What are the best training methods for improving long-distance running performance? A recent literature review asked this question. As with all areas of rehabilitation and performance, determining the appropriate training approach requires a combination of art and science. Literature provides a foundation and establishes efficacy, but it lacks the personalized approach and is often limited in application due to research restrictions (duration of trial, limitation of variables, participants, etc.).
Real-world experience, particularly pulled from high-level athletes, provides results-proven practice, but we are unable to isolate which components of the program “worked” and which can be universally applied. Elite athletes also may have superior genetics and resource availability (finances, time, facilities, coaches, nutrition, performance-enhancing drugs/doping), making their training programs inappropriate for the general population. This paper aims to provide a balanced approach, integrating current scientific evidence with results-proven practice literature to provide recommendations to improve long-distance running performance. The results-proven practice was a combination of training logs and coaching philosophies from Olympians and world record holders in long-distance running (5000 meter to marathon).
Track runners typically program their year into a preparation period (broken into general and specific), a competition period (peaking), and a transition period (1-2 weeks of low intensity after the outdoor season ends). Most track runners maintain a high volume of subthreshold training throughout the prep and competition periods. This is key for peripheral adaptations. Runners need to accumulate low-intensity miles. The high-intensity workouts are what changes. Marathon runners have more peaks due to the year-round nature of the sport. They often rest for 1-2 weeks after completing a race. For more recommendations, check out the paper. It’s important to understand a runner's training history, expectations, and training volume during rehab. Is PT enhancing or delaying recovery? Are you considering the total volume of exercise your patient is completing?