Four Building Blocks of Peak Fitness
Getting to your peak fitness isn't a straightforward, linear
task. It takes a variety of steps where you can focus on different types of fitness training.
Move through these four building blocks and you'll be in prime shape:
1. The Endurance Phase
During the first 5 weeks, you'll concentrate on improving your endurance. Endurance, how long
you can run comfortably, is the foundation of any runner's program. During this phase, you'll
gradually increase the length of your longest run. Your heart and lungs will become stronger
and more efficient at delivering the oxygen and fuel required by your muscles. A good rule of
thumb is to increase your long run each week by about 5-10 minutes. By the end of 5 weeks, you
could add 20 minutes or more to the length of your long run! Piece of cake, huh? You'll notice
that at the end of the phase (the fifth week), the lengths of your workouts will decrease.
That's because of the first rule of running. (Remember Rule #1? Stress + rest = progress!)]
You'll follow the hard/easy approach on a monthly, as well as a weekly, basis.
Warming up before each workout
Make sure your muscles are limber so you'll be ready to perform your workout safely. Your
training session should be preceded by an easy 10-15 minute warm-up followed by several minutes
of light stretching. Don't forget that warm-up and cool-down distances should be calculated as
part of that day's total running time.
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2. The Stamina Phase
In the Stamina Phase, you'll move your attention away from strengthening the heart and lungs to
developing the muscles in the legs and rear, just the places you'd like to see a little more
toned-up! Because you'll be focusing on a new type of training, your total running for the
first week of this phase will drop slightly (around 10%). This will give your body time to
adapt. You'll also continue the stamina workouts started in the Endurance Phase. For hill
training, any hill (or part of one) will do. Find one that's away from traffic and has a nice
gradual slope with no major obstacles. Your runs will last from 45 seconds to a minute. You
don't have to sprint, but try to increase your effort slightly above your normal training pace.
Start by warming up, then tackle the hill 2 or 3 times. Recover by jogging back down to your
starting position. As your fitness level improves, gradually add more runs. Remember Rule # 2:
If you want to be better at running up hills, then run some hills. After this month of
training, you'll welcome hills instead of dreading them.
Proper Hill-Bounding Technique
Find a quiet dirt, grass or paved hill that is at least 100 to 200 meters long, with a moderate
to steep slope. Move up the hill by springing powerfully off the balls of your feet and your
toes. Use an exaggerated high knee lift and equally strong ankle drive and arm swing. The key
is not how fast you get up the hill but how strongly you push off and how well you maintain
your form. Rest briefly at the top of the hill by walking for about 30 seconds until you are
somewhat recovered. Then jog lightly and slowly back down the hill. Rest for about 5 to 10
seconds and run up with crisp form again. Finish with a 10-15 minute cool-down.
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3. The Stride Phase
Now, this is not all-out sprinting-at least, not at first. It's gradually increasing your pace
for small portions of some workouts to help your body get a little more efficient and faster
(your legs, stomach and even your arms will also get stronger). As in the Endurance Phase and
Stamina Phase, you'll gradually increase the duration of the workouts. This will provide jolts
of variety and motivation, along with improved fitness.
Work on concentration and relaxation!
Great golfers and baseball players have the unique ability to blend total concentration with
total relaxation. Great runners are no different. Stamina runs are designed to help you learn
to relax, while holding your concentration, for long periods while running at a somewhat
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4. The Peak Phase
In this phase you'll "top off the tank," and have some fun while you're at it. With
your stride training increased and everything else reduced, you'll feel like a kid, and zoom
around like one. As in the Stride Phase, you'll run fast for a short while, then rest until
recovered, then do it again. You'll boost your fitness level and burn tons of calories. The
workouts are intense, but loads of fun. They'll leave you pleasantly exhausted. At the end of
this phase, you'll reach a peak in your fitness level. So why not take the time to participate
in a local running event? Your legs will be fresh from the reduced training load and the faster
workouts. And, you'll enjoy the satisfaction of reflecting on all the great training you've
done over the last several weeks.
Eating during the Peak Phase of training
Contrary to popular belief, a huge carbohydrate-rich meal the night before a race isn't the
only nutritional requirement for peak performance. Throughout the entire peak phase, remember
to eat a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates, as well as protein and fats in moderation.
Ideally, your diet should consist of about 50-70%carbohydrates, 10-20% proteins and 20-30%
fats. Stay hydrated every day, drinking one ounce of water for every two pounds you
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