Friday, May 28, 2010

McMillan's Path to Success

I have been working on this blog post all week. I recently read a blog post by Greg McMillan coach of McMillan Elite out of Flagstaff, AZ on the training philosophy of their team. His training program is Lydiard based. I really respect his knowledge and experience as a coach and runner. I thought it was a great post and the ideas could be used for runners at any level to use on their "Path to Success." I copied his post onto my blog with his 9 points and then commented on each to relate each point to the non-professional runner. Hope you enjoy it.

McMillan's Path to Success – Philosophy of Our Olympic Training Team
The training group's philosophy revolves around the following:

1. The Team is a Short Cut
Greg: Emerging elite athletes benefit from the team environment. The camaraderie, accountability, competitiveness and positive support of the group allow for better and more consistent training, which leads to quicker and better performances.
Karl: Running and training with others of equal or slightly better ability will lead to quicker and better performances not only for all the reasons Greg mentions, but also for social and mental motivation. Anyone can benefit from the “team” environment. Even having a consistent running partner on the weekend can be a huge advantage.

2. Long-Term Aerobic Development
Greg: Aerobic development is the key to endurance performance. The aerobic system takes years of consistent training to maximize and then to realize peak performance. Our training focuses on gradual yet progressive aerobic development through mileage and specialized aerobic system workouts. The aerobic development is accelerated by living and training at 7,000 feet in Flagstaff. 7,000 feet/2100 meters has been shown to be the ideal elevation for the training of long-distance runners and emerging elites athletes are encouraged to begin altitude training as soon as possible. We believe a large part of why our group has become one of the best in the US in two short years is that we are based at 7,000 feet altitude.
Karl: When I met Greg McMillan I asked him what I could do to improve my running times. He said, “Consistency is the key.” Aerobic development is a slow process. It can truly take years and years of training to reach your full potential. Sometimes I think people jump into the marathon too quickly. I had run for 12 years before I ever attempted a marathon. Most elite level runners don't run a marathon until they are a few years removed from college running (after running for 10-14 years). My point is don’t rush your training, let it come to you.

3. Capitalize on Strengths
Greg: Each athlete has a unique set of strengths (physical, mental and emotional). The training and racing capitalizes on these strengths (especially during the peak competitive season) and build these strengths over time.
Karl: I truly believe humans were born to run, but we are all unique and we all have different talents and strengths. If you can find one aspect of running that comes easier to you that you enjoy, make that part of your routine. It will keep you motivated to stay consistent with your training.

4. Eliminate Weaknesses
Greg: Each athlete also has a unique set of weaknesses (physical, mental and emotional). The training (run training and ancillary training) and racing eliminates these weaknesses (especially during the non-peak seasons).
Karl: Running is not easy. We all have weaknesses that we need to improve on. People don’t like to work on their weaknesses because they are hard to do. For instance, most runners don’t like to do strength training because it is hard for them. Improving on some of these weaknesses, whether it be speed work, core strength, or hill running, can greatly improve your overall running ability.

5. Build Confidence
Greg: Athlete performance is modulated by confidence. Therefore, the training and racing fosters greater self-confidence. Training and racing is planned as to promote success, which fosters greater motivation, which builds confidence.
Karl: Yogi Berra said, “The game is 90% mental, the other half is physical.” There is a huge mental component to running and confidence is a big part of that. Setting yourself up for successes, even small ones, can be huge confidence builders and motivators to continue improving and training. Running a personal best time is an obvious confidence builder but successes could also mean running farther than you ever have before or finishing a workout feeling stronger or faster than you ever have.

6. Move Up in the Pecking Order
Greg: The team is a racing team, not a training team. Athletes must be ‘racers’ who enjoy testing themselves against ever increasing competitive levels. The goal is a gradual yet steady climb up the US rankings.
Karl: Some people run for no other reason than to stay in shape, loose weight or maintain a certain level of fitness. Most runners I know do care about their times and trying to improve on them. They want to be faster than they were last year or last week. Racing also fuels a healthy competitive urge that many of us have. “Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.” - Patti Sue Plummer, U.S. Olympian

7. Become a Complete Athlete & Complete Runner
Greg: In general, the better athlete the runner is, the better runner he or she will be. Ancillary training is used to build the body – improving the core, dynamic ability, balance, function in the kinetic chain and better running form. Additionally, a well-rounded runner (good endurance, stamina, speed and sprinting ability) is a more competitive runner no matter what the event. Training includes specialized workouts to build each runner into a complete runner, tapping into each energy system as well as the other performance-related systems of the body.
Karl: Typically, the best runners are good athletes. There will always be those “lungs with legs,” but a runner who is a well rounded athlete will be faster and will have less injuries. All the things that Greg lists are important in becoming a better athlete and runner.

8. Smooth, Consistent and Positive Training
Greg: Interruptions and inconsistency in training stalls development. The training program and lifestyle of the athlete fosters smooth, consistent and positive training.
Karl: Consistency is the key to improvement. That is what Greg told me at the Boston Marathon in 2008. Every year of training is built on the last. Every experience, whether good or bad, will help the next time the same race or workout is attempted. The more miles logged gradually and appropriately the stronger the runner that will be produced. The elite marathon runner can log up to 140 miles per week or more. What they don’t tell you is that last year they peaked at 135 and the year before they peaked at 125. It is still a gradual progression that all began with running one mile for the first time!

9. Live the Life
Greg: The life of an emerging elite distance runner is not easy. It requires 24/7/365 focus on improvement, not only in training but also in all other aspects that impact performance - recovery, sleep, nutrition, pre-hab, mental training, etc. Life must revolve around training and racing and discipline and dedication are required to live the simple yet required life to become a great distance runner.
Karl: It is not always the running that causes injury. It can also be the lack of recovery. It is not doing all the “little things” that will help our body healthfully adapt to training. Professional athletes have all day to take naps, get massages, ice baths etc. They are striving for perfection where one-hundredth of a second, even in a 10k, can be the difference between making an Olympic team and going home, or a bronze medal and 4th place. Not too many of us have that luxury. We all need to find a balance in our life to stay happy and healthy. Running can be a very healthy part of that balance.

Elite level training programs and workouts are often discussed and posted in magazines. These workouts and programs may seem so much more difficult and so far away from where your training might be that you think, “I can’t even relate to 140 miles per week.” I think we can all learn a lot from elite level workouts. We are all doing the same thing, just at different paces. You just have to find the right speed and training volume that best suits your current level of fitness and amount of available time for training. If you break down an elite training program they all have a weekly long run, some race pace specific training, some variation of intervals, and filler mileage to reach their current weekly mileage goals. McMillan’s Olympic Training Team Philosophy can be used by any runner to design a specific training program that will maximize potential fitness on their “path to success.”

1 comment:

Chuck said...

Great post! I really enjoyed reading your take on each point.