Long Term Athlete Development-Endurance Athletes

Unfortunately, few parents and coaches approach training with an attitude best characterised as peaking by Friday where a short-term approach is taken to training and performance with an over emphasis on immediate results .

It takes 10 years of extensive training to excel in anything

Herbert Simon Noble laureate

A specific and well-planned practice, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete’s career. Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long term rather than winning in the short term. There is no shortcut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete’s career.
For proper development of middle- and long-distance athletes, we can separate development into 3 main phases:

Foundation (F)-Introducing the skill sets needed to train, enjoyment, establishing good habits-skill and movement development, ability to move in all planes of motion. If we take care of this early on, it allows for greater room for growth in terms of efficiency later down the road.

Development (D) -Establishing all skill sets and training ingredients into the programme, beginning individual differentiation, training to be able to train. Emphasis here shifts from purely movement to learning how to express their speed and power. From short sprints focussed on acceleration and top end speed to lengthening their ability to hold their mechanics together for longer periods of time, slightly shifting into a speed endurance emphasis while maintain top end speed. More structure is added to the training and high-end aerobic development is expanded on with introduction of short tempo, fartlek (e.g. 5-10 x 30sec pickups at 3k effort) and other aerobic workouts. It is very important to slowly introduce and progress high intensity work.

Performance (P) – Assembling those ingredients and making sure they grow, training to perform.

The ingredients can be classified into:
Movement and neuromuscular development
~biomechanics (F)
~strength, power and neural work (P)
Psychology and Motivation
~Motivation for training (F)
What fuels the desire for success? (D)
Grit, toughness and resiliency (P)
Ability to handle stress (P)
Training and conditioning
We have a whole range of intensities that cause different adaptations along a continuum and what shifts is the emphasis


⇑    ⇑
Direct end support Direct speed support
⇑                       ⇑
Aerobic support Anaerobic support

⇑⇑⇑                     ⇑⇑⇑
General Endurance General Speed

General emphasis shifts over time, initially, there is a heavy emphasis on creating a foundation across all spectrums (speed, endurance, neuromuscular, movement and the psychological side of development). Early on, the training focus is on general athleticism, experimentation here also is key with the idea of developing competencies that they can build off. As the athlete develops, there is a gradual shift towards specificity, with running and, endurance development, taking precedence. We don’t want an athlete specializing too soon.
As the athlete’s career progresses, the emphasis shifts from purely movement, to learning how to express their speed and power. The introduction of short sprints focused on acceleration and top end speed should be done first. This should be followed by looking at how to lengthen their ability to hold their mechanics together for longer periods of time, slightly shifting into a speed endurance emphasis, while maintaining top end speed.

ltad 2

The goal for long term athlete development is to bring the athlete along gradually:
Focus on the extremes before connecting!

Build general speed and endurance before trying to bring those qualities together with high loads of mixed high intensity work. We do this because we want to build an entire foundation from both ends of the spectrum before we can start building off it.
Very gradually progress volumes and intensities, we don’t want to see huge jumps in volume in endurance athletes. However, how an athlete adapts drives the training progression. If an athlete is improving at a strong level and has not hit a plateau, they are still adapting to the training load. On the other hand, if they are stagnating and plateaued (and not because of overtraining), it may be time to look at a change in volume, intensity or type of training sooner than planned.
Short term periodisation
Yearly periodisation is a condensed version of a long-term plan that looks at progression through the 4 stages in the year. The goal is to put the pieces in place early in the year before assembling them later. Exact periodization needs to be adjusted to the racing schedule, emphasis and to the individual athlete.
Principles for planning the year remain the same for ever individual:
1. All components are there, throughout the periodisation scheme, we just need to change the emphasis based on whether we are building or maintaining a component.
2. We are either building, maintaining or connecting! We spend more time building a component (both on speed and endurance side) as it takes more of an effort than maintaining it. That means a focus early on at the extremes (easy to moderate work and pure speed/biomechanics development). As we progress, we work on slightly faster aerobic work and slightly longer speed/anaerobic work). Once we shift towards emphasizing a different component, we need to do just enough to maintain it. Connecting means transitioning from one component to the next, bridging the gap. E.g., using mixed workouts where we are progressing through a range of speeds.

3. Our emphasis should funnel towards specificity as we progress towards our racing fitness.

4. Stress and adaptation, supercompensation effects. Training needs to be modulated based on stress and recovery cycles-depending on the individual and training age. Our Emphasis should funnel towards specificity.

5. As we progress towards our racing fitness, we need to move from general speed and endurance to specificity.

6. Adhere to our knowledge of stress and adaptation.

7. Recognize that we need to modulate training based on stress and recovery cycles which, again can depend on the individual and training age. What that also means in terms of putting training details together is that we need space between harder, more-stressful sessions. Occasionally, we might load up stresses to get a large supercompensation effect, but those are performed rarely and for special reasons.
Individuality is extremely important. Every athlete is physiologically and psychologically different which affects the way they handle their training and how training should be adjusted accordingly. Their natural inclinations will subtly shift what their strengths and weaknesses are which in turn shifts the way they handle their training.

Classification of athletes is a two-step process. First, we need to identify whether they are more Fast – Twitch (FT) or Slow – Twitch (ST) orientated athletes. This will help us decide whether to route them into the middle or long-distance events. We can then further subdivide our athletes into being more FT or ST orientated for the events they compete in.

To begin the classification, data must be captured that will give us an idea on their natural speed and endurance qualities. We can then compare both sides of the coin and see where they predominate. A FT orientated athlete is going to show a proclivity towards speed qualities. For example, he or she might perform better in power testing, short sprints, or have higher lactate levels during an anaerobic capacity test. The following methods can be used to classify athletes.

-Lactate testing
-VO2 testing
-Power/strength testing
-Workout and race event comparison
Adjusting training based on athlete classification is important. The differentiation of training will increase as they specialise. Early on, the training is similar among FT and ST athletes, but as they develop, it becomes more individualised. From a training perspective, the idea is to maximise the athlete’s strengths, playing towards their physiology, while at the same time making sure their weaknesses do not become a limiting factor. We always need to see if we can train the weakness and shift the limiting factor!
I like to use a short to long concept, a training strategy where athletes first achieve peak form in a short distance before extending the length of their repetition.
Trainability and Recruitment
Understanding how trainable an athlete’s basic physiology and capacities is very important when identifying potential athletes. It is one thing to have a high aerobic capacity early on but what effect does training have on it. There area several ways to tackle this problem,
We can use a staple test workout or time trail at the beginning and end of training period and to track improvement. The key is using two tests that are heavily dependent on speed and endurance and will reflect changes in training. The absolute performance is not what we are after, instead, we need to look at the improvement from beginning to the end of the training intervention. We can also utilize physiological testing to see how parameters change.
The training during this period should focus on the two parameters that influence performance the most, speed and endurance. For that period, given the age of the athletes, the training should be focused on either extreme- speed and endurance.


Stress + Recovery = Growth

A powerful equation that is equally applicable to all areas of your life.

The key to injury prevention is a sensible training structure with a planned gradual progression.

It is important to find the balance with this equation. One of the common mistakes seen in highly motivated runners is they push themselves too hard too often in training and end up over reaching.

The 2 most common risks for injury are

1) Load

2) Previous injury

Dont rush the process of development and expect results too quickly or you will end up disappointed over and over again.
Progress in running involves accepting where you are, training within your capabilities at present, not where you think you could be, not where you want to be, not where you used to be but where you are right now!

~~Let it come-don’t force it~~


The key is to find a fairly stable balance between stress and recovery that will allow you to achieve max adaptation, running at the correct intensities (ie easy is easy, mod is mod, threshold should be at threshold etc. The temptation for many is to push the pace too often when they are feeling good turning easy runs into moderate runs, mod to threshold runs become all out workouts and intervals become all out races. We need to become more disciplined to hold required intensities so that we can sustain training in the long term and not have to take unplanned time off. Its ultimately about adapting to the work you are putting in. We need to allow our physical and mental battery to recharge.

Be careful about how frequently and how hard we push ourselves. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking if you don’t maximally fatigue yourself in every workout that you won’t have done enough to stimulate improvement.

If you are pushing yourself into reserves too often and going to the bottom of the well, it is highly unlikely that you are going to be able to absorb the training that you are doing in the first place- going to the bottom of the well should only be done very sparingly.
Its also unlikely that you will be able to sustain decent quality workouts consistently over a period of months and this sort of consistency is one of the key ingredients to successful training.

Always keep sustainability in mind, playing the long game in terms of intensity and volume in your training- training hard but at a level that is appropriate in order to maintain consistency and mometum.
Know when to back off during training in bigger workouts in order to sustain what you are doing.

Keep something in the tank at the end of the majority of your workouts. Don’t force the session, err on the conservative side of your pace ranges- feel your run rather than being held ransom to data all of the time. There are too many variables that can affect a given intensity on a given day!

By doing this, you are not adding additional risk of injury or prolonged fatigue. So either running at a slightly lower intensity than what you could sustain for the vol of the workout or finishing the session knowing you could add nearly 20% more volume at the same intensity. When you do this, you are achieving most or all of the benefits that the session can offer and your form won’t suffer as a consequence of straining!!

So, the aim is not to push yourself to the max, rather work on areas of performance such as lactate threshold, aerobic capacity etc.
If you are running in a fatigued state very often(unrecovered, maybe stressed) you are likely to increase tissue load as you are exceeding what your body can cope with. I see this with a lot of runners following short aggressive plans that will only get them short term gains..

Its a case of working within your limits and not pushing your training beyond what your body can cope with.
What you accumulate week after week, month after month has a much greater impact towards your performance than 2 or 3 heroic efforts in workouts.

Tissue load is dependent on training





If we are looking at mileage only for monitoring training load, we are underestimating the total training stress.

Training load is the product of external(mechanical-distance and duration) and internal (physiological and psychological-RPE, HR, blood lactate) loads. So duration and distance but also the response to the duration and distance!

Frequency is another factor that we need to monitor as load, knowing the deeper details on someone’s training is important.

Another hugely important aspect in training to monitor is recovery strategy. If the proper recovery isn’t in place, then you will not adapt to the training load.

We need to allow sufficient time between really tough workout days.

Without ample recovery, we are more likely to see fatigue creep in, impairments in performance and potentially the development of injury.
Have your recovery days/week planned as part of your training also.
Move things around to get the most out of your training.

Rest and recovery is what makes you stronger and faster.

Also, why not get used to the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)scale, the 10 point scale, what the levels of the scale feel like, you will then get better more accurate results and continue to use it as part of your training load assessment.
RPE tends to be quite responsive- if we are feeling run down, fatigued, stressed, that perception of exertion can increase so it can give you an indication that more recovery is needed.

Subjective wellbeing and perception of effort are the best ways to monitor training loads and identifying over- training and if you are headed for burnout.

Nothing beats listening to your own body, your own thoughts, intelligence-gut instinct rather than using all of these gadgets and piling up on too much data unnecessarily.

Using measures of perceived exertion can sometimes provide more benefit over hr monitoring.

Dont over complicate things. Just enjoy the process of running.
To truly connect with your running, disconnect with all of this data surrounding you. Reflect during your run time, switch off from the world and take ownership of your run.

Michelle Greaney (National Level 2 Athletics Ireland Endurance Coach)

Progression Runs

This perfect pace chart from an athlete I coach that ran his yesterday is a thing of beauty👌

Progression runs feature quite a bit in my plans and are great for building stamina, mental strength, and teaching the body to run increasingly faster at the end of a race.

It is very important to know why you are doing a session and not just blindly doing it!

To race fast, you need to train fast, but a progression run will bring on much less fatigue than a sustained long run at race pace or a tough track workout, and therefore it will require less recovery.

We are working on pacing with Darren because it has been a weakness in the past by going out too hard sometimes and I am happy to report there are big improvements.

3 main benefits:

✅Mental strength, what feels better during a race than closing hard. Practicing race skill of getting faster and tougher throughout your effort.

✅Appropriate association of effort, stick to goals and when u start figuring it out, you will get a better understanding of the effort associated with different paces, running to feel.

✅Resistance to fatigue, closing hard isn’t just a mental skill, its physiological one also. Longer races like marathons are a battle against fatigue, the more we train our bodies to push that fatigue arising, the more successful we can be in accomplishing our goals.

These runs can be continuous, or broken

Darren’s was a continuous run with a cut down each km from easy pace to critical velocity.

Prescribing a range of paces eg 15 sec per km allows for some individual freedom and reaction to your perception of effort in the workout.
Adjust it to how you feel as the miles progress and ultimately get a more successful workout.

They a great tool to add to your long run arsenal, feeling of running hard at the end of a long race.

Some examples⬇️

3-4k easy, 20/20/20, steady/MP/HM, creates a great stimulus.

8 min to 1min cut-down
8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 with 2′ easy rec jog in between, as length shortens, pace increases, start at MP, close at 5k effort.

Make the total volume of running appropriate for the stimulus you ar

3/2/1km (half, 10 mile, 8k effort) with 600m rec in between

Be aware that there are times for effort and times for trying to strike race pace e.g when weather isn’t conducive to running your typical pace.

Progress by feel in a recovery run. A slight progression during the second half of a recovery run can actually speed recovery by helping to flush lactic acid out of your legs from a previous days hard workout and give your body a better chance to absorb that hard workout and add a little more zip into what might normally be a slow, lethargic run.

Give it a go,
Variability in training is always good guys🏃‍♂️

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

“Comparison is TheThief of Joy”
~Theodore Rosevelt

Pretty much being a runner these days results in comparison due to apps like garmin connect, strava, suunto.

When you focus too much on what everyone else is doing however and how they are progressing, you only see how far you have to go instead of seeing how far you have come already.

Not only does comparison leave us with self-doubt and lack of confidence, but it also prevents us from being present in the moment and enjoying the process. Being completely engrossed in the now is hugely important when it comes to running guys.


You need to celebrate and enjoy your own small successes each week instead of just being focused on the end results and wanting instant gratification because these little successes will build up to big results in the long run.

Once your heart is in your own training that’s all that matters.

Write down and plan your goals that feel true to you, not someone else!

Be sure to train within yourself, stop looking for instant results.

Yes, you can be certainly be inspired by others but don’t compare yourself to them too much as this may leave you feeling self doubt, lack confidence and completely deflated.

We all have our own reasons for running, our own motivation so find out what works and what doesn’t work for you.

Believe in your abilities, track your progress, cherish the journey❤


Variables include running experience, training history, relative speed, strength and endurance, injury patterns, recoverability and therefore no two runners should train in precisely the same way.

Any degree of uncertainty can block your path
and there will be obstacles along the way but this is how you will learn how bad you want it and how you will grow as an athlete.

Stay focussed, stay committed to your goals, its you vs you

So comparison is the thief of joy, but competition is the harbinger of character- especially when you focus on simply competing with yourself.

Hill Blasts/Hill Sprints

Hill Blasts🏃‍♂️⛰⛰

Increase power, speed and injury resistance.

Not only do runners need to have an endurance base to build of but they also need a speed foundation.

Sprint training for distance runners is essential to serve as general speed but unfortunatelyit is underutilized. When done correctly, injury risk is low.

They are effective and essential for all runners who wish to improve and to be competitive.

Distance runners should use hills in their training to gain the many benefits available to them.

Hill sprints tests your neuromuscular system.

To train fast twitch fibres effectively, we need to provide a stimulus which activates them and quickly overloads them.

Short 10-12 sec max intensity effort against gravity with a full recovery (2′)will achieve this👌

Hill training when done correctly is a safe and effective way to improve your performance and develop power and muscle elasticity

✔Works on mechanics and pure sprint speed

✔Develops coordination

✔Develops control and stabilization

✔Nervous System Adaptations

✔Developing a variety of training alternatives is also important to prevent overuse injuries and maintain motivation

Nice adaptations with muscle stiffness and reactivity.

Not only do hills provide runners with stronger, faster muscles, but they spend less time on the ground(decreased ground contact time).

A primary goal of any training is to utilize as many muscle fibres as possible so that adaptations can occur to make them more efficient.

Training on hills increases the amount of muscle fibres being used and in the number of different muscles that would otherwise not be used, always important if you want to increase performance as it increases muscle fibre pool which the runner can access.

Running hills can teach form in a way that can’t be taught on the flat as the body is in some ways forced into being more efficient.

Running is essentially a series of single spring like hops.
A certain amount of force needs to be applied to the ground to propel the athlete forward.
The most specific form of plyometric training for runners is essentially sprinting.

Steep hill sprints/blasts can be used as a method of power development to start with and then progress slowly to flat sprints on the track.
The emphasis shifts slowly from power development to a more plyometric type effect and more specific running form.
Starting with just a few blasts (running in the best technical model)
e.g 2-4 with a full recovery of 2-3′ and increasing the volume very progressively up to 10-12.

It is very important that you don’t decrease your recovery time as you lose the intensity and effectiveness of your sprint and use a different energy system. We dont want to accumulate lactate here!

The athlete should focus on a running technique which has vigorous arm drive and high knee lift, with the hips kept high, so that they are ‘running tall’, not leaning forward.

Pure speed work provides the foundation on which to build upwards towards race specificity.

Poceed with caution until you get over the hump of those early adaptations.

Hill training is an opportunity to grow.

5 Common Training Errors and How to Fix Them

1. Too Much Too Soon.

We can’t rush the process of athletic development. It takes time and patience. It takes many years of consistency and patience in training to gain any insight into your running potential.

Don’t increase too much at once (volume,intensity, frequency) A guide is close to 10% rule but this is dependent of course on your goals, your time frame that you have, your individual ability.

Consistency is key and building gradually, only change one thing at a time. This is key to success in your running.
Endurance training can be monotonous at times and you don’t always see quick results but patience in the process delivers time and time again.

2. Too Much High Intensity

We need to have a firm understanding of the basics and do them well. There is a belief that in order to get good results we must push ourselves in every single session. This however, leads to burnout and injury.

We get the benefits from our training doing low intensity runs, this allows us to keep training without picking up an injury. Also some athletes are much more resilient than others and will tolerate fluctuations in training. It is better to get to a start line slight undercooked than overcooked. It is important that we learn to listen to our bodies.
Core weekly planning. We need to think about how one session interacts with another and how one session influences the next one. Plan for recovery running.

Think long term, training is cumulative, you must earn the right to progress.

Don’t force training- don’t go there until you need to go there. The body doesn’t adapt to your schedule, it grows and adapts at a rate it decides to. We grow according to our current fitness and not where we desire to be.

Don’t demand more than what your body can deliver.

Training volume and consistency is the cake, intensity is the icing on the cake, making a cake is all about getting the order and proportions right ~Stephen Seiler

Training volume and consistency is the cake, intensity is the icing on the cake, making a cake is all about getting or the order and proportions right.

~Stephen Seiler

Workouts are not predictive, they are developmental-we are trying to change and evolve by manipulating workouts to keep getting better

3. Not Individualising Training

As runners, we tend to compare ourselves to others, we tend to look at people who train much harder and more frequently but we don’t think about what we are capable of, our training needs to be based on us and our capabilities for the level we are at at the moment, our previous injury history, external stressors etc.
We can’t expect to train like an elite athlete when we actually have a very different lifestyle.

Don’t train like your friend, it’s all about your goals and what training is right for you to achieve those goals at a level that works for you. What if you choose a plan that pushes you too hard too soon based on your current levels, you are just increasing your injury risk. It is so important that you choose the training regime that is right for you! The training load needs to be progressed appropriately and effectively for you to adapt! Be prepared also to bend a little in your plan if needed. Remember we train the individual not the system. The system should be fit around the individual. Any solid training system will eventually become the perfect training system for you if it is continually customized and refined for you

4. Rapid return to running after a break

This will be common now that people haven’t been able to get out training during quarantine. Don’t rush back doing what you were doing before the break if you did take a break or step it right back in volume and intensity.
When your body isn’t used to it, you will overload the tissues and a setback will ensue, time off is important but ease back into it when you return to training.

5. Inadequate Recovery

Running is tricky as it is all about restraint.
There is a fine line between preparing yourself adequately for a race or overtraining

This often happens when recovery gets sacrificed and neglected. Recovery is one of the most important components to any training plan for longevity in the sport.

We need to adopt this process of thinking–Train hard-recover harder.

We should be putting as much effort and planning into our recovery as we do into our training. Think about this in your training week, where can you put it in to your training plan to allow you to recover from those tougher sessions, also, think about a recovery week every 3 to 4 weeks- we can plan to build over 3 weeks for example maintain some sharpness in the 4th week but reduce the volume by 10-30%.

We are definitely not paying enough attention to this little detail.

Stress + Recovery =Growth

Stress without recovery leads to fatigue and poor performance. A lasting decrease in performance can be a sign of overtraining.

We must assess physical(training structure and progression)and psychological(work,family life, studying) stressors and plan recovery for both!

Optimise your sleep to reduce your injury risk 7-9 hour sleep is optimum, we must try to plan and implement it effectively.

Sleep and nutrition are the 2 most powerful but underrated performance enhancers available to athletes use these wisely to reap the benefits.

Michelle Greaney
Level 2 AAI Endurance Coach

Success in Endurance Running

When it comes to paving the way for success as an athlete, preparation and planning is critical.

A good overall yearly plan and well executed preparation will make it far less likely that you will fall short in actual performance.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ ~Benjamin Franklin

  1. Consistency

The number one route to improved performance is to aim for consistency with your training.

Concentrate on the task at hand, neither dwelling on the past nor looking too far forward. The only thing you can control is the present and when you focus on that and remain consistent, you will find your greatest success. Athletes must do everything in their power to stay healthy, injury free and consistent in their training for as long as possible.

Consistent daily improvements lead to big progress over time. Momentum is the backbone of progression.

Training consistently and building up gradually with the right structure and progression will reduce injury risk and improve performance. Don’t be ambitious with your paces in a workout just because you feel good, every workout serves a purpose!!! Remember we are trying to extend our ability to run at a certain pace.

Don’t rush development. Also, workouts are not predictive, they are developmental-we are trying to change and evolve by manipulating workouts to keep getting better

Recovery runs need to be emphasised as much as everything else and athletes are not paying enough attention to this little detail.

Each session should have a specific purpose, including your easy runs. Could you be hitting those quality sessions even better by going 30-60 seconds slower per mile when going easy. The potential gains here are huge, even beyond the obvious that the easier load on the body means you’re more likely to keep consistently training over weeks, months and years with a healthy body.

Too high a percentage of speed work in your training week will only lead to short term gains. If you are working hard for every single workout and pushing every single workout, you are showing up for the days when you really need to work with less to give basically defeating the whole purpose of that workout date. Maximise your results on tempo/speed days by taking the other days easy.

A well-designed training plan (that is adaptable and adjustable) specific to the athlete followed consistently will maximise results. It will have the proper mix of stress and recovery and ensures the right type of training occurs at the right time.

2. Variety

Variability is a runners best friend.

It is critical for all endurance runners of all levels to have plenty of variety in their training.

Creating added stimuli to your training aiding progression, helping prevent injury and keep an enjoyment factor to your training. Running on a variety of different surfaces is important too.

3. Listen to your body

This is the most important thing you can take out of training. Be body intuitive. You know your body more than any training plan does.

Your training plan does not know about the poor night’s sleep you had last night or how the last week of training took a little too much out of you. But you know this and you can listen to what is going on and respond to it to increase your longevity as a runner.

4. Don’t be afraid of change

To learn is to change. If you are not responding positively to a certain type of training, then change it. All runners and athletes have different physiological and psychological make ups, so different types of training works for some and not for others.

5. Goals

A dream written down becomes a goal. You are holding yourself accountable for what it is you want to achieve. Make this dream a reality.

All athletes should set goals for themselves- reasonable and readily achievable short term goals along the way and also longterm goals. It also creates added motivation. How are you getting better today? What will you achieve today? How will you respond to failure and setbacks? This is what sets everyone apart. Will you take a set back in your stride knowing that it is all part of the process or let it get the better of you and give up?

Don’t have a yesterday attitude by dwelling on things that didn’t go well in a previous performance or a tomorrow attitude by procrastinating and not getting things done now.

Believe in your ability to succeed.

Be flexible and realistic with your goals. Accept that there are many ways to reach your objectives then you wont be disturbed by the changes you perhaps need to make.

6. Planning

After you have set your goals for the year ahead, it is important that you lay out a plan to help you achieve them, and to get there in the best possible condition.

Use a training diary and record everything so you can look back and reflect on things following a key race or a full season.

Also a plan should be written in pencil and not set in stone. Adjust as needed! Success in running relies on being able to make adaptations when necessary.

You need to evaluate, feedback is needed from a previous years training/racing to reveal areas that need improving or changing.

You need to decide the structure of the annual plan, are you peaking for 1 race or for 2 keys time during the year etc.

Decide your objectives and duration of each phase of annual plan

Preparation Phase (general and specific) This is the time of year that you lay speed/strength/endurance foundations to prepare for more specific training.

Competition Phase (pre comp and comp) More specific training and racing to allow you to be in the best possible shape to race. This phase only works well if you have prepared properly in preceding phase of training.

Transition/Recovery Phase This is the time of year that you allow tue body to transition from hard training and racing and focus on recovery before starting the cycle again.

Taking time off is a good idea, this is a vital part of the training process. Just as the body reacts positively to easy days of training between quality sessions, so can a bit of time away from training allow the body and mind to reach a new level of performance once back to a regular training schedule. (Supplementary training may minimise loss of fitness during the break from running)

We need to quantify training loads with our training cycles (need to look at volume/intensity/time/rate of percieved exertion (RPE)

7. Recovery

Sleep and nutrition are the two most underrated performance enhancers available to all athletes. Use these wisely and reap the rewards in your training and racing. Make your recovery specific to you. We need to monitor the following regularly:


-Sleep quality and duration

-Energy levels

Muscle soreness

-Resting Heart rate

-Cold/flu symptoms

-Fatigue and stress



8. Basics

Too many athletes seek to go after the advanced training methods before nailing the basics. Master the basic fundamental training areas, recovery methods etc. first before you try advancing your training. The basics when done well on a consistent basis lead to great results.

Understand the concept of each run you are doing. Know what is each run trying to accomplish.

As a runner, we want to run in the most efficient manner possible to limit wasting energy. Spend time working on your run mechanics to help you run more fluent and relaxed through run drills, strength and conditioning programme, hill running and strides/short sprints on flat & on steep hills. This combination will help you run more effortlessly.

9. Patience
The bottom line is that endurance training can be monotonous at times, you don’t always see quick results, you must deal with setbacks etc so patience in the process delivers time and time again.

Wishing you every success are you prepare for their next season😊

Michelle Greaney

Athletics Ireland National Level 2 Endurance Running Coach |Strength and Conditioning Coach 

Mental Toughness: What is it and How Can You Apply it to Your Own Training?

A common definition of mental toughness:

‘a personal capacity to deliver high performance on a regular basis, despite varying degrees of situational demands’

We can all relate to this where we have had the initial motivation to perform a task when the thought arises in our head before certain circumstances arise (weather, work, traffic etc) limits our capacity to perform the task as we want to and therefore don’t attempt the task at all. Now obviously some circumstances are beyond our control and part of being mentally tough is accepting this, however what we must learn from this definition is that if we want to be mentally tough, we must focus on our behaviour and not our thoughts. You must behave in a mentally tough way and not just think about behaving in this way. Backing up day to day and week to week, regardless of the circumstances is the key to demonstrating mentally tough behaviours and will be the cornerstone to our success in our own goals for our running.

Dont think, do!

We can be in the best shape of our lives, but if we lack mental toughness when we toe the line, we may as well kiss our goal time goodbye.

When you set your goals and select your race whether it is a 5k or marathon or triathlon , you need to be diligent and committed to the cause.

  • Dive into it, live it, breathe it, trust your training.
  • You must be prepared to go to bed pretty tired and wake up tired regardless of your level of training.
  • Identify the barriers that may prevent you from achieving your goal and work out how to get around them (days and times and length of time you can train for), family and work commitments)
  • Plan your programme, be flexible with this.
  • Commit to the training required.

If you are serious about running a marathon or doing a triathlon, then you must be serious about making the commitment. Getting to the start line has nothing to do with chance and everything to do with preparation and work ethic.
You must give 100% of what you have, you must challenge your mind. Harness the power of your mind to help you to succeed. You must get to your place of struggle and push past it. Focus on the task at hand. You are building the character of the person that you want to be.

The hardest part of running, cycling or swimming is how we think about these disciplines. Your mental relationship with them defines your experiences. By focussing more on the mental side of things, you can boost your confidence before your key races and build intrinsic motivation so that you are training and racing for the right reasons.
A big avenue for improvement is mastering your mindset and improving your confidence, willingness to suffer sometimes and find the motivation to run consistently.
Resist the urge to quit, embrace difficulty, and respond positively to setbacks.

The 4 C’s of Mental Fitness-Commitment, Confidence, Control & Concentration

Commitment-ability to continue working toward your agreed goals. After you set your goal, relentlessly pursue, persist through obstacles and take pride in what you are doing along the way.

Confidence-belief in your abilities. It speaks volumes. A state of mind that comes from knowing you have the ability to meet the demands of situations you are likely to face. Knowing you are prepared physically and mentally. You can influence your own confidence, it can vary up and down so it takes constant nurturing. Your confidence and your trust in your training can 100% aid your performance in workouts and race day.

To build your confidence, you must reflect on past training and performances, remember the successful performances, visualize how it went and felt, all your hard work paying off, focus on the positives.

We need to exercise control over our self talk, the influence of our thoughts may be either positive and self enhancing or negative and self defeating.

Speak kindly to yourself 🙂

Control-ability to maintain emotional control regardless of distraction. Until you control yourself, you cannot control your performance.

Thoughts and feelings ⇒ Actions and behaviours. Don’t let the fear of failure control your emotions. Deal with performance anxiety long before race day. It really boils down to a single choice. We have a choice when the going gets tough to either listen to those thoughts or steer them in a positive direction that helps support our desires. It’s really just the art of paying attention and the privilege of shaping that choice to persevere and every choice either takes us closer to or further away from our goal. We must train with a positive attitude every day.

We train to build and race to test. If we remove performance anxiety from the daily training environment then we are starting to understand endurance disciplines.

Concentration-ability to maintain focus. Focus mental effort on the task at hand. Don’t ride the line of in-between, there are black and white decisions that we have to make in training workouts and race situations

mental toughness 2

Michelle Greaney (Level 2 National Athletics Ireland Endurance Coach)

MG Coaching-Maximising Your race Potential

5 Running mistakes to avoid

1. Not allowing enough time to achieve your goal
2. Going too hard on your easy days (intensity blindness)

3. Not being consistent
4. Ignoring strength training
5. Over emphasizing stretching

The underlying basis for setting goals is to discover new running limits and explore our individual running potential. Goals may include running a certain mileage over a certain period of time (week, month or year), running personal best times, running a certain event (10k, half marathon or marathon) The positive feeling when we reach these goals are extremely rewarding and uplifting.

Leave no stone unturned in your pursuit to reach your goals.

Avoid these common pitfalls

1. Not allowing enough time to achieve your goal.

You must allow an appropriate lead in time to achieve a certain running goal. When you don’t allow enough time, you are going to get frustrated and succumb to anxiety and pressure and feel you are behind in your preparations.

This may result in cramming training in the form of significant volume, intensity or even both. It may also result in removing rest days. Don’t! this can increase the risk of developing an injury.
You can’t short-cut your physiology! Gains must be made in due course with training.

2. Going too hard on easy days.

Many runners fail to run easy on their easy days and then they don’t have the energy to run fast on their really important training sessions. Running too hard is the single greatest detrimental mistake in running.

The tendency to run what should be an easy paced run at a moderate effort is most likely hindering the progress of a lot of runners. It is difficult for many runners to make peace with the concept that if they want to run faster, they need to slow down in some of their training sessions. Easy days are a crucial component of your training. To improve running and performance, you need to correctly balance training and recovery so that your body can positively adapt.
An appropriate number of easy days in between bouts of stress is vital for harder efforts during your workout days to be beneficial. Just as the planned hard workouts in your running programme serve a purpose, so too do your easy days. Easy days support growth and adaptation. Slow easy running helps to flush oxygen rich blood through the legs and heals micro tears and other damage that workouts and long runs create. Mitochondria, capillaries and blood flow to muscles are increased so they are better able to utilize oxygen.
So, slow down, keep your easy days easy to allow your body to rebuild and reset after a hard workout and before the next big workout.

Maximise your results on tempo/speed days by taking the other days easy consistently.

3. Not being Consistent

Consistency is the key to success, for runners of all levels, the key to improvement is consistency, structure, variation and patience!

The number one route to improved performance and forward progression is to aim for consistency with your training.

Training consistently and building up gradually with the right structure and progression will reduce injury risk and improve performance.

4. Avoiding strength training

Strength training has long been overlooked as a crucial component of a runners training. Many runners believe that strength training will bulk them up with muscle mass and subsequently impede their running ability. This is not the case with maximal strength and reactive strength training, you will not bulk up and put on extra muscle mass.
Strength training does however improve your stability, postural control, strength, rate of force development (power) and running economy, improves time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic speed and improves performance.

Running Economy is the oxygen cost of maintaining a given pace. A stronger athlete with appropriate strength, stability and mobility will cover the same distance more efficiently than an athlete who has poor RE.
Runners with good RE have greater stride length and frequency than those who struggle to control their technique due to a weak body.
Prehab work will focus on strengthening supporting muscles to facilitate proper biomechanics to avoid injury.

Strength training reduces sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries can be almost halved. For a sport in which there is a high percentage of overuse injuries, why would you not do something so extremely valuable and reduce this injury risk?
Also, you will seldom come across a rehabilitation programme that doesn’t include strength training. Strength training will minimise imbalances and weaknesses to improve the body’s capacity to endure whatever training and competitive loads we throw at it, enabling us to perform harder and longer before we find a weak link and something is overloaded.

You want are neurally induced gains in strength and muscle fiber recruitment. Max strength training component aims to fatigue the muscle between 4 to 6 reps for 4/5 sets with an extended rest period between sets.

5. Over emphasizing stretching

Many runners over attribute the importance of stretching for their ambitions to run injury free and faster. It’s not bad, it just gets too much attention though it can have a place in some runners weekly program. There is however no evidence to suggest that static stretching significantly improves performance or reduces the prevalence of the common injuries in endurance runners. Acute stretching can reduce running economy and performance for up to an hour by diminishing the musculotendinous stiffness and elastic energy potential by reducing the recoil of them. If you reduce the reactive force enough, then you’re not going to spring, your flight time is going to decrease and you will get from A to B in a slower time.

If we use the idea of a pogo stick generating enough force to travel through the air to increase your flight time, then why would we try to loosen that spring up as much as possible by stretching. Strength will give you stronger springs, not stretching!

You are only going to inhibit your running
Stretching does not appear either to reduce the longevity or intensity of DOMS.

Don’t stretch just because other runners stretch.

Time spent stretching is better spent strength training working on exercises which have been shown to be very beneficial in the reduction of injury and optimization of running performance.

Goodluck with your training everyone 😊

Fartlek Training

Fartlek, a staple workout adds freshness to your training by varying paces and terrain over a continuous run.

From the Swedish meaning- ‘speed play’ is defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slow recovery jogs.

The basic idea is to run hard during the ‘on’ section and try to recover on the ‘off’/easy section while maintaining a continuous run.

This occurs over a predetermined time period or distance. The focus is on being able to change and sustain different paces and being able to surge when needed.

It challenges the body to adapt to various speeds, conditioning you to become faster over longer distance.

It is great for a variety of fitness levels and can be customized according to personal preference and what your current training situation is.

Fartlek can be structured or run off feel. It can train and improve all energy systems with a range of speeds from aerobic to anaerobic running. It keeps things interesting while allowing you to run according to how you feel.

There are endless combinations of times/distance, paces, terrain to make your fartlek’s interesting. This training provides a lot of flexibility so you can do a high intensity session to really challenge yourself or a lower intensity session if you are tapering for a race or coming back post injury.

Fartlek training can be used to achieve different end goals, but it stays true to its original Swedish meaning, ‘speedplay’, a game of varying pace running.
Try to remain disciplined and compete the workout. Remain controlled and relaxed during the faster efforts and remember that the

recovery is part of the workout too! As you practice these, you will become more aware of your body’s limits and know what pace you are capable of running your efforts and recoveries.

They are a great way to get a hard and beneficial workout in without the mental stress of interval sessions where everything is measured precisely.

The key to successful fartlek running is in the recovery segment. It should be a decent float, not jogging especially for longer duration on/off’s as it is good to keep the heart rate up for the duration.

Instead of putting all your effort into the fast sections and struggling through a very slow recovery, you should control the fast section and maintain a better pace on the recoveries. This way, you will teach your body to recover whilst running at a fast pace.

You increase lactate levels during the ‘on’ sections, then your body must clear the lactate during the recovery segments in order to be ready to go hard again for the next fast effort.

Essentially, you are teaching your body to become better adapted to cope with and removing lactate at a faster pace during your recovery which will transfer to race day and allow you to race faster. This is when you really start to see your endurance take a positive turn.

This a particularly important mechanism for all 5k- marathon runners regardless of actual race speed.

Shorter faster sessions can also be used to improve speed and running economy.


The classic Mona Fartlek
20 minutes fartlek with rec the same as hard effort. It is a mixture of long and short intervals which is very demanding.

2 x 90s w/90s rec
4 x 60s w/60s rec
4 x 30s w/30s rec
4 x 15s w/ 15s rec

The classic and basic Canova Fartlek

20 x 1’on/1′ off

10 x 2′ on/1′ off

You can also use a basic combination of 12 x 45 sec hard/90 sec easy starting out for 5k training for example and build from there.

This is one of my fartlek sessions that I did last year. The efforts were increased as the length of ‘on’ section decreased.
6 x 90s on/45s off, 3′ easy, 8 x 60s on/off, 3’ easy, 3’, 8 x 30s on/45s off

3 x (4′ @ threshold, 2′ easy, 3 x 1′ hard, 1′ easy)

1’/2’/3’/2’/1’/2’/3’/2’/1′ hard with equal recovery

Always begin with at least a 10-minute warm up and a few strides to get the body prepared for the faster stuff to come in the session.

Strides are essentially short repeats of approx. 100m at faster speeds with plenty recovery. They develop neuromuscular coordination and efficiency at high speed. They are generally done at mile pace depending on your goal. Concentrate on maintaining good form and staying relaxed. They should feel choppy-legs should be turning over quickly.
Avoid tensing the neck, shoulders and arms. Tight muscles, clenched jaws and excessive movement all inhibit the body’s ability to run fast.

Enjoy getting creative with your new training sessions and following the government guidelines re social distancing and exercising within your 2km radius:)

Michelle Greaney (Athletics Ireland Level 2 National Endurance Coach)


Running Efficiency

While most of the time the focus is on capacities, or how big our engine is, the real key is often how efficient a runner is. Endurance is about supporting speed and being physiologically and biomechanically efficient. Distance runners maximise their mechanics for efficiency of movement.

The three types of efficiency we are concerned with are:


These 3 combine to create total efficiency.
Running economy (RE) is one of the physiological parameters for running performance and used to measure total efficiency.

It uses oxygen intake to represent energy use and is defined by how much oxygen it takes to cover a given distance at a fixed speed. Or, it also relates to the amount of oxygen used by an athlete when running at a constant (submaximal) running speed.

RE significantly correlates with running performance. RE can explain up to 65% of variation in race performance.

RE is a measure of gross efficiency, meaning that it is the result of both internal and external components so that mechanical, neural and metabolic efficiency play a role.
<Short ground contact times,

<higher cadence (greater stride frequency)

<and higher knee and lower ankle stiffness are associated with better RE.

Trained runners who exhibit greater neuromuscular activation prior to and during ground contact, in turn optimizing spatiotemporal variables and joint stiffness will be the most economical runners.
Factors that affect Running Economy
Running economy is one of the most important factors in determining distance running performance.
Up and Down Movement
Uneconomical runners expend more energy bobbing up and down when they run than do more economical runners who tend to glide over the ground with very little vertical oscillation. Excessive up and down movement is a waste of energy.
Muscle capacity to store energy
With each running stride, the muscles of the landing leg store impact energy as they contract eccentrically to absorb the shock of landing. Most of the stored energy is then used during the concentric muscle contraction that propels the body forward during the next stride. We can use elastic recoil provided by the tendons, contribute a significant proportion of the energy for propulsion (35%) at least when running on flat terrain.
Biomechanical efficiency refers to anything that impacts the mechanical cost of running. Factors such as elastic energy storage and return, the mechanics of the stride itself, how the foot lands and the structure of the runner contribute to biomechanical efficiency, how wasteful a movement pattern is. If these factors are optimized, then less energy is required to cover a given distance.
There are several mechanisms that can improve biomechanical efficiency, one of the most important being the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC). A spring-like mechanism where a muscle is actively stretched and then immediately contracts. During the pre-stretch portion, energy is stored in the series elastic components of the muscle, then energy is then released during the contraction part. The amount of elastic energy return is dependant on length and speed of the stretch, stiffness of the muscle and the time between the stretch and subsequent contraction.
Muscle stiffness strongly correlates with RE. In general, a stiffer muscle will store more energy and the SSC works best when a stiff muscle is rapidly stretched and contracted with little time in between. Example of this is the calf muscle upon landing and subsequent toe off in running.
Stiffer (measure of leg compliance) muscles surrounding the ankle and knee create an increased SSC response which results in greater force on the subsequent toe off.
We always want to obtain optimal stiffness and energy return. Pre-activation, or tuning of the muscles to prepare for impact before landing is a way to actively manipulate stiffness of the system, resulting in greater storage of elastic energy.
The achilles tendon stores 35% of its kinetic energy. To properly utilize elastic mechanisms, the body needs to be in optimum position biomechanically and the tendons need to be trained to utilize the forces. Rapid movements such as sprinting and plyometrics train the tendons to be better able to utilize the energy.
Running with the ankle more plantar flexed, (more forefoot) allows the subsequent stretch reflex on the calf and Achilles-Calf complex to utilize more elastic energy than landing in a dorsiflexed position at heel strike where the calf complex is already in a stretched position thus minimizing the SSC. Ground contact time is also longer in heel strikers so there is more time between energy storage and release. More energy likely dissipates and is lost.

Maximising Elastic Energy Use
Reactive or plyometric training-Short hops, jumps and bounds with the focus on minimizing the amount of ground contact time will work! Sprinting is about the most specific form of plyometric activity that can be done for runners, yet it is often under-utilized. Doing 60-100m accelerations is a great way to work on using elastic energy. These will train you to reach force development faster, minimize ground contact and optimize the stiffness of the muscles and tendons.

The biomechanical model proposes that an important function of the muscles and of the brain and nerves that control their function, is to maintain the tension in the tendons when stretched at footstrike as well as during the first part of the of the stance phase of the running cycle. This then allows the spring (Achilles tendon and other structures) to be stretched actively. Return of the spring to its unstretched position at toe off then provides a good proportion of the energy needed for the next stride.

Neuromuscular Efficiency
Maximising rate of force development so that ground contact time is minimized creates a more efficient runner.
Neural efficiency is an improvement in the communication between the nervous system and muscles themselves. E.g, an improvement could occur via more refined motor programming.
Metabolic efficiency refers to the factors that impact on the production of energy for the muscles to use such as fuel source or oxygen delivery.
It is a balancing act to maximise total efficiency.
Strength training
The most important thing about strength training is it builds damage resistance. Athletes need muscles with superior efficiency, contractility, elasticity and fatigue resistance. Stronger athletes tend to have reduced risk of injury. Rate of Force (RFD) is of huge importance. Force capability is increased in stronger runners which improves their running economy and therefore overall performance. An increasing body of evidence shows that by incorporating an S&C program of heavy weights and plyometrics increases running economy by 4% (Barnes et al. 2013b; Burgess and Lambert 2010a; Saunders et al. 2004) A stronger and more stable athlete will cover the same distance more efficiently than an athlete with poor running economy.

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It will improve neuromuscular function-improved muscular coordination and coactivation, increase the percentage of fast twitch fibres and improve tendon stiffness-all of which contribute to faster more economical running as well as reduced injury risk. Strength training is good practice, we should not dismiss something that has such a positive impact on our running performance and reduces risk of injury by improving mechanics and enhancing athleticism and ultimately prolonging your running career.

Distance runners-don’t neglect pure speed training/hill sprints or strength training, or you will continue to be inefficient over the ground.