate during exercise higher than normal?
Are there changes in your sleeping pattern.?

Without adequate rest periods, continued training at high intensities or load will cause and athlete to develop overtraining syndrome.
First signs is a fall in training performance.-Inability to produce your best when you are apparently in good form is the first sign of incipient sharpness.
Athletes who do not carefully monitor their training performances will never spot this subtle indicator. By comparing performances in identical workouts over the years, you can tell what physical condition you are in and as a result you will know what training is still needed to be done to produce your peak performance on the day that really mattered.

Monitoring your level of fatigue and resistance to stress of fast running should be done on the basis of heart rate and level of effort required to produce that performance. Some will argue that there is no need to measure by heart rate!!
If you have to run harder at a higher heart rate to achieve the same time, you have been training too hard. The body needs a period of rest and reduced training in order to do its best

Emotional and Behavioural Changes
*Loss of enthusiasm and drive-I don’t care attitude
*Desire to quit during a race
*Lethargy; listlessness; tiredness
*Inability to concentrate at work
*Impaired academic performance
*Changes in sleep patterns particularly insomnia
*Loss of appetite
*Poor coordination
*Feeling thirsty, Increased this intake at night,
*Easily irritated, anxious, unable to relax

Physical Changes
*Impaired physical performance, in particular, inability to complete routine training sessions
*Gradual Loss of weight
*Persistent increase in early morning heart rate of more than 5 beats per minute
*Abnormal rise in heart rate upon standing and during and after a standard workout
*Slower recovery in heart rate after exertion
*Postural hypotension
*Heavy leggedness, sluggishness that persists for more than 24hrs after a workout.
*Persistent muscle soreness that increases from session to session
*Swelling of lymph glands
*Increased susceptibility to infection, allergies, headaches and injury
*Loss of menstruation

Besides alterations in training and racing performances, the most effective predictors of the development of overtraining syndrome are measures of psychological state and training load.

4 best markers for monitoring overtraining are:
1. Performance on standard exercise tests
2. Self-analysis of well-being by the athlete
3. Profile of mood state
4. Sub maximal, maximal and post exercise recovery rates for heart rate, oxygen uptake and blood lactate concentrations.

Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale is a very valuable metric-Perception of effort (internal load) is a great predictor of performance and injury as it is sensitive to changes outside ie stress, sleep, personal issues. Respiratory frequency is strongly correlated with perception of effort.

How about tracking a range of other things on a 1-5 scale like:

*Mental exertion of Workout (MPE)

*Stress Level

*Energy Level


*POP-muscle tension (springiness/how the legs feel)

*Sleep hours/quality

*Overall performance (1-3 simple scale,  below average, average, above average0

Overtraining also affects brain function – the ability of the motors centre in the brain to activate enough muscle fibres in the active muscles during exercise. This acts as a protective mechanism by preventing us from continuing to train when in an overtrained state to prevent further damage. The sensory feedback from damaged muscles stimulates the central governor to ensure that only a small muscle mass is recruited during exercise.
Also the central governor stimulates other brain centres so that even mild exercise is perceived as being more strenuous than it really is.
Feelings of abnormal fatigue are the brains way of telling you to rest because you have already done too much.

We runners must learn to respect the messages that our bodies give us, especially if the message is that we have already done too much.
We need to appreciate the true nature of the human body which is fragile even though it can be trained to achieve remarkable feats. Training beyond your limit produces progressively poorer performances leading ultimately to overtraining.

Take a long-term view to running, your goal should be a progressive but gradual improvement.
Training should not always be of the same intensity and duration week in week out. You will progress best when you allow a suitable recovery period after each hard training session.

The race doesn’t go to the athlete who has suffered most in training but who trained smarter. To be good you need to train hard at a high-level but you must also allow your body time to recover, take some time off, run your easy runs a bit easier.
Reset, restore the balance of stress and recover, make your resilient to over training.
Be strong and courageous enough to hold back just enough to keep from reaching into the unwanted zone of overtraining.
Training is simple-stress-recover-adaptation
If there isn’t adequate recovery, then adaptations won’t take place and what’s it all for then?

Watch out for the warning signs
Don’t let training and racing greed reduce you to the walking wounded.


overtraining 2

Michelle Greaney

FB: MG Coaching


Progression and Development of Athletes is an Exercise in Stress and Rest in Their Most Important Pursuit

The top athletes in the world aren’t adhering to a “no pain no gain” model, nor are they doing highly popularized high intensity interval training or random WOD’s (workouts of the day).
Instead they are systematically alternating between bouts of very intense work and periods of easy training and recovery. The ongoing progression and development of athletes across all levels is an exercise in stress and rest in their most important pursuit.

The training of endurance athletes is a complex process. The goal of training is to stimulate the precise set of physiological adaptations needed to achieve maximum performance in a peak race.

The volume, intensity and distribution of training load and how all of these affect physiological parameters gives an insight into what it takes to be a successful distance runner. There are various ways to manipulate training for increased performance, but it is essential to understand the overall process behind how the body responds and adapts to a stimulus (workout or sequence of workouts that provokes an adaptive response).

The General Adaptation Syndrome is often referred to as the principle of supercompensation in exercise training. When a training stimulus is applied, there is an initial alarm phase where fatigue occurs, and the performance level is decreased. Following this stage with recovery, there is an adaptation phase where fatigue subsides, and adaptation takes place so that there is a supercompensation where performance increases to a level above that which it was before the training stimulus was applied. A new training stimulus can then be applied to go through the process again. It there is too little recovery, the body never fully recovers or adapts and can enter the exhaustion phase (over-training and injury risk!).
The Dose Response Relationship is another model explaining the optimal load of a workout. It refers to the interaction between the dose, the total load of the stimulus and the response, or resulting training effect.
Certain stressors can produce desirable effects, strengthening specific parts of the body that is under duress. Stress isn’t just harmful, it can also serve as a stimulus for growth and adaptation. Our adaptive stress response is rooted in inflammatory proteins and cortisol. When activated by stress, these serve as biological messengers so when the body is under threat, pre-programmed biochemical building blocks make the body stronger and more resilient.
If the amount of stress is too large or lasts too long, however, the body fails to adapt. It deteriorates instead of getting stronger- chronic stress, the exhaustion stage. The body rebels and enter a catabolic process, or a state of persistent breakdown. Rather signalling for repair and subsiding, elevated inflammation and cortisol linger at toxic levels. The adrenal system is constantly on guard and becomes overworked and fatigued leading to a myriad of health problems.
The body can withstand only so much tension before it breaks!
So stress can be positive, triggering desirable adaptations in the body or it can be negative causing harm. The effects of stress depend almost entirely on the dose and when applied in the right dose, it stimulates both physiological and psychological adaptations.

The greatest gains often follow immense struggle and discomfort with a meticulous approach to training. When you step outside your comfort zone, you will grow. Then developing a new capability requires effort. Skills come from struggle.
Just manageable challenges manifest when you feel a little out of control but not quite anxious. When the task at hand is a bit beyond your skills, you are in the sweet spot, this is what you’re after. We need to regularly venture off a known path and go down a slightly more demanding one that forces us to push at the point of resistance for growth. But we also need to pursue this growth in a healthy and sustainable way. Recovery in between bouts of stress is vital for the effort to be beneficial. Sleep needs to be prioritized-it should be reframed as something that is productive.



Recovery Runs – An crucial component of your training.

Don’t rush the process of athletic development. It takes time and patience, don’t cut corners.
We need to be consistent with our training but also with our recovery. To improve your running performance, you need to correctly balance training and recovery so your body can positively adapt. Just as  the planned hard workouts have a purpose in your training cycle of stress and improvement, so too do your recovery days.

Recovery runs support growth and adaptation. They are very similar to normal distance runs, except the pace is slower and the duration is typically shorter to enhance recovery.
When used in the day following a more intense workout, a recovery run helps to return the body to homeostasis and prepare the body for the subsequent work to be done the following day. Often overlooked, recovery runs work to enhance the supercompensation effect. The occurs over weeks and months of training as you repeatedly provide a training stress interspersed with recovery.
The pace of the recovery run should be slow enough so that it is enhancing recovery and not prolonging it. The intensity needs to be low enough so that minimal muscle damage is occurring, and the primary fuel source is fat so as not to delay glycogen replenishment. The exact pace of course varies from individual to individual. Pay attention to your body and how it reacts and your biomechanics.
The total distance of the recovery run is also an individual preference. The purpose of the recovery run is to enhance adaptation by taking you through the adaptation phase quicker. Recovery runs and normal distance runs should make up the bulk of training. The harder you run, the more aerobic recovery work is needed. The stimulates the gentle flow of blood toxins to the liver, eliminating acidosis and restoring the body to neutral. The is also why slower paced running is better than total rest. Failure to remove any mounting and prolonged acidosis will damage the body’s enzymes, muscles and red blood cells. It can also depress the nervous system.

Consistency in Training

~We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit – Aristotle

From a runner’s standpoint, the number one route to improved performance and forward progression is to aim for consistency with your training.

Concentrate 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, you will find your greatest success. Consistency is not a skill or a talent, you yourself have direct control over it.

Athletes must do everything in their power to stay healthy, injury free and consistent in their training for as long as possible.

Consistent daily improvements lead to big progress over time. Momentum is the backbone of progression.
Training consistently and building up gradually with the right structure and progression will reduce injury risk and improve performance.

To reduce injury risk, training must be changed gradually, i.e., volume, intensity and adding hills/speedwork.

Recovery runs need to be emphasised as much as everything else and athletes are not paying enough attention to this little detail.

Each session should have a specific purpose, including your easy runs. Could you be hitting those quality sessions even better by going 30-60 seconds slower per mile when going easy. The potential gains here are huge, even beyond the obvious that the easier load on the body means you’re more likely to keep consistently training over weeks, months and years with a healthy body.
Too high a percentage of speed work in your training week will only lead to short term gains. If you are working hard for every single workout and pushing every single workout, you are showing up for the days when you really need to work with less to give basically defeating the whole purpose of that workout date. Maximise your results on tempo/speed days by taking the other days easy.

Successful people strive for consistency, which means keeping a daily schedule. Start prioritizing your most important tasks to get the results you desire. Having a plan in place really gives us that structure we need to maintain consistent training week after week.
If you know something isn’t working however, change it, and stick to what works for you. Sometimes we need to be flexible with our methods. We need to consider a long-term vision and have the strength and capacity to make that drastic change that is going to allow us to reach our potential. In todays world, with people not being patient and wanting instant gratification too often, we default to-what can I get done to reach my performance goals now!
Along with consistency, patience is vital for success, if we become impatient, look for quick gains, we can become frustrated and feel like giving up altogether. Results do take time and sometimes just remaining patient and having faith in the training and staying consistent really does pay off. Find the minimal most effective dose that will provide you with the results you want to see. Keep focussing on this process and the results will take care of themselves.

Inconsistent consistency is a consistent road to flatlining, momentum on the other hand is the back bone to forward progression.

A well-designed training plan (that is adaptable and adjustable) specific to the athlete followed consistently will maximise results. It will have the proper mix of stress and recovery and ensures the right type of training occurs at the right time.
Wolff’s Law states that ‘the body conforms and adapts to the intensities and directions it is habitually subjected to’

Michelle Greaney

(Level 2 National Athletics Ireland Endurance Coach)

Long Term Athlete Development-Endurance Athletes

Unfortunately, few parents and coaches approach training with an attitude best characterised as peaking by Friday where a short-term approach is taken to training and performance with an over emphasis on immediate results .

It takes 10 years of extensive training to excel in anything

Herbert Simon Noble laureate

A specific and well-planned practice, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete’s career. Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long term rather than winning in the short term. There is no shortcut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete’s career.
For proper development of middle- and long-distance athletes, we can separate development into 3 main phases:

Foundation (F)-Introducing the skill sets needed to train, enjoyment, establishing good habits-skill and movement development, ability to move in all planes of motion. If we take care of this early on, it allows for greater room for growth in terms of efficiency later down the road.

Development (D) -Establishing all skill sets and training ingredients into the programme, beginning individual differentiation, training to be able to train. Emphasis here shifts from purely movement to learning how to express their speed and power. From short sprints focussed on acceleration and top end speed to lengthening their ability to hold their mechanics together for longer periods of time, slightly shifting into a speed endurance emphasis while maintain top end speed. More structure is added to the training and high-end aerobic development is expanded on with introduction of short tempo, fartlek (e.g. 5-10 x 30sec pickups at 3k effort) and other aerobic workouts. It is very important to slowly introduce and progress high intensity work.

Performance (P) – Assembling those ingredients and making sure they grow, training to perform.

The ingredients can be classified into:
Movement and neuromuscular development
~biomechanics (F)
~strength, power and neural work (P)
Psychology and Motivation
~Motivation for training (F)
What fuels the desire for success? (D)
Grit, toughness and resiliency (P)
Ability to handle stress (P)
Training and conditioning
We have a whole range of intensities that cause different adaptations along a continuum and what shifts is the emphasis


⇑    ⇑
Direct end support Direct speed support
⇑                       ⇑
Aerobic support Anaerobic support

⇑⇑⇑                     ⇑⇑⇑
General Endurance General Speed

General emphasis shifts over time, initially, there is a heavy emphasis on creating a foundation across all spectrums (speed, endurance, neuromuscular, movement and the psychological side of development). Early on, the training focus is on general athleticism, experimentation here also is key with the idea of developing competencies that they can build off. As the athlete develops, there is a gradual shift towards specificity, with running and, endurance development, taking precedence. We don’t want an athlete specializing too soon.
As the athlete’s career progresses, the emphasis shifts from purely movement, to learning how to express their speed and power. The introduction of short sprints focused on acceleration and top end speed should be done first. This should be followed by looking at how to lengthen their ability to hold their mechanics together for longer periods of time, slightly shifting into a speed endurance emphasis, while maintaining top end speed.

ltad 2

The goal for long term athlete development is to bring the athlete along gradually:
Focus on the extremes before connecting!

Build general speed and endurance before trying to bring those qualities together with high loads of mixed high intensity work. We do this because we want to build an entire foundation from both ends of the spectrum before we can start building off it.
Very gradually progress volumes and intensities, we don’t want to see huge jumps in volume in endurance athletes. However, how an athlete adapts drives the training progression. If an athlete is improving at a strong level and has not hit a plateau, they are still adapting to the training load. On the other hand, if they are stagnating and plateaued (and not because of overtraining), it may be time to look at a change in volume, intensity or type of training sooner than planned.
Short term periodisation
Yearly periodisation is a condensed version of a long-term plan that looks at progression through the 4 stages in the year. The goal is to put the pieces in place early in the year before assembling them later. Exact periodization needs to be adjusted to the racing schedule, emphasis and to the individual athlete.
Principles for planning the year remain the same for ever individual:
1. All components are there, throughout the periodisation scheme, we just need to change the emphasis based on whether we are building or maintaining a component.
2. We are either building, maintaining or connecting! We spend more time building a component (both on speed and endurance side) as it takes more of an effort than maintaining it. That means a focus early on at the extremes (easy to moderate work and pure speed/biomechanics development). As we progress, we work on slightly faster aerobic work and slightly longer speed/anaerobic work). Once we shift towards emphasizing a different component, we need to do just enough to maintain it. Connecting means transitioning from one component to the next, bridging the gap. E.g., using mixed workouts where we are progressing through a range of speeds.

3. Our emphasis should funnel towards specificity as we progress towards our racing fitness.

4. Stress and adaptation, supercompensation effects. Training needs to be modulated based on stress and recovery cycles-depending on the individual and training age. Our Emphasis should funnel towards specificity.

5. As we progress towards our racing fitness, we need to move from general speed and endurance to specificity.

6. Adhere to our knowledge of stress and adaptation.

7. Recognize that we need to modulate training based on stress and recovery cycles which, again can depend on the individual and training age. What that also means in terms of putting training details together is that we need space between harder, more-stressful sessions. Occasionally, we might load up stresses to get a large supercompensation effect, but those are performed rarely and for special reasons.
Individuality is extremely important. Every athlete is physiologically and psychologically different which affects the way they handle their training and how training should be adjusted accordingly. Their natural inclinations will subtly shift what their strengths and weaknesses are which in turn shifts the way they handle their training.

Classification of athletes is a two-step process. First, we need to identify whether they are more Fast – Twitch (FT) or Slow – Twitch (ST) orientated athletes. This will help us decide whether to route them into the middle or long-distance events. We can then further subdivide our athletes into being more FT or ST orientated for the events they compete in.

To begin the classification, data must be captured that will give us an idea on their natural speed and endurance qualities. We can then compare both sides of the coin and see where they predominate. A FT orientated athlete is going to show a proclivity towards speed qualities. For example, he or she might perform better in power testing, short sprints, or have higher lactate levels during an anaerobic capacity test. The following methods can be used to classify athletes.

-Lactate testing
-VO2 testing
-Power/strength testing
-Workout and race event comparison
Adjusting training based on athlete classification is important. The differentiation of training will increase as they specialise. Early on, the training is similar among FT and ST athletes, but as they develop, it becomes more individualised. From a training perspective, the idea is to maximise the athlete’s strengths, playing towards their physiology, while at the same time making sure their weaknesses do not become a limiting factor. We always need to see if we can train the weakness and shift the limiting factor!
I like to use a short to long concept, a training strategy where athletes first achieve peak form in a short distance before extending the length of their repetition.
Trainability and Recruitment
Understanding how trainable an athlete’s basic physiology and capacities is very important when identifying potential athletes. It is one thing to have a high aerobic capacity early on but what effect does training have on it. There area several ways to tackle this problem,
We can use a staple test workout or time trail at the beginning and end of training period and to track improvement. The key is using two tests that are heavily dependent on speed and endurance and will reflect changes in training. The absolute performance is not what we are after, instead, we need to look at the improvement from beginning to the end of the training intervention. We can also utilize physiological testing to see how parameters change.
The training during this period should focus on the two parameters that influence performance the most, speed and endurance. For that period, given the age of the athletes, the training should be focused on either extreme- speed and endurance.


Hill Training- Building Speed, Power and Endurance

Mixing up your training is critical to your improvement as a runner for overall development and making you faster. Since hill workouts are so versatile, they can be used at any time during the season.

Hill work is an extremely effective way to gain more power, increase running economy and improve speed. The repetitive nature of hill workouts forces the muscular system to develop in response to the stress being placed on it, while the nervous system increases firing patterns to fast-twitch muscle fibers. Completing hill workouts also increases speed and endurance because of the resistance inherent to running up hill and the associated increase in heart rate.

Hill workouts can serve as a way to transition into more formal speedwork, or to balance intervals performed on a track or flat roads

Hills should be thought of as a form of speed work and included intentionally; they help introduce the body to faster work with less impact at a slower pace. Injury-prone runners who struggle with adding faster work will find hills provide the same stimulus.

Although hill workouts are not easy, they should be planned for and embraced as a positive training element.

Varying the steepness and length of hill repeats from short, steep sprints to longer, rolling hill runs hits all the physiological bases- speed, strength, efficiency and endurance.

They are useful for gaining more power and improving running economy and are beneficial for everyone from track runners to marathoners.

Running economy (RE), the enrgy cost of running at a given pace, is one of the physiological parameters for running performance and used to measure total efficiency of a runner. It uses oxygen intake to represent energy use and is defined by how much oxygen it takes to cover a given distance at a fixed speed. RE significantly correlates with running performance. The three types of efficiency we are concerned with are:


By keeping your heart rate up for an extended period of time provides huge aerobic development. Your body becomes more efficient at taking in oxygen and delivering it to your muscles, enabling you to run faster with the same amount of effort. It also improves anaerobic capacities.

We can use short hill reps for speed and long hill reps for endurance and strength The short recoveries in these hill reps increase the endurance component both on a muscular and cardiovascular level making these much more specific for an endurance runner. We mprove strength and muscular endurance, and the fatigue resistance of slow as well as our fast twitch muscle fibres. Also improved ability to maintain a high running cadence, and a good stride length. You will certainly reap the benefits on race day.

To tackle the hills use exaggerated, proper running form – exaggerated knee lift and arm swing leaning slightly forward from the ankles into the hill. 

Your body will naturally adjust your stride to accommodate the effort. Steeper inclines usually yield smaller and quicker steps, close to the ideal stride rate of 180-185 steps per minute. Running uphill also forces you to lift your knees, a critical element of good running form. By lifting the knees, you are recruiting the hip muscles which give you more power and propulsion with every step. The neuromuscular pathways are reinforced that make good form a default setting, even on flat courses. Another positive is that it also forces your foot to strike directly under your centre of gravity. Ground contact time is minimized by using high cadence and good running form which helps with efficiency.

Hill sprints/Blasts for power and improved stride efficiency. (10-12 sec)

Power in running terms is the ability to move with great speed or force. Power is defined as force by velocity.
In order to develop velocity in middle distance runners, plyometrics has been reported to improve running economy by improve the stretch shortening cycle (SSC)
Running is essentially a series of single spring like hops. A certain amount of force needs to be applied to the ground to propel the athlete forward.

The most specific form of plyometric training for runners is sprinting.
Steep hill sprints/blasts can be used as a method of power development to start with and then progress slowly to flat sprints on the track.
The emphasis shifts slowly from power development to a more plyometric type effect and more specific running form.
Starting with just a few blasts (running in the best technical model)
e.g. 3-5 with a full recovery of 2-3′ and increasing the volume very progressively up to 10. 

The athlete should focus on a running technique which has vigorous arm drive and high knee lift, with the hips kept high, so that they are ‘running tall’, not leaning forward.

Your first session will stimulate physiological adaptations that serve to better protect your muscles and connective tissues from damage in your next session. Known to exercise scientists as the “repeated bout effect”, these adaptations occur very quickly.

Hill Repeats – running hard up a fairly steep gradient for 30 sec to 90 seconds followed by a recovery jog back down. These are similar to speed training in nature where turnover, mechanics, power and consistency are the primary focus. We are not concerned with particular splits, only with effort and maintaining form when the body is fatigued.

Sample workouts include

8-15 x 40s

6-12 x 1 minute

5-9 x 90s

4-8 x 2 minutes.

Descending ladder: 3 x 90s, 3 x 60s, 3 x 45s starting at 10k effort and getting progressively faster.

Tempo and hills blend: muscle fibre receuitment and lactate recycling

3 x (6′ tempo, 3 x 30s hills)

10′ tempo, 5 x 30s hills, 5′ tempo

A sufficient warm up of at least 10-15 minutes easy running and is necessary

Give them a go🙂⛰

Michelle Greaney
Athletes Ireland Level 2 National Endurance Coach