Applying Gradual Progress to Distance Running
An integral part of training for distance running is a universal principle called Gradual Progress.
Gradual Progress states that everything that moves through developmental stages of growth must do so gradually and sequentially. From the seed that grows from sapling to tree, the basement business that grows from cutting-edge tech company into the next Google, to the flirtatious glance that leads to dating and one day becomes a life-long partnership, everything in life that grows positively must do so gradually.
And what happens when you defy this principle? Well, I can pretty safely say the consequence of breaking a universal law is more than just paying a fine and promising not to do it again. Breaking the law will inevitably lead to some level of failure. Every economic boom and bust of our modern economy is a testament to this truth.
The principle of Gradual Progress also applies to distance running. When you start running, it’s important to start slowly and build speed as your body adapts to the movement of running. Likewise, you wouldn’t take off from a stoplight driving your car in 4th gear. The engine would be working way too hard and wasting fuel. Instead, you accelerate through the gears until you reach your cruising speed. Your approach to distance running should be no exception. Whether you’re running in a single event or beginning a marathon training program, it’s important to start slowly. If you start running at high speeds or increase your mileage too quickly, you could get injured. Most running injuries happen when training habits outpace the body’s capability to produce new muscle cells. A well-planned training program allows your muscles to go through natural, sequential stages of growth.
Gradual Progress is a principle to follow during speed workouts. Let’s say you want to train yourself to run faster, so you go to the track to run 400 meter intervals (one lap). The principle of Gradual Progress says you should begin with a reasonable number of intervals that your body can handle. Just because your friend is running ten 400 meter intervals, that doesn’t mean you should start with that many. Try running four with a rest break between each one, then see how your body feels before adding on any more. If you’re tired, you’re done. Do your cool-down run and go home. If you feel your body can handle more, add one interval at a time until your lap times start to get slower.
Remember to follow the principle of Gradual Progress when you start running your intervals as well, and run your first interval the slowest. That will warm you up for running the next one slightly faster. As your workout progresses, and your muscles get more loose and relaxed, you can run each additional interval slightly faster. Running slower intervals up front allows you to work on your Form Focuses and think about what you’re doing, to sense what’s correct and what’s incorrect, with each interval becoming a stepping-stone for the next.
Gradual Progress applies to running any distance longer than a sprint. If you start running at a reasonable pace, your body will gradually loosen, relax and gain momentum throughout the race. Starting a race slower than you finish gives you a psychological race advantage because you’ll be passing people the entire race instead of watching them pass you in the later miles. It’s a great boost to your spirit and another great reward for using the principle of Gradual Progress.
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