• Distance Culture

One Percenters: What Gives You Best Bang for Buck?

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

By Grant Williams

IF 24 years of running has taught me one thing, it’s that consistency is key.

As runners we are all predisposed to ‘hurting' ourselves in both training and racing. That’s what separates us from the uninitiated.

It’s true that entering the realms of discomfort on a frequent basis will lead to adaptations that will ultimately make us better runners.

However, it also stands to reason that the more you can run and the longer you can maintain your training regime, the better athlete you will become.

We’ve all seen the results of consistency – that runner who gets the work done week in, week out for an entire year, or two years or three. These are the athletes that manage to take the next step in their running journeys towards realising their potential.

Running can be overcomplicated so easily by listening to a thousand voices all at once.

But in reality, running is the easy bit. The training program of a distance runner doesn’t vary a great deal from squad to squad.

The key point of difference is how you apply yourself to the program to achieve longevity. Ask yourself ‘what can I do today to ensure that I’m best prepared for tomorrow.’

If you can stay healthy and uninjured, results will come naturally. That’s where ‘one percenters’ can help.

One percenters can mean different things for different people. For instance, the role of one percenters in sprinting may be vastly different to the role of one percenters in a distance running context.

My theory is that, ultimately, running itself is what will improve your running performance. The role of one percenters is to allow your body to handle more running, or higher quality running, for a longer period of time.

With this in mind, here are the top strategies myself and many of the Distance Culture squad use to facilitate longer, uninterrupted training spells that will lead to improvement in your running over time:

Sleep Sleep is so important during heavy training to allow for adaptations and recovery to occur. It has a cumulative effect on the body. For me, it’s about hitting the magical eight hours as much as I possibly can. Of course, sometimes life gets in the way and that’s when power-napping is an effective top-up strategy when I can find a spare hour on the weekend. I also find power naps useful after a big session or a long run to get me back firing on all cylinders.

De-loading Our squad has always adopted a “three up, one down” philosophy in our training; that means that every fourth week is an easier week where we drop the volume and intensity, usually by around 20%. This ensures that we absorb the training stress and provides an opportunity to get on top of any niggles or wear and tear on the body. It also serves as a regular reminder to treat the body with respect, rather than the punching bag it can sometimes become during heavy training.

Strength Every step you take as a runner, you are applying a force of around 2.5 times your body weight into the pavement. There are many muscles and tendons that are activated throughout your gait cycle and applying concentric and eccentric loading through gym work is integral for injury prevention. In my experience, doing gym two to three times per week works best to reap the benefits while balancing the commitment with my running schedule. I find it important to allow at least 24 hours between a heavy gym workout and an important running session to ensure that my legs can overcome the fatigue. For runners, strength work is too often considered dispensable when faced with fatigue or stress. However, it really needs to be treated with the same respect as the running itself, because without it, the risks of breaking down increase exponentially.

Maintenance Taking a proactive approach to maintenance of your body is critical to avoid ending up at the physio with an injury – a runner’s nightmare! This can be achieved through stretching, foam rolling and triggering While that might be enough for some, I also get a proper sports massage once every two to four weeks as I have found it to be the most effective way to maintain the length, shape and condition of my muscles. If you manage to find a good physician that you trust, they are often able to tell you things about your running without ever needing to watch you run! There may be signs of imminent concerns that can be identified and addressed before they become a problem.

Diet When I was a kid, mum would feed me inordinate amounts of food and almost force me to drink chocolate milk after every hard run – even more than I thought I needed! She was always concerned about me growing "big and strong" and I think she was onto something. For a distance runner, the most important aspect of your diet is making sure you are eating enough. As an athlete running 100km each week, I’ve been told you can burn around 4,500 calories (almost 20,000 kJ) per day. As a yardstick, your average bowl of spaghetti bolognese is around 400 calories (~1,500 kJ). Regardless of the numbers, the gist is that it’s important to make sure you are consuming enough food to provide your body with sufficient fuel to prevent fatigue. Of course, eating the right foods is also important to maintain a healthy diet that includes all of your essential vitamins and minerals. Lots of colour and lots of variety makes that easy to achieve! In terms of post-race fuel, Distance Culture athletes Nick and Brandon introduced our squad to the phrase "closing the window". This comically refers to consuming some protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes of completing a hard effort. Apparently, chocolate milk provides almost the perfect mix of protein and carbohydrates for post-workout recovery. Turns out mum might have been right after all!

Recording Sometimes, the most useful thing you can do to improve your running is not physical at all. Keeping a training diary can be so valuable as a tool to learn from mistakes and tailor what works for you as an athlete. You only need to look back at the training block leading up to some of your best races to work out why everything went so well. Likewise, when injury strikes you down, the diary can sometimes shed light on an aspect of your training that you were perhaps over-doing or under-doing. Regularly keeping a training diary is something I have had to work at over the last couple of years and it’s taken multiple iterations of recording methods to settle on something that is sustainable and that I actually quite enjoy reflecting upon. I would encourage everyone with a passion for their running to get onboard, and take the time to work out the recording method that will work best for you.

One percenters for distance runners can really be distilled into one word: discipline. When we are feeling good, we require the discipline to stick to the program and not overreach.

Remember, feeling good is a good thing! When times are tough, we need the discipline to stick to the program, having faith the things will turn around.

The trick is to keep the ball rolling and the body injury free for as long as possible.

After all, consistency is key!

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