McMillan Training Plan Guide

LEARN HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR TRAINING

McMillan Training Guide

Welcome to the McMillan team! I look forward to helping you get to the starting line healthy and the finish line much, much faster.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the McMillan training system – the whys and hows – so you get the most from your training plan.

McMillan Workouts How To

In the McMillan training system, most runs and workouts fall into one of four training zones – Endurance, Stamina, Speed or Sprint. And, within these four zones, there are several common runs and workouts that runners perform. Below, you’ll learn how to properly execute each of these runs. Your exact training pace ranges can be found by using the McMillan Running Calculator on the website and are integrated in your plan so just follow the paces and you can know you are training optimally.

ENDURANCE ZONE

While Endurance is the overriding theme behind endurance training, there are actually three distinct goals or purposes for endurance workouts. The first is to recover from a previous workout or race. The second is to improve your endurance – the ability to run for longer and longer. And the third is to maintain your aerobic fitness level and maximize your aerobic capacity. These goals are consequently represented by two distinct types of workouts: Long Runs and Easy Runs. I’ll discuss each in detail so that as you venture out for a run, you’ll know exactly how to train optimally for that particular workout.

Long Runs – Video

Long runs need no introduction as most runners include one every seven to 21 days in their training programs. The purpose is simply time on your feet. Challenging your ability to keep running significantly improves your endurance and is a cornerstone of distance training. While there are debates on just how long and fast your long run should be, the general recommendation is that you keep your heart rate around 70% of maximum (though it may drift upward toward the end of the run), your breathing at a conversational pace and, as with all runs/workouts, keep your pace within the paces from the McMillan Running Calculator.   The effort will be easy, though your effort may get more difficult as you fatigue later in the run.

Long runs are slow yet steady runs with the challenge of simply running a steady pace for the entire duration of the run. Keep the effort easy and steady and resist the temptation to increase the pace just to get home sooner. Give the body time to really feel the stimulus of a long run. It will reward you with greater endurance adaptations that will serve you well in later training workouts and races.

Easy Runs

The other true Endurance workout is the easy run. The majority of your training is likely to be comprised of easy runs and the purpose is to fully develop your aerobic fitness and then maintain it. Your heart rate is around 75% of maximum though it can reach 80% near the end of the run. Easy runs last anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour-and-a-half. Again, one of the common mistakes runners make is running their easy runs too fast. Keep them steady but don’t get into a pace where your breathing becomes noticeably faster.

Medium Long Runs

At times, particularly with half-marathoners and marathoners, I’ll include a mid-week medium long run. This endurance workout gives the body/mind another stimulus to get ready for the longer races. This run is very similar to the Long Run and the heart rates and paces are the same. However, sometimes, I’ll include some faster running within the Medium Long Run.

Fast Finish Long Run – Video

Another type of long run is completely different than the long, steady run described above. The fast finish becomes the focus of the fast finish long run. You start the workout at your normal long run pace, increase it slightly in the middle of the run then try to run a very fast pace for the last 30 to 90 minutes of the run. I say ‘fast’ because you will gradually increase to a faster and faster pace so that you finish the run running nearly as fast as you can for the last few miles. You run as hard as you can and sprint at the finish. It is grueling but very race-specific training. After a few of them, you will see just how effective these are at producing marathoners and half-marathoners who can outlast their competitors!

Physiologically, you train the body to work more efficiently at half and full marathon pace and mentally, you undergo the extreme fatigue that racers inevitably face during the final few miles.

So, a generic fast finish long run for someone who’s goal marathon pace is 7:00 per mile might be that the first 12 miles of a long run will be at 7:30 to 8:00 per mile, then the pace over the last 6 miles will average 7:00 per mile with the last couple of miles at 6:15 to 6:30 pace and the last 400 meters very fast. Believe me, this is a tough run so you will need to get mentally and physically prepared.

The fast finish long run provides an opportunity to practice your race routine. Have the same dinner the night before as you plan to have the night before your race. Get hydrated like before the race. Wake up like it’s race day. Do exactly what you plan to do on race day even to the extent of wearing your race gear – shorts, singlet, socks, racing shoes. This is a true “test run” for the marathon or half-marathon. I also recommend that you have someone help you with this workout. Have someone on a bike with you so that you can drink at the same intervals that you will in the race.  In fact, you want to mimic the exact nutrition plan that you will do during the marathon. You’ll be amazed at what you will learn about your planned pre-race routine – the things that work and the things that don’t. When race day arrives, you’ll be cool and calm because the routine will be second nature to you.

My general rule is that if you could finish 1-2 fast finish long runs with the last few miles at a fast pace, then you would have no problem accomplishing your goal in the race.

STAMINA WORKOUTS

Stamina workouts introduce medium paced running into your program. The goal is to develop your ability to run a steady pace for long periods of time. Specifically, you increase your lactate threshold pace, which leads to faster race times. The challenge with each of the four types of Stamina workouts is to keep from running too fast. These are moderate efforts and running faster does little but shorten the amount of time that you are in the correct zone. It’s much better with Stamina workouts to challenge yourself to go longer at a given pace rather than shorter at a faster pace.

Steady-State Runs – Video

Steady-state runs were once a staple in the training programs of U.S. distance runners but somehow fell out of favor. Runners now seem to have only two speeds, slow and fast; no in-between. But the steady-state run is one of the most beneficial types of workouts especially as you complete your base training and during the initial parts of your Stamina phase. Your heart rate will likely be between 83 and 87% of maximum and the runs should last at least 25 minutes and can go as long as an hour-and-15 minutes.

These are pretty tough efforts not because of the pace but because of the duration of running, so be prepared to increase your concentration to stay on pace and to take a good recovery day afterwards in order to reap the full benefits.  Make sure you start these runs at an easy-medium effort, just slightly more effort than your easy runs but know that you will need to increase your effort in the latter stages of the run as fatigue sets in. Again, this isn’t a race but a run where you lock into a steady pace at a medium effort.

Unlike the Endurance workouts discussed above, Steady-state runs are the first workouts that require a warm-up. For all the remaining workouts, you should begin the run with 10 to 20 minutes at an easy pace. Following this warm-up (which may also include stretching and faster “strides”), you can proceed into the continuous Steady-State Run.

Tempo Runs – Video

Tempo runs are slightly more intense than Steady-State Runs and are designed to increase your stamina. As the name suggests, you really improve your running tempo or rhythm with these workouts. They typically last between 15 and 40 minutes. The greatest challenge with Tempo runs is to avoid running too fast. They are meant to be “comfortably hard” – don’t push the pace. Your heart rate will likely be between 85 and 90% of max. Like the Steady-State Run, Tempo Runs are continuous efforts but you must preface them with a thorough warm-up.

Tempo Intervals – Video

Tempo Intervals are slightly faster than tempo runs and are a broken into a few repeats with relatively short recovery jogs. Unlike the previous workouts, Tempo Intervals are the first workouts to allow for a recovery jog between hard efforts. In this case, you jog between each repeat then start the next one.

A Tempo Interval workout that I’ve had particular success with is two (or three) times two miles with a three minute recovery jog between repeats. Following a thorough warm-up, these provide a great training stimulus to prepare you for an upcoming 10K race. The effort required, the pace judgment and the mental discomfort all help immensely when race time comes.

Cruise Intervals

The Cruise Interval workout was popularized by the running coach, Jack Daniels. They, like the other Stamina workouts, are meant to improve your stamina. Cruise Intervals are like shorter and slightly more intense Tempo Intervals. They last three to eight minutes and are followed by short recovery intervals (30 seconds to two minutes). You will probably find that it’s easy to run too fast on these. Keep it under control and work on a smooth, fast rhythm. Control in training is key to improvement.

SPEED WORKOUTS – Video

Here’s where we get to the fast stuff. These workouts are what most of us think of as “speed work”. They last between 200m and 2000m. The goal here is to spend time at your maximum aerobic capacity (or VO2 max). Because the pace is faster, you must take a recovery jog of about half the distance (or jog for the same duration of the faster running) of the repeat. So if you run a 1200m repeat, you would jog for about 600m to recover. These workouts allow you to maintain your speed over a longer period of time and challenge you mentally to keep pushing even when very tired – something you inevitably face in races.

SPRINT WORKOUTS

The final workouts are Sprint Workouts. These help your top-end speed and consolidate your stride and form.

Sprint Workouts

Sprint Workouts comprise the first workout. Like the Speed Workout described above, they are repeated hard efforts with recovery jogs in between. They last only 100m to 400m with very long recovery intervals. It’s usually recommended that you take two to five times the duration of the fast running as a recovery jog before starting the next hard effort, which is usually equal one to two times the distance of the repeat. For example, if you run a 200m repeat then you would jog for 200 to 400m before beginning the next one. The goal is to flood the muscles with lactic acid and then let them recover. Your leg strength and ability to tolerate lactic acid build-up will improve, allowing you to sprint longer.

Strides or Leg Speed- Video

You may be familiar with “Strides” though you may call them windsprints, pickups, striders or stride-outs. They’re not unlike the fast accelerations that you probably do right before a race (or have seen others doing). Strides work to improve your sprinting technique by teaching the legs to turn over quickly. It’s really the neuromuscular system that we’re trying to develop here, which is why they are shorter than Sprint Workouts. They last only 50-200m (or 10 to 30 seconds) because unlike the Sprint Workouts, we don’t want lactic acid to build up during each stride. The build-up of acidity inhibits the nervous system and interferes with the neuromuscular adaptations that we want. Accordingly, after each stride, you must jog easily for a minimum of 30 seconds and up to a minute-and-a-half to make sure the muscles are ready for the next one. Not allowing for sufficient recovery after each stride is a common mistake.

Take advantage of the longer recovery. It will allow you to put more effort into each stride, which really helps develop your speed.

As you might imagine, the pace for strides is very fast BUT you must begin them slowly and get faster and faster with each stride – building your speed within each stride and from one stride to the next across the workout. Note that this is not all-out sprinting. Run fast but always stay under control. These are quick efforts where you practice good form. You’ll be amazed at how much your finishing kick improves with these workouts. We also recommend that you do some strides on flat ground, some on gradual uphills and some on gradual downhills to improve your ability to run fast no matter what the finishing straight of the race is like.

You can incorporate some strides or “pick-ups” during the middle of your run or at the end. To perform, run fast for 15 to 25 seconds then jog easily for 30 seconds to a minute-and-a-half before beginning the next one.

OTHER WORKOUTS

Hill Repeats (Hills)

It’s rare that you find a great distance runner who didn’t get fast by training on hills. I find that hill training is one of the best workouts that you can do. It provides great stimulus to the cardiorespiratory system, develops your ability to tolerate lactic acid build up, strengthens the legs, practices leg turnover that matches up with your 15 to 30 minute race pace yet avoids the pounding that is associated with traditional speed work. When hills are encountered during races, they pose no threat to you and you can run them better and more efficiently than other runners, both uphill and downhill.

To perform a hill workout, find a hill with a medium slope that takes between 45 seconds and one-minute- and-20 seconds to ascend. Run up at an effort equivalent to your 5K or mile race pace. Focus on good form with powerful push off and strong arm swing. Jog down the hill slowly to recover. You can also practice your downhill running technique by running down the hill occasionally at 10K race pace. Keep your body under control and add these descents in gradually as you will probably be sore afterward.

While the above Hill Repeats outline the common type of hill workout, I also recommend running on hilly courses often, especially during your base and stamina phases of training.

Yasso 800s (Yassos)

This workout comes from the Bart Yasso at Runner’s World and is called Yasso 800s.  The theory behind Yasso 800s is that your time in minutes and seconds for a workout of 10 times 800 meters (two laps of the track) with equal recovery time is the same as the hours and minutes of your marathon time. For example, if you can run 10 times 800 meters in 3 minutes and 20 seconds with 3 minutes and 20 seconds recovery, then this predicts that you can run 3 hours and 20 minutes for your marathon. Run 4:40 for the 800s and you can run 4:40 for the marathon.

My experience, though, is that Yasso 800s predicts about five minutes too fast for most marathoners, except for Endurance Monsters where the prediction is very close. Using the example above, my experience has been that 10 times 800 meters in 3:20 with 3:20 recovery yields closer to a 3:25 marathon for most competitive runners. Because this workout is easy to do, I try to include it two or three times in a marathon training cycle. Runners start with a few Yasso reps and build to 10 reps near the end of the training cycle.  It not only provides a good predictor of marathon pace but allows you to chart your increasing fitness – a big confidence builder.

Goal Pace Workouts (GP)

As the name implies, Goal Pace workouts offer the opportunity to practice running at race pace. One of the principles of training is specificity so you will do some workouts at your goal race pace so you learn it mentally (the effort required) but also dial it in physically (improving your running economy at race pace).

Time Trials (TT)

Time Trials are like races but done in practice. You run as fast as you can for the distance (usually some distance shorter than your goal race distance).  Most runners can give about 85-95% of race effort in Time Trials since there isn’t the same buzz, accountability or competition that there is in racing. But, this doesn’t interfere with the benefit you want. Running these test runs allows you to dial in pacing and get used to the suffering that you will inevitably experience in the actual race.

Fartlek Runs (FR)

Fartlek means “speed play” and Fartlek Runs are just like speed workouts. They are repeated efforts with the fast or “on” segment at your VO2max speed (see Speed Paces in the Calculator) and the recovery jog or “off” segment at a slow, recovery pace.  Unlike Speed Workouts, Fartlek Runs are typically run by time instead of distance. An example would be 10 times 1 minute fast with 1 minute recovery jog. Run fast but controlled and pace yourself so that you run faster and stronger with each successive repeat. You should mostly be recovered on the recovery interval so that you feel strong at the start of each repeat.

Progression Runs (PR)

While the idea of the progression run is simple – start slower, finish faster, I recommend that you begin with structured progression runs until you learn how to properly gauge your effort throughout the run. Below are the three structured progression runs that I have used successfully.

1) Thirds

The first type of progression run is called Thirds. As the name implies, you break your run into three equal parts or thirds. For the first third, you run at a relatively slow, comfortable pace. As you progress to the second third of the run, your pace will have gradually increased to your normal steady running pace. Over the last third of the run, you increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace. For many competitive runners this effort corresponds to somewhere around marathon race pace to as fast as half-marathon race pace and a heart rate between 80 and 90% of maximum. This strong running significantly improves your Stamina, which raises the pace you can run before you begin to rapidly accumulate lactic acid.

For your first thirds progression run, choose a 45-minute easy run. Run the first 15 minutes slowly, the second 15 minutes at your normal pace and finish the last 15 minutes at a strong pace. While I break the run into thirds, your pace doesn’t radically change after each third. Instead, it is a gradual but steady increase across the run. After getting your feet wet with this first thirds run, you can adapt the concept to any duration/distance.

It’s important to note that the pace of the final third is NOT all-out running. An appropriate pace for the last third is approximately your steady state pace. Could you run faster at the end? Of course! But that’s not the goal of this particular progression run. In fact, if you run too hard in the last third, the workout becomes more like a Tempo Run, which causes too much fatigue for the purposes of a progression run.

It’s likely that on some of your runs, you already do a thirds progression run without even trying. When you are fully recovered from previous workouts, the body seems to just naturally progress to a faster pace as the run goes along. And please note that I suggest you do this on an ‘easy run’ day not a ‘recovery run’ day. For all but a select few elite athletes, progression runs should not be used on days when you are recovering from a previous workout or race.

Lastly, I find a thirds progression run to be an especially beneficial workout for experienced marathon runners – runners who can handle an additional up tempo day in addition to their other key workouts and long run. The most important caveat, however, is that you must not push too hard in the last third. Strive for a medium-hard pace (around your marathon race pace) not a Tempo Run.

2) DUSA

The second type of progression run I call DUSA – after the Discovery USA program where we did a lot of this type of running. To perform a DUSA progression run, run for 75-90% of your total run at a steady, easy pace. Then, as you approach the final 15-25% of the run, you really pick up the pace. For competitive runners this means half-marathon to 10K race pace with a fast finish the last quarter mile. It’s exhilarating! You can then jog or walk for five minutes to cool-down. DUSA’s are not a race but almost feel like one, and you’ll likely find that your heart rate goes to over 90% of maximum by the finish.

For many runners, I assign this DUSA progression run as part of a 50- to 60-minute run where they run easily for 40 to 50 minutes then “progress” to a strong pace for the last five to 15 minutes. With my elite marathoners, I assign DUSA progression runs of up to 90 minutes in length and with up to 15 to 25 minutes fast. But, by simply using the idea of running the last 15-25% of your run at a faster pace, you can adapt this progression run to whatever duration or distance you run.

Compared to the thirds progression run, a DUSA involves a slightly faster pace for a slightly shorter amount of time and provides a little different stimulus to the body.

You’ll be surprised at how fun a DUSA workout is and that it really doesn’t take much out of you. I insert it into an athlete’s program where I want to make sure the athlete gets some quality running but can’t afford a long recovery time after the workout. Again, the idea is that we get a few more minutes of Stamina training integrated into the training week but that none of these fast portions are intense enough or last long enough to cause any lasting fatigue. You should not feel any effects of the DUSA progression run on your next run. If you do, you are probably pushing too hard in the faster portion. You may also want to change where you insert them into your program. Consider including more recovery runs before or after your progression runs.

3) Super Fast Finish

The final type of progression run is one of my personal favorites and was utilized by Paul Tergat in his build-up to the Berlin Marathon where he set the world marathon record of 2:04:55. For this workout, the name says it all. You run a normal steady run but run super fast in the last three to six minutes of the run. When I say super fast, I mean super fast. Pretty much like a 5K race to the finish. Like the DUSA workout above, these runs are exhilarating yet don’t require a long recovery. They are fast enough to really stimulate your Speed and Sprinting ability (muscle recruitment, coordination, mental focus and lactic acid tolerance) but short enough (three to six minutes) that you will feel no lasting effect on your next run. That said, you must be accustomed to fast running before trying to run a super fast finish progression run otherwise you will likely be sore from the speed.

We did a lot of these when I was in high school. We would run our normal easy run pace but as we approached the last half mile before getting back to campus, we would begin to push very hard. It’s probably even fair to say we raced each other to the finish line. Our thought was that this super fast finish established a habit out of finishing fast so that when it came to a race, no other team would be able to finish as fast as we could. It would just be automatic that we would run hard at the end.

ANCILLARY TRAINING

Recovery Days

One principle in training is that training stress must be balanced with rest. I always talk about the equation “Optimal Stress + Optimal Rest = Optimal Progress.” As such, included in training plans are recovery days. As you might expect, recovery comes in many different forms so you will see different Recovery Days in the plans (e.g., Off, XT or ER: 30-45 min).

Cross Training (XT)

I almost feel like we shouldn’t use the term “cross-training” anymore as it’s really a catchall term but means so many different things to different runners. Many runners are wedded to their cross-training activities so I try to provide the flexibility to do what you like within the training plans.

That said, let’s review the different types of cross-training runners use and what this may mean for your training.

Run-Like Training: Cross-training for many runners is a time when they want to mimic running as closely as possible but usually for injury reduction, they need an alternative to running. Examples are running on an Alter-G treadmill, water running (aka aqua jogging), underwater treadmill, elliptical and any number of new machines that promise to mimic the mechanics of running but without the pounding.

As expected, sessions for this type of cross-training mimics your regular runs. You can do an “easy run” (which is what most people do) or you can match the duration and intensity of typical running workouts in these sessions. The benefits are that you get much more running-specific adaptations than many other types of cross-training (described below). The negative is that you are adding another run-like stress to the body/mind so you must account for this in the training plan’s stress/rest cycle.

“Endurance” Fitness Alternatives: Similar to the above, these activities often simulate the same cardiovascular challenge as the run-like cross-training activities but limit musculoskeletal stress. Examples would be cycling, spinning, swimming, rowing and any other activity that primarily stimulates endurance/stamina the way running does. However, runners can also do high intensity workouts with these as well so, like running, there are a myriad of combination of stresses that can occur in these activities.

Mostly, runners use these for another endurance activity with less/no pounding or they want a change of pace from running. As you would expect, it’s not always easy to “convert” these activities to the equivalent stress of running but with some experience, runners typically find just how these activities affect their future running.

Runners certainly build fitness from these activities and this fitness can help running, maybe not as much as the run-like activities but more fitness is nearly always a good thing for humans. Negatives include that they aren’t as run-like as other activities and, depending on the intensity/duration, will need to be accounted for in subsequent run training. For example, a runner doing an easy 1 hour bike ride will likely be fresh and ready for a key run workout the next day but a 1 hour spin class will be a completely different challenge and likely require more recovery before a key run workout. So, the runner must always be aware of the stress/rest cycle.

Injury-proofing: While the first two types of cross-training have been more of the “aerobic” type (though as mentioned, they can also be very, very intense), injury-proofing is about building a strong and injury-resistant body. Like the last type of cross-training, this can also be very intense and build running-type fitness, but most runners are doing this as a more traditional strength workout to build muscular strength.

As with the other types of cross-training, there are a wide variety of injury-proofing exercises and how they are performed will determine how they may fit with (or not) your running schedule. Some routines (like our Core Routine) are simple circuits designed to prepare the body to handle the rigors of running. The workout is quick and easy yet highly effective. And, the recovery is very quickly so a runner could do this type of routine and easily be ready for the next run. Other programs get more intense, either with the muscular load and/or metabolic challenge. Some runners lift weights with a focus on strength development. Some participate in fitness classes where there is not only a component for strength development but also fitness development (think “boot camp” or Cross Fit).   Some routines are done in a gym (either on your own or in a class), some are done at home and some are incorporated as part of a run workout (post-run).

Not to sound like a broken record, but it really doesn’t matter what you do as much as what the stress and thus recovery is from the workout. The benefit is that we all need to be injury-resistant and as we age, we need to maintain muscle mass. So, I’m a big fan of some kind of injury-proofing. You just have to figure out what will fit with you and your life. And, the key point is how it affects your running. Most runners find that putting the intense injury-proofing sessions AFTER they key run days works best. The lighter sessions (think Runner’s Core Routine) can pretty much go anywhere in the week. One nice thing is that it is very easy to see the injury-proofing routines effect on your running. If you are sore and tired and your important running workouts suffer, then you must adjust something.  And that is the negative of these workouts, it takes some trial and error to find the best level and timing of strength training that helps your running but doesn’t hinder the run training.

Restorative / Corrective: The last type of cross-training that runners do could be termed restorative or corrective. I’m a big fan of restorative activities, not just for running performance but for overall health and well-being.

With all that said, my point is that cross-training means a lot to a lot of different runners and we don’t want to force anyone to do something that doesn’t fit. Instead, we provide suggestions to include cross-training and allow you to choose what works best for you. I will say that we are usually thinking of cross-training as something that causes little fatigue, because this is what most runners do. Their cross-training isn’t a “killer workout.” If you do create a lot of stress and fatigue in your cross-training session, then it will naturally need to have sufficient recovery afterwards. Ultimately, my rule of thumb is that the cross-training should not negatively impact the running (our primary activity). If it does, then you must either change the cross-training (change the stress of it or move to a different activity) or you must move the cross-training day farther away from key running workouts. (Being sore and “flat” for an easy run after a strength session is no big deal but being sore and flat for your race-specific run is a no-no.)

Choose what you like, what you feel will benefit you and play around with it. We want you to be as fit as you can, avoid injury and be set up for a lifetime of fitness. It often just takes a little trial and error to find the right activity, timing and intensity/duration that works in your running week (which, of course, changes throughout the year so you’ll need to also be adjusting your cross-training).

GENERAL TRAINING INSTRUCTIONS

Warm-Up – Video

A warm-up serves to prepare the body and the mind for the workout or race ahead. Preface each workout with an appropriate warm-up. Your warm-up will vary based on the starting intensity of your run/race and how your body is feeling. For lower intensity workouts/races (e.g., steady state runs, tempo runs and long races), 5 to 20 minutes of easy jogging with optional dynamic mobility (active isolated flexibility and my running drills) followed by a few strides building to slightly faster than the pace to be run in the workout is ideal.  For more intense workouts/races, you will want to be more “warmed up” since the start of your workout/race will be more intense. 15 to 30 minutes of easy jogging with dynamic mobility (active isolated flexibility and drills) followed by a few strides building to slightly faster than the pace to be run in the workout is ideal.  If you have trouble finding your pace early in intense workouts or races, then you should also so some short repeats (100-200 meters) at your goal pace so you dial it in before starting your workout or race.

And, I encourage you to experiment to find the warm-up that you like best. You’ll want to dial in your warm-up so that you can have a set routine before workouts and races. Then, on workout day or race day, you’ll be on automatic pilot before the hard running starts. There is comfort in routine so work to find a routine you like early in your training so that you later in the training, you can simply follow it and know you are ready for a great run.

Cool-Down

Follow each fast workout and race with a cool-down to help your body and mind begin to recover. This slow running after your hard efforts is critically important so don’t skimp on it. A slow, 10 to 30-minute jog followed by the yoga recovery and/or active isolated flexibility routine is ideal. And, use my RUNRR routine to get a leg up on refueling after hard workouts and races.

Done correctly, you can expedite your recovery and the faster you can recover, the sooner you will be ready for more quality running.

Effort Distribution

The concept of effort distribution in hard workouts is important and indicates that the effort should increase throughout the workout. The first repeats or miles should be on the “slow” end of the range with subsequent repeats or miles getting faster and faster until the last ones are at the “fast” end of the range. I find that runners respond very well to this type of training. It really helps in races. You learn not to go out too fast and to continually push yourself harder and harder throughout the race. Your performance is better as a result so focus on starting workouts controlled and finishing them strong.

Pace Range

On the Calculator, you’ll notice that for every workout there is a goal pace “range” given. A range is important because runners have good days and bad days. No matter which you have, as long as your times are within this range then the proper adaptation is occurring. If you feel good, shoot for the faster end of the range. If you feel bad, just try to hit the slower end. But either way, know that this is the optimal pace range within which all the benefits of the training occur. As you progress through the program, I expect that you’ll have to gradually move the pace range faster and faster and that your Calculator results will need to move to faster speeds as well.

Principles of training

Below are some of the fundamental training principles that drive the successes these training plans have produced. I invite you to read the following for a more detailed description of the McMillan way of training.

Hard/Easy

For the body to improve its functional capacity, its current capacity must be challenged. But you already know this. To improve your endurance, you challenge the limits of your endurance by going for a longer run from time to time. The same is true for all athletic training. Stress a muscle or energy system or the mind and they will adapt to a higher functional level.

But the key factor that many athletes miss is that the adaptation does not occur during the stressful workouts. It occurs during the rest/recovery periods. This is why Bill Bowerman’s now famous “hard/easy” approach works. We think of it as the stress/rest cycle:

Optimal Stress + Optimal Rest = Optimal Progress

In your training program, you will notice that the flow of the schedule provides stress followed by rest. With optimal stress and optimal rest, we will achieve optimal progress!

Optimal vs. Maximal Training

One of the most important parts of our training philosophy is what I call “optimal versus maximal training”. I believe that the most common error that runners make is to train “maximally”. That is to say that when they go to do a run or workout, they run as hard as they can. This may feel good and feed the need to “feel the burn” but it is NOT the best
way to train the body. Controlled training is more beneficial. It is only through an understanding of what the goal of each run/workout is and how the body adapts to each type of workout that you can train optimally.

What this means is that the goal is not to “beat” or “win” the workouts. Don’t necessarily try to run faster than the McMillan Calculator calls for. You physically will be able to run faster than the Calculator suggests in each workout but the system is designed to provide the optimal amount of stress to each energy system by training at the paces suggested. And synergistically, this leads to the greatest performance improvement with a low risk of injury, fatigue and burnout. You stay motivated and your confidence grows.

In other words, stay under control in each workout. Never push yourself to exhaustion. Each run or workout should leave you “pleasantly fatigued” but knowing that you could do a little more if necessary.

Adapting Your Schedule

The schedule is not set in stone but is a work in progress. Follow the general flow of the program, hard/easy approach, but adapt it as necessary. After all, you most likely have other commitments during your week that sometimes require a bit of shuffling of your running schedule. You can easily drag and drop the workout to a different day.

If you have to move a workout to another day, fine. Just make sure that key workouts aren’t stacked back- to-back. Ideally, you will adhere to the hard/easy – long/short approach with mileage (i.e., insert a ‘down’ week for recovery every now and then) just like we’ve done with the intensity. Be reasonable as you plan your week and alter each day’s mileage as you feel necessary. In most instances, I’m less concerned with actual mileage than time spent running, which is why a target time range for each workout is listed.

Final Thoughts

If you are ever confused on a workout, just let me know.

Thanks for sharing your running with McMillan Running! We couldn’t be more excited to work with you.

Greg