When I am teaching a new group of runners the first thing I have them do is count their stride frequencies while running around the track. I can’t remember ever having one of these beginners who turned over as fast as 180 steps per minute. However, when my wife and I sacrificed some enjoyable race-watching moments at the 1984 Olympics to time and count stride rates among male and female runners in their important Olympic events, we found only one of about 47 athletes whom we observed, who took less than 180 steps per minute. Some of these “subjects” we were able to study on several days because they were involved in preliminary and final rounds in their event, so the observations involved more than just 47 incidents.
There is often a discussion relative to the benefits of different types of training, and usually the “types of training” compared are slower/longer training sessions (Quantity) versus shorter/faster training sessions (Quality). However, both slower/longer workouts and shorter/faster workouts can be considered “Quality” relative to the benefits they produce in a runner’s body. Therefore, “Quantity” can also be considered as “Quality.”
Having lived in 16 states and several foreign countries along with my years of competing in three World Championships, two Olympics, and visiting 30 foreign countries, I had a good opportunity to see how specific ingredients become associated with success. A lot of my opinions are based upon over 50-years of coaching Olympians, collegians and individuals of all ages and various walks of life, including a man I coached for 5-years while he served time in a state prison.
Below are my five Ingredients of Success using athletic performances as examples:
By Dr. Jack Daniels
I strongly believe that breathing rhythm is closely associated with stride rate, and this association is not exclusive to runners. In fact, in some sports the act of breathing is determined very clearly by the rate at which the legs and/or arms are moving. Take the example of swimmers; here breathing in all strokes (except back stroke) is strictly dictated by arm turnover – you breathe in rhythm with stroke rate or take in a lot of water. In rowing and paddling, breathing is pretty nearly limited to getting a breath between strokes.
The question is how many breaths do you take per stride, or how many strides do you take per breath? Again, in counting breathing rates of elite runners, I have found that over 80% use a “2-2” rhythm most of the time, especially when running at a fairly–demanding intensity. A 2-2 rhythm means you take 2 steps (1 with the right foot and 1 with the left foot) while breathing in and 2 steps while breathing out. Some will use a 3-3 rhythm when on an easy run, and often go to a 2-1 or 1-2 rhythm when starting to work really hard toward the latter stages of a race or during a hard training session.
Michael Cavalli: What is the most important aspect(s) of marathon training to help the runner maintain pace/efficiency in the latter, more difficult miles of the marathon?
Dr. Jack Daniels: A very important approach to maintaining pace and efficiency in the latter miles of a marathon race is to not go out too fast in the beginning. Run the first 20 miles no faster than your training and any recent racing VDOT values suggest for your marathon race pace. It is often very easy to go out too fast early in a marathon because you have tapered and rested for the race and normal marathon race pace seems too slow. The best part of a marathon to run faster than anticipated is the 2nd half of the race; particularly the last 10k of the race. The first half of the race should feel like a pace that you could increase at any time, and something that might help in those early miles is to concentrate on being relaxed and turning over with a nice quick leg cadence and breathing with a comfortable 2-2 rhythm. It might help to spend some time thinking about being relaxed in the face, jaws, then shoulders, arms, stomach, legs and feet.
By Dr. Jack Daniels
Most serious athletes are on a pursuit to achieve greatness. The question is, what does becoming “great” really mean? During my athletic career in the Modern Pentathlon I was twice U.S. National Champion, a three-time World Championship qualifier (one Bronze Team Medal) and two-time Olympic medalist (with Silver and Bronze Team Medals). Interestingly, I never thought of myself as “great,” even a year or two later when I was given the unofficial title of the World’s #1 horseman in the pentathlon.
By Dr. Jack Daniels
Entering the 1956 Olympic Trials in the Modern Pentathlon I had been training for the riding, fencing and running events for about four months. The Olympic Trials was actually my first ever Modern Pentathlon competition (I swam and shot during college years). I took to the horseback riding event (5000 meter cross country with over 20 obstacles) very well and in the Trials we had the ride last rather than first because we only had 15 horses for 32 competitors. Only the top 15 after the first four events got to ride. I was in 8th place going into the final event but I was not trying to make the team, I just wanted to concentrate on having a good ride.
We’d like to thank all of our followers on social media for submitting these great questions. We hope Jack’s tips are helpful when considering your future training/racing.
Ken G: In the weeks leading up to the start of a marathon training program what are some things an athlete can do to help prepare?
JD: Try to get into a desirable daily schedule, including an easy morning run a few days each week, even if there is to also be something done in the afternoon. Just make the total mileage not vary much each week and get in about 6 weeks of just easy running and 6 or 8 strides in the middle of these easy runs.
Albert D: What are some of your favorite workouts to help prepare for a marathon?