Optimizing Performance: How to Run YOUR Best

April 25, 2019

Running Expert Nate Vandervest shares his thoughts on achieving optimum performance.

For many runners, the million-dollar question is “How do I optimize my performance?” The answer lies with a lot of trial and error. Before you get too frustrated, though, there are some tried and true ways of training that will help you get on track.

Those of you who have read my other blogs or heard me present know I am a big proponent of the Hard/Easy principle. This is not rocket science — simply work really hard for one workout and then the following workout should be easy. The hard work will force your body to change and get better while the easy day will allow the recovery the body needs to get better. In the endurance world only 20 percent of your weekly aerobic workouts should be done at a harder pace. If you are not sure what is hard you can always use heart rate zones to help. Anything above zone 2 is considered quality work. If you strictly train based on pace, anything marathon pace or faster would be considered quality. That leaves 80 percent of your week as recovery or aerobically based runs.

Now that we have some of the basic principles down, we need to look in the mirror. What has worked for you in the past, and what have you tried that didn’t work? If you have run long enough, you have likely tried just about everything. I know the workouts I like to do but I also know the ones that I don’t like. It’s usually the workouts I don’t like that will help me the most come race day. Some people do really well running six days a week, others do better running three days and doing two spin classes. The question becomes, do you perform better with quantity or quality — or a combination of the both? 

Other questions you may consider:
• What is your optimal racing weight? Over the years I have learned what my best weight is for optimal performance. I strive to get to that by race day — not necessarily for the entire training plan.
•  How many quality days per week can my body handle? Is it one, two, maybe three?  Most people do really well with two. 
• How many days should a have to recover between quality or hard workouts? You will need at least 48 hours, but some people may need more and that is completely fine. This may even change through your training cycle, as well. 

So, listen to your body. It will tell you how much it can handle and when it is ready for a new challenge. That challenge may be adding in another workout, going farther, going faster or taking an extra recovery day. No two people are built the same and your workout routine will change just like you will. Play around with it, have fun with it, take notes of what has worked and keep down that path. Remember to stick to what we know works but also play around with the details to get the best result for you come race day.

Always running,

Nate Vandervest

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  • Nate always teaches me or reminds me of something important in every interaction I have with him.  In this blog, it was:

    “It’s usually the workouts I don’t like that will help me the most come race day.”

    SO TRUE - but this reminder has been a good wake up call for me!  I think a lot of times we just float along with what is comfortable and then wonder why we aren’t getting faster (stronger, smarter, fill in the blank…..).

    Thanks for the reminder Nate!

    Linda Maxwell    April 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm

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