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THE FOUR PRINCIPLES OF TRAINING

Whatever you do throughout your running career you absolutely must stick to the Four Principles of Training. These four principles will shape your success, or otherwise, in whatever you do in your running career. We'll discuss in detail each of them and outline why it's so important that you follow them to the letter. All good training plans will be based on them. They are not optional!
Progression

Endurance running is all about gradual progression. It's all about slowly adding more training time each week and never pushing yourself to a point where you feel totally uncomfortable. As you progress your body should feel the difference, but never to the point where you aren't able to go just a little bit further. Ideally each week you should be able to add around 5% to 10% more time to your training. By using 'time on feet' as your measurement tool, rather than mileage, you can slowly build up how much you run. Over time you will get quicker and you will run more distance in each session, but at the start you should focus on how long you are actually training for and not the distance covered.


Progression is the absolute cornerstone of your training and why you must allow yourself plenty of time to train for your chosen event. Rush your training and you may succumb to the runners' worst nightmare - the injury curse. Take it nice and steady and you will allow your legs to strengthen and your cardiovascular system to become more efficient over time, so allowing them to cope with the challenges ahead.



Specificity

While cross training is important it is vital to remember that you must focus your training on the discipline you have chosen. In other words, if you have chosen to run a full or half marathon then you must spend most of your training time on running, rather than cycling, swimming or building muscle in the gym. This is because you put stress on the parts of your body during training that you will use in the event itself. Don't develop muscles that you aren't going to use on event day, focus on those you will be using.



Individualization

Everyone is different and everyone will respond to a training plan in a different way. While it is always good to train with others it isn't always easy. Two complete beginners starting out together may not develop at the same rate and will often respond in different ways to certain elements of the plan. You will regularly have 'off days' and these may be different to those of your partner even though you are following the same plan and potentially starting from the same fitness level. There are a number of factors that can affect this, such as fitness history, weight, focus, motivation and many more.



Overload

Often confused with overtraining, which is training too much with not enough rest, overloading is an important part of an endurance running training plan.overload is an increased exposure to an increased training workload with the appropriate level of rest. The weekend long run is overload and is the most important element of your training plan. If you go long on Sunday you would have Monday off and only run a short distance on Tuesday. Overtraining would result if you do not build in the right amount of rest and keep training too hard without breaks, so in that instance if you ran again on Monday.





Where are they in my training plan?

These four principles basically make up your training plan. The whole plan is built around progression, specificity, individualization and overload. Or at least it should be and if it isn't then you shouldn't be using it.


You will see that your plan starts slowly in terms of 'time on feet' training time and then gradually increases as the weeks progress. If you look at week 12 compared to week one you'll see how far you've come. This is the progression element of the plan. You'll then see that the plan just includes running. It doesn't include an amount of time for cycling or swimming. It just focuses on running. This is the specificity element. The plan is just for you. It doesn't include recommendations for others. This is the individualization. Finally there are the rest days. Really, really important, the rest days allow for overload. They allow you to push yourself on the days you need to do the longer runs and they give you time to recover. Without the rest days your plan will fall apart. You'll get overtired and that will be it.



Why are these four principles so important?

They are all incredibly important in their own right and each must be followed to ensure that your training delivers your ultimate goals. More important however is the combination of the four principles. They work together to ensure that you develop mentally and physically and that you stay injury free. Each has a role to play and if you follow only three and not all four the combination becomes far less effective and you are not likely to succeed in achieving your goal



What happens if I ignore them?

Your training plan is all about achieving a goal. Each day you check a box and over time the days become weeks and then months and the checkboxes lead you to where you want to get to. The plan is based on these four training principles. If you don't have a plan or you don't stick to the plan you will go off course and you won't achieve your goal. As touched on above, if you follow some or not all of the principles the outcome is likely to be the same as if you don't follow any of them by making up your running training as you go. You are unlikely to achieve your goal. Stick to the principles even when you're not training for an event. Running will be much more enjoyable as a result.





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