Success comes from keeping perspective and focusing on the task at hand. Without principles to follow, it’s easy second to guess yourself and to lose confidence that you are heading in the right direction. It’s important to invest in a system that you believe in and to trust the process along the way.
In our quest to help all of us in Megaton Nation constantly improve, we sat down with our friend - and fellow high caffeine coffee enthusiast – Ruben Sanca to share his perspective. For those of you who don’t already know Ruben, he is an Olympic runner who competed in the 5,000 meter in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Ruben now owns his own coaching firm Lowell Running.
We asked Ruben to share principles with Megaton Nation that anyone can use for their own training.
Key to Ruben’s philosophy, is that growing up he was known as the “Blue Collar Runner”. He wasn’t blessed with amazing physical talent at birth. Rather, he worked constantly to improve himself by putting in the time and the effort required. He read a lot of running books and articles from Pete Pfitzinger, Chris MdDougal, Tim Noakes and many others and applied some of the concepts to his own training. Just as importantly, he was fortunate to work with great coaches along the way who pushed him to improve and become the best version of himself. Through hard work and dedication he went from an average runner to achieving his dream… which is exactly the mindset we see from all of you out there in Megaton Nation.
The following five principles make up Ruben’s guiding philosophy to training:
Five Fundamental Training Principles:
- Specificity in Training is Key to Improvement – It might sound obvious, but it is fundamentally important that you train specifically for the demand of the event you compete in. If your event is the marathon, then you need to address the key demands in endurance and aerobic capacity (and others) that it takes to be the marathoner you want to be. If your goal is to run ‘x’ pace per mile, then you need to train yourself to feel comfortable enough running at that pace during a proportion of your training routine. Therefore, those with the goal to run a marathon should incorporate key workouts that match their goal within the period they have available. Your body needs time to adapt to the specific types of stresses that your events will demand; otherwise, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to injury and underperformance and injury. It’s ok to add in cross functional training routines that will make you are better athlete, but keep in mind that specific running workouts makes you a better runner.
- Physiological Adaptations Take Time (and Patience!) – Patience is a necessity. Everything you do in training takes time and trying to rush the process will lead to more complications than progress. You need to trust in your training and know that progress is happening… even if you can’t immediately see it. For instance, runners often get frustrated because their times tend to plateau after initial gains. But often you won’t see faster times until your body has the time for physical adaptations such as shedding extra weight or improving your energy return at the cellular level. Certain adaptations can take months and even years! It’s important to not base the success of your training program solely on the time clock. Focus on the process goals and keep things in perspective.
- Increase Intensity, Volume and Density Gradually - You must take recovery as seriously as you take your workouts. Otherwise injuries are inevitable. There are so many pieces that need to function in harmony just for our bodies to move (bones, tendons, muscles etc...) and we cannot take for granted how fragile this balance can be. Athletes and coaches tend to refer to intensity and volume as key barometers in training, but often forget density in the equation. Density refers to how spaced out both your intensity and volume are in your weekly or monthly program. Even if you lower the intensity and volume, if you do not make certain adjustments on “how dense” you will still feel sluggish and fatigued very early on in your training program. Our bodies need time to recover, rebuild, and become stronger – and this only happens by taking a methodical approach to introducing the many stressors of training on our body.
- Alternate Easy and Hard Training Days – It can feel counterintuitive but taking it easy can be a faster path to success than constantly pushing your workouts. That’s because our bodies can’t absorb the benefits of our training (i.e. building muscles and strengthening key systems) if it is constantly being broken down and unable to recover. Physically and mentally, it is almost impossible to push hard every single day. If you think you are maxing out every day, then more likely you are not. In a 5-day training cycle, it’s more productive to train at 90%-60%-60%-90%-60% than to train at 80% on each of those days. Not only are the improvements at the cellular level maximized, but you will significantly reduce your injury risks. Rather than stacking difficult workouts on back-to-back days, you are better off alternating easy and hard workouts. It is tempting to think that you should always push yourself and that easy days are just an excuse to be lazy, but nothing is further from the truth. You need to have the discipline to stick to the plan and to be confident that your program will get you where you need to be.
- Learn From Your Own Personal Trial and Error – Always remember that all athletes are different. Some can naturally jump higher, throw farther and simply run faster! Just because a training regimen works for some people doesn’t mean that it will work for you. Our bodies all respond uniquely to environmental factors and stimuli and we need to understand our self before we can reach our potential. We all have different genes and backgrounds. Some people have more muscle mass, longer legs, or were born at altitude. You need to pay particular attention to your own sensory data, look for patterns and take notes. Understanding how your body responds to foods, sleep, training, and other factors will help your or your coach tailor the best approach for you.
More Advice from RubenIf this advice started to scratch your competitive itch, then we recommend checking out Ruben at LowellRunning.com. The site has an insane amount of training content and lots of generally great advice that Megaton Nation will enjoy. We also have partnered with Lowell Running so feel free to send Ruben an email directly at Ruben@LowellRunning.com and ask him about the Megaton High Caffeine partnership