Top Ten Components of Running Success
By Rick Morris
There’s more to distance running than running alone. There are a lot of different physical and mental components involved in distance running that you should be training and improving to reach your peak potential as a distance runner. Here are our opinion of the top ten components of running success
This one is a no brainer. You are a distance runner, so the most important component of your running is your level of endurance. You just aren’t going to succeed as a distance runner without an adequate level of endurance. Keep doing those weekly long runs.
Lofty Lactate Threshold
OK, so you already knew that you needed to extend your endurance. What else do you need? The next thing that comes to mind is improved stamina or ability to hold a quality pace over long distances. How do you improve your stamina? The best way is by building a lofty lactate threshold. If you improve your lactate threshold you will be able to run faster and longer before your blood chemistry gets knocked out of whack and slows you down. This is one of the most important components of running success.
Big VO2 Max
Processing large amounts of oxygen is critical for distance running success. That is where a big VO2 max comes in. Your VO2 max is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process. A bigger VO2 max equals more oxygen processing potential and better running performance. This is also one of the more important components of running success.
Faster vVO2 Max
VO2 max is a well known component of distance running. A less well known, but even more important component is your vVO2 max or your running velocity when you reach your VO2 max. This critical running component takes your running economy and power into account. Improve your vVO2 max and you will increase your effective running speed.
Need for Speed
Speaking of speed, a distance runner can’t reach their peak without it. A higher top speed will improve all of your more moderate, distance running speeds. So don’t forget to work on those end of workout striders to improve your sprint speed.
Distance running is difficult, so it might seem like an oxymoron to suggest that your distance running should be easy, but that is a fact. Maybe easy is the wrong word, efficiency is really the key. Even at high running intensities you should always strive for top efficiency so that your running flows, glides and feels “easy”. Your running should feel nearly automatic. When you reach that feeling of gliding across the ground or a “runners high”, you will know your body is running at peak efficiency. Easy running equals efficient running.
Distance runners aren’t known for their bulging muscles. You don’t really want large bulging muscles. Really big muscles can slow you down with excessive weight and reduced range of motion. What you do want is extreme strength, especially in your lower extremities. Strong leg muscles will improve your running strength, running power, speed and stride efficiency. Extreme extremities will also decrease your chances of suffering from running related injuries. Perform running specific strength training on a regular basis. Build those extreme extremities and you will become an extremely efficient runner.
Running isn’t just a physical exercise, it’s also a mental one. I personally believe that running is more than half mental. Both your psychological response to running and the reaction of your central nervous system play a huge role in your running success. Practice your mental running skills and train your central nervous system on a regular basis to reach new levels of running success.
Your legs muscles are obviously very important to your running. But your leg muscles originate at your core. Your torso or core provide an anchor for your hard working leg muscles. If your core is weak your legs won’t be able to take advantage of their powerful muscles. Keep your torso and core in shape with frequent core strength training to keep your base strong and your legs powerful.
You need strong muscles but those strong muscles also need to have a sufficient range of motion. Many distance runners tend to ignore those all important flexibility exercises. Be sure to engage in flexibility training consistently. Keep in mind that you need functional flexibility, not excess flexibility. An over stretched muscle decreases your performance and increases your chance of injury. Dynamic warm up flexibility drills before your run and some light static cool down stretching after your run should do the trick.