Four Building Blocks of Peak Fitness
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The 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.Endurance Training

2.Stamina Training

3.Stride training

4.Peak Fitness Training

1. The Endurance Training

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.

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

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 challenging pace.

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 weigh.

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