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Daily Tips >>

Elementary School Track & Field Super Meet

September 8th - Tip by Dave Scott-Thomas
Tip by: Dave Scott-Thomas

Do as little work as possible, to get as fast as possible. That is still going to be a lot of work!

Dave Scott-Thomas

Dave Scott-Thomas
U of Guelph Head Coach
Guelph, Ontario

University of Guelph

Dave Scott-Thomas is a Level IV Certified NCCP (National Coaching Certification Program) Endurance Coach and has held several different National Team Coaching assignments.

View all Dave's Tips

User Comments

  • powerboy User since:
    Dec 11th, 2014
    Posts: 176
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    powerboy said 2 weeks ago

    c'mon Dave, give us a bit more. are you talking speed, or just referring to the general principle that you want to train at whatever the least amount required to maximize performance?

    In other words, its generally accepted that 1500m guys do not need more than 70-80 miles a week, so if you are doing 100 mi you may be doing too much?

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  • anonymous Anonymous
    Posts: 37963
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    Bomber said 2 weeks ago

    Hood and Sully might disagree with this......


    Quoting: powerboy

    In other words, its generally accepted that 1500m guys do not need more than 70-80 miles a week, so if you are doing 100 mi you may be doing too much?"

    Quote comment
  • anonymous Anonymous
    Posts: 37963
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    Anonymous said 2 weeks ago

    Great coach. That is all.

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  • sammyd User since:
    Oct 30th, 2013
    Posts: 201
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    SammyD said 1 week ago

    Quoting: Bomber
    "Hood and Sully might disagree with this...... "


    Do go on...

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  • anonymous Anonymous
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    Anonymous said 1 week ago

    It's excellent advice. Translated into less cryptic wording..."Do as little as possible to achieve the desired result." In other words...STOP OVER TRAINING because 100 miles per week is not going to make you a faster runner than running 80, etc

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  • anonymous Anonymous
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    Andrew Jones said 1 week ago

    Just a (general) comment on what DST said in his orginal (general) comment. With a "DNS" being the worst-case scenario for an athlete, the "less is more" rule can be a lifesaver for those athletes that are a bit...insecure, and need to be told to pull back a bit - in order to avoid an incurrence of injury, illness and/or staleness.

    But having said that, the Bannister-documented bare-bones athletics program of a medical student, and even Peter and Seb Coe's contention that they did very low aerobic volume (though some doubt about the veracity of that exists) must -- in the modern context -- be considered as programs only for freakishly talented outliers, or fragile athletes that can withstand very little volume (but even here, those types of athletes will likely "backfill" that lack of on-ground volume with pool running, or some other type of x-training activity).

    Given the high performance standards that exist these days, where a sub-4-minute mile hardly raises an eyebrow (unless you are in HS) it would seem (and this is corroborated by many training diaries of world-class mid-d runners) that 100 mpw is not outlandish by any means for an aspiring mid-d runner in their base/buildup period.

    A good read on such matter is Steve Scott's bio "The Miler" where he describes himself as a workhorse, and who does high-volume base work (that leads into high-intensity speedwork) in a mid-d training program that helped him set a long-standing Mile AR, and served him well up to 10k road races.

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  • steveweiler User since:
    Mar 28th, 2012
    Posts: 635
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    SteveWeiler said 1 week ago

    Why do these discussion so often fixate on weekly volume, as opposed to, say, # of workouts a week, volume of quality work within a given session, or # of races per season? What really matters - density of training, and your body recovering properly - is far more complex than the single factor of weekly volume.

    Quoting: powerboy
    "In other words, its generally accepted that 1500m guys do not need more than 70-80 miles a week, so if you are doing 100 mi you may be doing too much?"


    I disagree that this is "generally accepted."

    Quoting: Anonymous
    "It's excellent advice. Translated into less cryptic wording..."Do as little as possible to achieve the desired result." In other words...STOP OVER TRAINING because 100 miles per week is not going to make you a faster runner than running 80, etc"


    As a general rule, running more will be:
    *beneficial to a runner who is capable of handling the increase in volume
    *detrimental to a runner who is not currently capable of handling the increase

    Some very general advice: plan small, manageable increases in volume every year, during the time(s) of the year where you're in the best position to change your training, which in part means you aren't racing frequently.

    Training volume for a serious distance runner should reflect how many healthy years of training they have under their belts. Instead of gasping at an elite runner hitting a certain weekly volume - or executing one tremendous workout - we'd better serve other runners by emphasizing how that runner had been training consistently for 9.5 of the past 10 years and how that (staying healthy, being consistent, gradually increasing training load) should be the goal.

    In reading Dave's quote, instead of using it as an excuse not to run more than one currently does, instead ask the question 'what is the minimal, necessary work for me to run as fast as I possibly can.' As he says, "That is still going to be a lot of work!" Understanding that diminishing returns are still returns is integral to running as fast as one can possibly run.

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  • powerboy User since:
    Dec 11th, 2014
    Posts: 176
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    powerboy said 1 week ago

    Steve;

    It seems like I was right about DST was saying, notwithstanding it was a bit cryptic. And I didn't say that i necessarily believe that 70-80 is the correct max for 1500m guys, because it does depend on the individual, but I do believe that few 1500m gurus feel the difference between 3:32 and 3:40 is simply another30-40 miles per week.

    As you say, focus does not need to be on mileage, but it is a standard measurement that we all relate to as a starting point . And I agree that a modest increase each year ( including intensity) is required for increased performance. Then, you can be like Willis this year where his years of base allowed him to run very well off only a few weeks of training.

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  • powerboy User since:
    Dec 11th, 2014
    Posts: 176
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    powerboy said 1 week ago

    And the second part of Dave's comment is worth considering- that the minimum required is still a lot of good work. So for our hypothetical 1500m guy, that might be 75 miles with a long run, a tempo run and 1 session of hard intervals each week, plus easy running and drills etc.-Certainly a solid amount of work. It goes without saying that the same guy focusing on 5k probably needs
    another longish run and/or a second tempo run, so perhaps another 20 miles overall.

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  • steveweiler User since:
    Mar 28th, 2012
    Posts: 635
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    SteveWeiler said 1 week ago

    Quoting: powerboy
    "Steve;

    It seems like I was right about DST was saying, notwithstanding it was a bit cryptic. And I didn't say that i necessarily believe that 70-80 is the correct max for 1500m guys..."


    Mike,
    nobody said that you did necessarily believe this; Bomber and I simply responded to the post in which you presented it as being generally accepted :)

    Quoting: powerboy
    "...because it does depend on the individual, but I do believe that few 1500m gurus feel the difference between 3:32 and 3:40 is simply another30-40 miles per week.

    As you say, focus does not need to be on mileage, but it is a standard measurement that we all relate to as a starting point . And I agree that a modest increase each year ( including intensity) is required for increased performance. Then, you can be like Willis this year where his years of base allowed him to run very well off only a few weeks of training."


    To reiterate, Dave's quote - and presumably the goal of many elite runners - is about running "as fast as possible;" not just running well, but achieving 100% of your athletic potential such that you could not possibly have run any faster.

    That any guru wouldn't present such a massive (3:40 to 3:32) improvement as the result of one single factor does not mean it wasn't one of several factors. I believe that far too often this message is misinterpreted as 'you won't improve at all from running more' as opposed to 'you won't run as fast as possible if the only change you make is running more, because that's not enough'.

    I'll add here what should be an obvious caveat that some people run too much, or too fast, and that has a significant, negative effect on their workouts. Similarly, some people workout too often, or too hard, and are unable to get in enough volume, essentially don't get any long runs in, etc. Both are capable of training better.

    Part of the reason to run more is that, once you've fully adjusted and can handle it, you will be in a position to run even better workouts: faster reps as you recover quicker, able to handle more volume at a given pace, etc.

    Putting a cap on how much you might ever run and being too aggressive in increasing volume can both be detrimental to the goal of running as fast as possible.

    Quote comment
  • skiz User since:
    Jul 10th, 2015
    Posts: 4
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    Skiz said 1 week ago

    Hi guys,

    I don't comment that much but found this an interesting discussion.

    Obviously every person is a little bit different in their physical make-up. As an example Derek Clayton had an extremely low VO2 of 69.2 (that's actually kind of terrible....especially for a competitive distance runner), so his "little as possible training" meant 200+ miles a week with grueling interval workouts. Most of us could no where near handle anything like this, however Derek was physically strong as an ox and ended up setting a very long standing 2:08 marathon record.

    On the flip side, as an example, I'm sure Kipchoge is tuned to his capabilities to be the most effective and healthy as he can be to run 2:00 (albeit on a race track). Similarly Seb Coe might have been blessed with an 85 Vo2 (and Steve Scott a 77), both with pretty decent fast twitch but needing different training approaches to run sub 3:50 miles.

    So to Dave ST's comment, I do agree with this as a bread and butter statement (and I think that is what this statement was meant to be...nothing more....), however there is no "magic" one-stop formula for success at any distance. Some will need to do more mileage and some will need to do more speed work etc.

    Finding the balance of training regime with rest, strength training etc. to help an athlete perform at their optimum level is the challenge (hence why we have coaching for runners).

    For me, it also is what makes this sport so very interesting when working with athletes ...to get to know know each athlete takes time, observation, thought and patience. The creativity get to work to truly have them reach their potential.

    So...yes...I agree with Dave's philosophy but with a little twist....overtime you learn to do what you need to do to run your best, and importantly without wrecking your body (btw I wrecked mine a long time ago...lol....).

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  • anonymous Anonymous
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    Bomber said 1 week ago

    Just have had conversations with both. In both instances both indicated they did 90+ miles per week in base phases. Now of course these were world class milers who had great range. We're not talking racing phases or anything here. Of course also remember both were top 10 NCAA XC guys.

    To add to the discussion:

    Mileage is such an abstract concept. there are general principles and in the end a well balanced program is essential. We can go with the norms/fundamentals or the one offs. I tend to go with the norms, but you also can't ignore the one offs.

    My argument is that athletes sometimes don't get a chance to see if bigger volume works for them or they have some short term residual fatigue and say it doesn't work (patience little ones). In the end I am going to assume there is more trial and error than some coaches like to admit (and I'll admit I experiment with the athletes I work with until I can see their individual patterns and decide on an overall training paradigm. Thankfully they generally accept this more patient approach). But having said that I have certain training principals that are non negotiable and some ideas that are flexible (theory vs reality).

    One of the arguments I have against certain aspects of coaching education is there have been so many great coaches and training paradigms out there that aren't discussed. One needs to know their history, context, methods and ideas. It's easier to then see how certain strengths and weaknesses work into the grand scheme of things. I really just steal bit and pieces from here and there, but over the years I've spent a lot of time reading on those programs so I've found it easier and easier to assess those needs (in all areas) and see how the 'puzzle works'.

    For egs people assume Peter Snell banged off tons of 100 mile week and spent huge amounts of time running big volumes. In reading his autobiography one finds this just wasn't true. He raced in his base phases and the 100 mile weeks was in base phases. He generally was higher volume for an 800m runner, but more in the 70-80 =/- mile range. It was only in his big buildups (specifically 64 Olys) that he strung together a bunch of 100 mile weeks.


    Quoting: SammyD
    "Do go on..."

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  • anonymous Anonymous
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    Andrew Jones said 1 week ago

    Gents, I like all of the various points of view in this discussion. Lots of wisdom and good "terms of engagement" stuff as well. I'd like to addresss the contributors by name, if you don't mind:



    1) Mark Bomba (Bomber)


    As always, great thoughts here, and I do appreciate your research and knowledge into each "training school" -- and of course the attendant science.

    The point about Peter Snell is a gem, I think. I find much discussion on training/training parameters seems to miss the key point: put another way, what is the chronological relationship of a given training period/series of stresses to the competitive period?

    2) Geoff Cameron (Skiz)

    Great to hear from you, Geoff, I remember you back in the day as a quality runner who could deliver when necessary. Geoff, I might add, was "Guelph when Guelph wasn't cool" and came from the area -- Centre Wellington HS (inspired Matt Kerr?).

    Geoff, I appreciated your caveat about wrecking one's body, as that is a key part of this discussion, IMHO.

    3) Steve Weiler (eponymous)

    Steve, you're absolutely right to clarify terms in this discussion as per DST's original statement, which as you allude to works very well as a maxim. Maxims are general statements, of course, and without delving into detail, I think it was brought out in this discussion that DST's pearl of wisdom is a guiding principle with many applications.


    4) Mike Housley (powerboy)

    Mike, love your athletic and coaching experience and thirst for a comprehensive and detailed discussion, branching out from DST's statement. The point you made about the experience or "seniority" of the athlete (re. work level tolerated thus far) is an important one, I think, in desigining a productive program for a given athlete.

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  • sammyd User since:
    Oct 30th, 2013
    Posts: 201
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    SammyD said 1 week ago

    Great discussion thus far.

    The point of the statement seems to be knowing when you have crossed the risk threshold of working the body harder than it can handle, which as others have mentioned, is fairly individual. You need to work your ass off without breaking, but knowing what that line is can be tough. Lots of pros in many sports are always riding that line.

    I wonder if there could be quantitative measures to see how an athletes body is holding up, potentially looking at body composition as it relates to injury rates, or bone density (doubt it would shift that fast but I am just spitballing). I feel exercise physiology has lots of metrics for performance improvements like VO2 max and all that, but what kind of measurements can be done to see if the body is not holding up to a training load?

    I personally always pushed my body harder than I should've because it seemed necessary to get faster... if there was some number my coach could point to before a stress fracture or tendon injury that said "the last training cycle your risk for stress reaction has increased beyond what is worth it in terms of physiological benefits" or "the residual biomarkers in your blood suggest you are overtraining" I would be much more likely to listen. It is easy to just think being super sore and tired all the time is fine... because some level of soreness and fatigue is obviously necessary and type-A, driven individuals will ignore those qualitative warning signs.

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  • new-post-last-visitanonymous Anonymous
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    Andrew Jones said 1 week ago

    I wonder if there could be quantitative measures to see how an athletes body is holding up, potentially looking at body composition as it relates to injury rates, or bone density (doubt it would shift that fast but I am just spitballing). I feel exercise physiology has lots of metrics for performance improvements like VO2 max and all that, but what kind of measurements can be done to see if the body is not holding up to a training load?

    Now this to me is a great question as it really attacks the notion of "the art and science of training", and of course the art and science of coaching.

    As for the science part, I think we've all read about the various and sundry metrics that have been used by coaches and physiologists when working with athletes to gauge training load/stress -- and the body's reaction. Here we can talk about post-stress lactate values, resting heart rates, hydration levels, sleep/rest necessity, body weight, etc., and perhaps even methods of assessing the health/vitality of the CNS -- including measuring reflexes and implementing mental task testing.

    But perhaps this is where the "art" portion of the equation really shines -- that ongoing communication between an educated and listening coach and an honest and trusting athlete. Perhaps this is where coaches really earn their stripes -- as opposed to the "colder" and quantitative applications of science and technology.

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